Smart and killed

Turnbull will rue the day he did not act on his words

Tony Morrissey
Ultimo TAFE College

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull talks but does not act when it comes to stopping shonky private providers who’ve been milking the VET FEE-HELP fund of $4 billion last year and $1.7 billion in 2014. One private provider, the Australian Institute of Professional Education, cost taxpayers $1 million per graduate and only 117 students graduated.

At the Mini National Reform Summit in October Mr Turnbull talked the talk when he indicated there should be an increase in TAFE budget and action taken against shonky private providers.

He failed, however, to walk the walk in his refusal to adopt Labor’s strong, common sense measures to protect vulnerable students from shonky training colleges and in voting down amendments that would have provided additional protection for students and taxpayers alike.

Funding to TAFE has dropped from 71 per cent in 2007 to 52 per cent in 2014 while at the same time government cash to private providers has jumped from 18 per cent in 2007 to 40 per cent in 2014.

Today, 80 per cent of private providers are being supported by taxpayers’ money, getting 30 cents in the dollar for their outlay. This is a better return than the share market.

The NSW Minster for Skills, John Barilaro, stated on 2GB’s Alan Jones show that only 21 of the 400 private providers that offer Certificate III Electrotechnology Electrician (UEE 30811) courses under the Smart and Skilled program have been audited by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA).

The consequences of this is a private provider issuing a Certificate III Electrotechnology Electrician (UEE 30811) to an ex-Telstra worker who attended the course for only six weeks — four hours a night for three nights a week (72 hours). A similar course at TAFE would quite rightly take 756 hours. Four weeks later, this student obtained his electrical contractor licence.

Another private provider boasted it had processed 200 electricians this year and that no one had obtained less than a 85 per cent mark; yet another private provider delivering the same programme in electrotechnology tells applicants that no classroom study is required.

This shocking situation will eventuate in an increase in fatalities both within staff of electrical companies and the public because these graduates with dubious qualifications and a lack of appropriate tuition and basic experience have had no time to gain the essential skills to keep themselves, their colleagues and the public safe.

Mr Turnbull needs skilled people to make his $1 billion innovations package become reality and they won’t come from private providers or people on 457 visas. They’ll turn his dreams into a smoking ruin.

Just as with the pink batts disaster, the inevitable royal commission into this mess will mean there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide for politicians and bureaucrats from Mr Turnbull down. The public’s finger will point to those who could have pushed the button to stop it all.

It is not smart, skilled or innovative to waste public money on quickie training courses of dubious quality and questionable public benefit. This is what many of the private providers are really providing: a looming disaster.