QUESTION WITHOUT NOTICE: REGISTERED TRAINING ORGANISATIONS

QUESTION WITHOUT NOTICE — Sue Pennicuik to ask the Minister for Training and Skills.

Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) — My question is to the Minister for Training and Skills. On 6 August I asked the minister whether he was aware of a private registered training organisation (RTO) that was allegedly exploiting students in its training and courier business.

He indicated that he was not personally aware, but that the department was working with the federal police on the matter. I also asked whether he had confidence in the system of federal and state regulation of vocational education and training (VET), given the ongoing reports of VET rorts over many years. He started to speak about a $9 million crackdown, but I felt he had more to say to me. I note that he was interviewed on ABC radio about this on Tuesday this week. I am concerned that the minister was not aware of what was clearly a very serious issue in a Victorian RTO. Can he advise me what information-sharing arrangements are in place between federal and state regulators and federal and state ministers with regard to this issue?

Mr HERBERT (Minister for Training and Skills) — I thank the member for her question. I will always try and answer her questions in as much detail as I possibly can, I can assure her of that. It is a very good question. In answering it can I just say that I do not believe the information sharing is anywhere near adequate between commonwealth authorities and either state authorities or the Department of Education and Training, particularly the higher education skills group that I have under my coverage.

In today's paper we saw an issue headed 'Childcare training debacle', where the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), the federal regulator, I believe, finally released a report into its investigation into childcare providers. I have not seen the report, so I will say I think it is the one it did in November because, despite getting assurances from the head of ASQA that the report would be provided to me prior to its release, that never occurred, to my knowledge.

The issue is a very serious. We are cracking down, we are cracking down substantially, and as the member knows from what I said in the Parliament the other day, we are at the point where we will be putting on the department website providers that had Victorian funding contracts but lost them because of poor performance, inappropriate behaviour et cetera. I have written to ASQA and to the commonwealth government and have asked many times for them to provide Victorian authorities — either the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) or the Department of Education and Training — with information relating to their investigations of poor behaviour as it applies to Victorian providers, so we can be assured and can check that we are not providing funding for training that the commonwealth has found to be inadequate, of low quality or having had inappropriate practices.

I have not received that assurance to date and I do not believe they are providing that information. I shall continue to urge them to provide that information as a priority so that we can ensure that if they have found anyone to be providing poor quality training, from their national inquiries, we can crack down on them in Victoria and make sure we are not having those providers continue to operate and provide low-quality training in Victoria.

Supplementary Question:

Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) — I refer to the $9 million crackdown which the minister mentioned in answer to both of my questions, and to his comments in the radio interview where he stated, for the benefit of the public, that $1.2 billion of public money goes into VET training, and around $800 00 of that to private RTOs. The minister said that as a result of the $9 million crackdown, 3 RTOs have had their contracts suspended and their names are going to be put up on the department's website, 17 RTOs are being case managed and he has recovered $6 million for subsidies that were claimed but for which no training was delivered. Can the minister give some indication as to what more we might expect from this $9 million crackdown than just these few outcomes, given the widespread training rorts that have been going on for years?

Mr HERBERT (Minister for Training and Skills) — I thank the member for her supplementary question. Can I just clarify something, though? There have been more than three contracts terminated since we have come to government, and there has been a lot more than $6 million reclaimed. I think we had about $20 million earlier in the year. What I said — what it said in the media release and what I have told the Parliament — is that since we had the blitz on 1 July there have been three providers who have lost their contract. There are another four that have to show cause why they should not lose their contract — and that is a legal issue involving their right to come and give evidence et cetera. There are 17 on case management, and we are withholding about $15 million worth of funds and got $6 million back. But that is since 1 July, so there are others.

I did not think it was right to do it retrospectively to before we had the quality review until I announced that we were going to publish them. We could go right back, I suppose, but that was the decision. You have to draw a line in the sand, and from that point on we will be publishing those providers. You can expect a lot more of this. 

Thursday, 20 August 2015