Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Education and Employment References Committee
Private vocational education and training providers

BOLTON, Mr Stephen Bernard, Senior Advisor—Employment, Education and Training, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

ACTING CHAIR: Welcome, Mr Bolton. Information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses and evidence has been provided to you. The committee has received your submission. I now invite you to make a short opening statement, and at the conclusion of your remarks I will invite members of the committee to put questions to you.

Mr Bolton : Thank you for the invitation to appear this afternoon and reiterate our views on this very important topic. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is as concerned as the government and the community more broadly about the quality of vocational education and training delivery in Australia. Businesses suffer considerably from substandard training delivered to employees and future workers, and a tarnished image for VET qualifications not only lowers employer and community confidence in VET but also lowers confidence in the skills of those who have gained VET qualifications. Students, employers and taxpayers all suffer when substandard training is delivered, but contestability in the system is not to blame.

Vocational education and training in Australia is designed to deliver workplace-specific skills and knowledge to learners and supply the Australian economy and the business sector with the skilled workers they need to be productive in a global economy. VET enables students to complete qualifications to gain employment and specific skills to help them advance in the workplace. The VET sector is crucial to the Australian economy, both for the development of the national workforce and as a major export industry. Providers of VET include technical and further education institutes, our TAFEs; adult and community education providers; agricultural colleges; private providers; enterprise RTOs, which are those owned by businesses themselves; and industry association and union skills centres; as well as dual campus universities and some schools—in fact many schools now. All of these have an important role to play in the system.

One of the key components of an industry-led, demand-driven VET system is that it is flexible and responsive. Flexibility in training delivery is essential for lowering the overall costs of training to both industry and the individual. Training that occurs on the job or outside work hours often significantly reduces the burden of lost wages for individuals and businesses and lost productivity for the business. More competitive market arrangements encourage providers, including TAFE, to deliver more flexible options. As the VET sector has evolved, the needs of the client cohort have also evolved significantly. Employers and learners now require greater flexibility in where and when they can access training. Many employers and employees seek to access training either in the workplace or outside standard work hours. Individuals and employers often seek very highly specific skills or the ability to operate a very specific piece of equipment relevant to their modern workplace. For many individuals and employers, institution based offerings with set hours of delivery, often delivered over a 10-week block four times over the year, do not suit the needs of their business or their lifestyle.

The Australian education system, including VET, is a world-recognised brand well known for its quality and the desirability of a qualification delivered at an Australian standard. Indeed many nations aspire to having a vocational education and training system like ours. The Australian VET model of industry leadership, tripartite training packages, government regulation and public and private delivery options has been mirrored in many countries. Through ACCI, I myself have worked with chambers of commerce, unions and governments across Asia and the Pacific region to help them develop their VET sector to a point comparable with our own.

Most training providers deliver quality training outcomes and have good connections with industry. It is unfortunate that a few bad apples that make the front page or lead story taint the rest of the VET sector. The Australian Skills Quality Authority, now in its fourth year of operation, has played an integral role in boosting the quality of delivery, identifying areas of noncompliance in registered training organisations and either encouraging them to improve their quality or, for the very small minority of RTOs, applying sanctions that may see their registration as an RTO cancelled or suspended. The prominent media cases that have come to light recently have all been based on RTO practices that either fell outside the jurisdiction of ASQA, as with some of the cases involving unscrupulous marketing practices, or occurred at a time when ASQA was still relatively new and finding its feet and was overwhelmed by the dramatic increases in VET activity that we saw with the introduction of student entitlement models such as the Victorian Training Guarantee.

The opening up of the VET market over the past 20 to 30 years has seen many new businesses and other organisations establish themselves as RTOs. In recent years there has been strong support from employers for contestability of funding in the VET sector, in recognition that state owned providers are not the only organisations who can deliver quality training outcomes and meet the needs of both students and employers. Recent shifts in the way governments fund training have seen shifts in the way training providers operate. Many RTOs have tailored their course offerings based on available government funding, regardless of whether the courses being offered provide the skills needed in the local job market or whether there is any real prospect of employment in the field of training for graduates. The situation of RTOs following the funding is by no means restricted to private RTOs. In many cases, TAFE institutes themselves base much of their offerings on the availability of government funding and run these courses sometimes with little or no interaction with local employers or industry more broadly.

