In 1990 the Commonwealth and all States and Territories signed up to national competitive neutrality principles, through the Competition Principles Agreement or CPA, which has since been updated and re-affirmed.
In response to a suite of changes to the VET sector announced by Minister Macfarlane in early September, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), the national VET regulator, is set to invite more than 800 registered VET colleges - the majority of them private for-profit - to apply for the right to change their courses and introduce new ones, without permission from the regulator. More than 1000 colleges may be offered this opportunity, in a sector which has, according to The Australian “displayed no lack of imagination in exploiting money trails.”
In late April 2012, the Victorian Coalition government, building on the skills reform initiative of its Labor predecessor, unleashed its own radical model of vocational education and training (VET) market reforms. Basically, these reforms opened up the public funding of VET to virtually all comers and removed any dedicated funding to sustain the public character of TAFE (the public VET provider network).
As a researcher and analyst in the vocational education and training (VET) sector, over the last five years I have monitored two very different worlds within the sector, and the two worlds seem to be growing even further apart.
The Commonwealth Government has decided that Australia’s young people should be either “learning” or “earning”. Yet the institutions in which they are expected to learn have been under constant attack by state governments. As the Victorian coalition government heads into an election in November, it is timely to look back on their history of cuts to education and the impacts these are having on young people and their families.