• ARC CEO, Glenn Evans.
    ARC CEO, Glenn Evans.

The federal government has introduced new legislation to tackle unscrupulous and non-genuine providers and improve the integrity of the nation’s vocational education and training (VET) sector.

The National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment (Strengthening Quality and Integrity in Vocational Education and Training No. 1) Bill 2024, was introduced into parliament last week.

The Bill empowers the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) to take decisive action against the minority of RTOs that use their operations as a veil of legitimacy for fraudulent activity, or to circumvent regulatory requirements.

The Bill will enable ASQA to take swift action to deter and remove these RTOs and apply greater scrutiny to new RTOs seeking to enter the VET sector.

The Bill also expands the kinds of false and misleading conduct that ASQA can target through offence and civil penalty provisions and provides for long overdue increases to the penalties applicable to egregious conduct and breaches of the NVETR Act.

Last year, the government invested $37.8 million to support the establishment of an Integrity Unit within ASQA, upgrade ASQA’s digital and data systems, and create a tip‑off line to detect and address unacceptable and egregious RTO conduct. 

The government has strengthened the Fit and Proper Person Requirements under the Act and work is underway to revise the Standards for RTOs to support high-quality delivery across the sector.

Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O’Connor, said the legislation will weed out dodgy providers.

“What we are doing is simple. We are making it tougher for the bottom-feeders, the fraudsters, and the cheats to take advantage of students for a quick buck,” he said.

“We are restoring integrity to the sector.”

The Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC) welcomed the new bill.

ARC CEO, Glenn Evans, said it provides for a five-fold increase in maximum penalties for breaches.

‘The permit scheme is competency based and reliant on qualifications, so training quality is critical,” Evans said.

“ARC and ASQA have long been allies in the battle to shut down these courses which are a blight on our industry, this legislation will strengthen our hand considerably.

‘It will support ARC’s work to eliminate dodgy RTOs that issue spurious qualifications typically based on inadequate courses and inappropriate reliance on tick-and-flick recognition of prior learning (RPL) processes.”