Many of these quality issues were due to the policy implementation of new funding models being a step ahead of the regulatory improvements that we now see coming into play. The new standards for VET providers were introduced in January 2015. They tighten the marketing activities of registered training organisations and their agents and brokers; require up-front disclosure of fees, including VET FEE-HELP; allow for cooling-off periods; and prevent RTOs from marketing courses to inappropriate student cohorts. There have been a number of high-profile cases in the media where individuals have signed up to costly courses for which their suitability must be questioned. There have been cases of delivery of dubious quality. In some cases, of course, it is being delivered over very short time frames.

There remains a need for better information to inform employers and students of the link to employment and provider quality. The My Skills website—which started its operations very recently and is starting to really come into play now—and changes around total data collection and the Unique Student Identifier will go some way to achieving this.

Australia needs a robust VET sector, capable of delivering quality outcomes that meet the skills needs of industry and boost workforce participation and social engagement. A strong system of both public and private providers operating in a client focused competitive environment is needed to ensure that learners and employers are able to exercise choice in accessing the training they need where and when they need it. The growth of knowledge based industries is placing greater emphasis on the importance of higher education in the acquisition of higher level skills to meet our needs in the global economy.

The solutions to quality issues in VET are already coming into play. Better regulatory standards have been developed and are now in place. Enforcement of those standards by the regulator is what is needed, not restricted access to funding and more regulation. Thank you.

ACTING CHAIR: Thank you very much, Mr Bolton. We will now proceed to questions.

Senator KIM CARR: Mr Bolton, thank you for your submission. I note that you draw our attention to ACCI's concern about the relationship between government actions and the behaviour of some of these RTOs. You say:

The growth in training offerings under the VTG—

the Victorian Training Guarantee—

clearly showed that many RTOs will change their behaviour to match funding sources. RTOs that had previously never offered government funded courses offered VTG funded programs, new RTOs opened specifically offering courses delivered in short timeframes with the bulk of learning conducted in the classroom, some RTOs offered qualifications to employers for their workers and conducted "work based observation assessments" that in some cases were little more than a "tick and flick" approach with no clear evidence of competency gathered.

These are not minor or incidental problems; these are systemic problems. Wouldn't you agree?

Mr Bolton : They are indeed systemic problems, and it has been of ongoing concern to industry that there are RTOs that flout the rules and regularly do not comply with the standards that are in place. It must be remembered, though, that the Victorian Training Guarantee, as I said in my opening statement, occurred at a time when there had been a number of other issues. There was a considerable amount of upheaval in the regulatory structures around VET. ASQA had only just commenced. VRQA—

Senator KIM CARR: Let's be clear about this. The Victorian system was never part of ASQA. The state government never handed over its responsibilities. So it is not really relevant that there was an upheaval at the federal level for what was occurring at the state level, other than the fact that there was gross abuse and widespread—and I think the word that you used was 'systemic'—abuse within Victoria. Now we have a situation where, I think, 7,000 qualifications have had to be withdrawn. Tens of millions of dollars have had to be repaid by a number of key providers. It is adequate to describe this as a problem of a upheaval in the regulatory regime?

Mr Bolton : As I was saying, there were—and, indeed, there are still now—a number of RTOs in Victoria that fall under ASQA and would not necessarily be VRQA—

Senator KIM CARR: I will come to that in a minute.

Mr Bolton : Indeed, as I said earlier, it is a major issue for us. It is heartbreaking to think of young people who have gone through and gained a qualification that has been revoked or who have recently learnt that the qualification would not get them the outcome they were seeking. Indeed, many employers have employed some of these young people and discovered that they do not have the skills that the piece of paper purports they have. As I was saying, it is predominantly a regulatory issue. The standards for RTOs have been in place. While the previous standards were inadequate in a number of areas, especially in the training and assessment side of things, they were simply not properly enforced by the regulator, be it the national regulator or the VRQA.

