This is a joint submission from the Australian Industry Group and the Business Council of Australia.
The VET FEE-HELP (VFH) program was designed to encourage students into the VET sector, and provide additional funding to ensure businesses had the workers they need to be competitive. Unfortunately the design and implementation of the program was poor. As a result the reputation of the sector was damaged, government funding was misused, and students were taken advantage of.
The government’s new VET Student Loans scheme will tackle these issues. We urge the Senate to pass the Bills to ensure the VFH scheme is closed at the end of 2016, and the VET Student Loans scheme can be implemented from 2017.
While we support the legislation, we propose some minor amendments to ensure there are no unintended consequences from the design. Changes proposed include:
- extending the transition period for current students from the end of 2017 to the end of 2018
- taking a different approach to the course list – instead of specifying a list of courses that are eligible for the loan scheme, deem a small number of courses that will not have employment outcomes as ineligible for the loans scheme
- requiring the government to consult and be transparent about the regulations that sit beneath the legislation
- removing the proposed additional powers for the Australian Skills Quality Authority’s role to conduct the financial audits of the loan schemes
- requiring the government to publish market information, and real-time data on government expenditure to allow public assessment of the loans program.
These amendments should be dealt with swiftly, and should not be used as an excuse to hold up the passage of the legislation.