Strengthening Quality and Integrity in our VET sector

  • Speeches
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Today I rise to speak on the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment (Strengthening Quality and Integrity in Vocational Education and Training No. 1) Bill 2024, which will strengthen our vocational education and training sector.

It’s a sector that helps form the backbone of our economy and plays a pivotal role in shaping Australia’s future.

Labor’s introduction of fee-free TAFE has been a game changer. It’s not just about making education more accessible; it’s about empowering individuals to pursue their dreams and contribute meaningfully to society.

Now we are committed to supporting a high-performing, reputable and trustworthy VET sector to deliver quality training outcomes and meet the country’s workforce needs into the future, because a strong VET sector is essential to a strong economy. 

This bill is about strengthening and clarifying the powers of the national VET regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority, ASQA. It empowers ASQA to take decisive action against corrupt and unethical registered training organisations and applies increases to penalties that ASQA can impose on RTOs for serious breaches of the act.

These changes are long overdue, and these changes ensure our VET sector is one that can be trusted and provides those vital skills that Australia needs. 

Since introducing fee-free TAFE, 350,000 people have taken up places, with more set to roll out. This isn’t just about those numbers; it’s about creating pathways to secure work.

With $30 billion invested in the National Skills Agreement, we are gearing up to meet the demands of a rapidly evolving economy.

We want to nurture a workforce equipped with the skills needed to thrive in the jobs that our country needs, such as carers, early childhood educators, tradies and cyber experts.

That is why we are working hard to repair the TAFE system, which was gutted by the coalition. We are fixing the pipeline of skilled workers and mending the massive skills shortages across the country, the worst we’ve seen in five decades under the coalition. 

When we ensure quality TAFE, we are ensuring a quality workforce.

That is why, through this bill, we are focused on improving regulation, because regulation only strengthens our mighty VET sector.

Our apprentices and trainees deserve a high-quality VET sector that keeps them safe and sets them up for well-paid, secure work, delivering the skills needed to drive the economy. 

I have met some people who have benefited from our free TAFE program and I have heard some amazing stories—stories like that of Emily.

Emily is a hardworking Gippsland mum who dreamt of pursuing nursing.

But she was held back due to time and money. Thanks to fee-free TAFE, her dream isn’t just a hope; it is becoming a reality.

And she is not alone.

There are countless people like Emily, eager to contribute to their communities but held back by circumstances beyond their control.

In my home state of Victoria, institutions like Gippsland TAFE are leading the charge in providing quality education and training.

And they’re not just building careers; they are building lives and they’re building economies.

They are creating meaningful, well-paid and secure opportunities in a regional area that really needs those opportunities, because we are committed to supporting all Australians, regardless of their postcode. 

Our government’s vision for this sector is crystal clear.

We are here to create secure jobs for all Australians through a strong, fair and well-regulated VET sector.

We are levelling the playing field and ensuring that everyone has a fair shot at building a successful career.

Whether you missed out on studying straight out of school or have been busy with caring responsibilities, fee-free TAFE is here to open doors and create opportunities.

With this bill, we are ensuring vocational education is delivered by reputable and committed providers.

It is getting these incredible people, who I’ve had the privilege of meeting out in Gippsland, back to work when we need them the most.

Labor is delivering significant and enduring reforms that improve the lives of all Australians. 

So this bill is not just about strengthening the quality and integrity of the VET sector; it is also about investing in our people.

It is about investing in our industries, investing in our regions and investing in our nation’s future.

So let’s build a VET sector that we can trust, a sector that empowers individuals, fuels growth and paves the way for a stronger Australia.