Senator KIM CARR: This is not just heartbreaking though; this is of incredible importance to public safety—not to mention the individual safety of particular workers. You have people who cannot read labels put into hospitals, you have people in charge of children who are not qualified to actually perform their function and you have people on building sites who cannot use the equipment. It is not just the question of being heartbreaking; it is actually much more serious. I am just wondering how we could get to a circumstance where this is allowed to occur.

Mr Bolton : It is a case that, primarily, the regulatory structure was not able to keep up with the increase in demand. We had a compliant system in place that was not effectively enforced.

Senator KIM CARR: No. We had expansion of the system by 400 or 500 per cent for some particular enterprises that will now be required to pay back very large sums of money. How many RTOs do you think were affected by these unethical actions?

Mr Bolton : I could not put a number on it, but a significant number identified—

Senator KIM CARR: But it is not one or two, is it?

Mr Bolton : No.

Senator KIM CARR: It is not just an incidental question; as I say, it is a systemic problem. Is it confined to Victoria?

Mr Bolton : It is certainly not. While there have been some very high-profile incidents of dodgy training delivery, there were some RTOs—indeed, many—under The Victorian Training Guarantee that delivered high-quality training.

Senator KIM CARR: Of course that is true, but that is the nature of these sorts of industries. When ASQA does undertake studies and finds that 75 or 80 per cent of training providers have not been compliant with standards, it is a much more serious problem. It is a much more serious problem when percentages like these dwarf the number of good providers That is the case with the building trades. We have seen that in regard to nursing—80 per cent. In regard to aged-care RTOs, 87 per cent were found not to be compliant to national training standards. We see it in regard to a range of industries.

Mr Bolton : In cases where there have been studies conducted—and you mentioned the one with the aged-care industry and the one with the construction industry—often they have identified that, upon initial audit, around 80 per cent of RTOs are found to be non-compliant in some areas. A secondary audit is applied 20 days later. The RTOs are given 20 days to rectify the issues. Around 80 per cent of those improve their processes and become compliant.

Senator KIM CARR: Evocca was one of these high-profile companies. They were able to secure advantages under the VET FEE-HELP payments in 2014—$131 million in seven months. Just 19 graduates were produced in 2012. I am just wondering whether we could say that this was just incidental.

Mr Bolton : It may be the case and indeed it often could be the case with high level qualifications. VET FEE-HELP is applied to certificate IV level qualifications, diploma, and advanced diploma. But many of them do have a delivery time of more than 12 months, so to sign someone up at the start of 2012, the fact is they may not have completed it by the end of 2012.

Senator KIM CARR: Nineteen? They had many thousands of people enrolled and 19—it bears description, surely. The ACTU has put to us that it would be one thing if the increased expenditure on VET-FEE HELP payments to providers was producing quality, skilled graduates moving into productive and well paid work for a benefit to themselves, to employers and to the wider economy. The shifting of cost to the individual would still be a major drawback but, on other grounds, a legitimate case could be made for the scheme. However, it appears increasingly that the scheme is not producing these benefits. In many cases in fact, they are counterproductive and damaging to the interests of students and workers getting poor quality training. What would you say to that proposition?

Mr Bolton : I certainly would agree with the first part of that statement there. VET-FEE HELP has opened up the world of training to a lot of people who previously would not have been able to engage with the system. Like the HECS-HELP scheme in higher education, it does put the burden of cost back on to the individual learner to some extent. But it does not act as a barrier to people engaging with the system. That said, the quality issues that have arisen out of the implementation of the VET-FEE HELP policy, again, a lot of it comes back to RTOs failing to comply with the current regulation. The regulation has been in place but neither ASQA itself nor the other regulatory bodies have been able to enforce it effectively.

Senator KIM CARR: What concerns me about the submission you are putting to us now, which is different to the way that the argument is put in your written submission, is that you are saying ASQA is doing a great job. But many of the RTOs identified as ripping off the system in Victoria were in fact registered with ASQA but it was not ASQA that picked up the deficiencies. How do you account for that?

Mr Bolton : Like I said earlier, ASQA was in its infancy at the time.

Senator KIM CARR: This was 2014. We are talking about recent events.

Mr Bolton : Yes, the 2012 Victorian training guarantee was in its infancy. They have ramped up operations obviously in the last couple of years. Whilst I cannot speak for ASQA itself, I think it is slightly hamstrung in the way that it can operate by the fact that it requires intelligence to flow through areas of non-compliance be it complaints from students or industry. A number of our members have in fact made complaints to ASQA about the quality of training outcomes from registered training organisations, and, in many cases, those complaints have been acted on. We have engaged with ASQA on some mechanisms to ensure that feedback comes back to industry associations when they do make those complaints. But in most cases, like I was saying, they have been acted on. It is a regulatory body that is, in effect, applying a regulatory regime across 5,000 organisations, some of them very large and very complex.

Senator KIM CARR: It works on a risk assessment model, doesn't it?

Mr Bolton : It has adopted a risk assessment model recently.

Senator KIM CARR: So, what, do you need to be hit over the head by the risk before you actually assess? Is that how it works these days?

Mr Bolton : They have gone down the path of identifying a number of high-risk RTOs based on what they deliver to their main student cohorts and applying a great deal of scrutiny to those RTOs.

Senator KIM CARR: What troubles me is why did they not pick up what was happening with these bodies that were registered under ASQA and operating in Victoria? It was the Victorian government that had to identify the problem rather than the national regulator. How do you account for that?

Mr Bolton : I honestly could not give an answer to that. All I can say is that it is entirely possible that the huge increases in training activity had overwhelmed the regulator.

Senator KIM CARR: There was an increase in Victoria of some 470 per cent in private training enrolments. Do you think they grew too quickly?

Mr Bolton : I do not know whether it grew too quickly or whether it was simply a case of the market doing what markets do and following money.

Senator KIM CARR: What do you say then about how many more providers there are to be uncovered in Victoria that have followed the money? People have ended up with debts and no qualifications or qualifications that are going to be withdrawn.

Mr Bolton : I think that there has been a great deal of scrutiny placed on VET providers. We have seen in the last 12 months or so a number of high profile RTOs that have either been suspended or have had their registration cancelled who have walked away from being RTOs purely because of the new regulatory regimes and the scrutiny that ASQA has started to apply.

Senator KIM CARR: Do you think students should have their debts forgiven under these circumstances?

Mr Bolton : Under these circumstances, if they have been signed up to a qualification not knowing the full up-front cost—and indeed there were a number of cases where students were not fully informed of the cost of what they were signing up to—and if substandard qualifications were delivered, I think it is probably entirely reasonable that there is some sort of recourse for their debt to be recovered in some way.

Senator KIM CARR: Do you know how many have had their debts wavered?

Mr Bolton : I would not be able to give you that answer.

Senator KIM CARR: Do you think it is common practice?

Mr Bolton : I do not think it is, no.

Senator KIM CARR: Finally, on the question of brokers, what is ACCI's attitude on the regulation of brokers?

Mr Bolton : Brokers do play an important role in marketing the product. There have again been numerous accounts of unscrupulous activity by brokers and, indeed, we have voiced our concern to ASQA as well as to the provider bodies about the activity of brokers. It is good to see that action has been taken—it is certainly very recent of course—to curb the activity of brokers and to ensure that the same regulatory regime applies to them.

Senator KIM CARR: How does it? It is actually a requirement of the provider, not the agent, so there is no direct regulation of the broker at all.

Mr Bolton : It puts the onus on the provider itself to effectively regulate the activity of the broker.

Senator KIM CARR: But why should a broker not be directly regulated?

Mr Bolton : I think it could be difficult to establish that sort of regime.

Senator KIM CARR: Why?

Mr Bolton : I honestly would not be able to tell you the intricacies of setting up a compliance regime that covers a very broad network of marketers.

Senator KIM CARR: Let me put it to you this way: education agents, as we once knew them, are not regulated but immigration agents are. Why could we not regulate education agents or brokers in this way as we do immigration agents?

Mr Bolton : It would be difficult. I am not saying it would be impossible.

Senator KIM CARR: We do regulate immigration agents, don't we?

Mr Bolton : We do.

Senator KIM CARR: There are many thousands of them registered.

Mr Bolton : We often see areas popping up where immigration agents are acting unscrupulously.

Senator KIM CARR: And there are serious legal penalties for that, aren't there? It is a jailable offence?

Mr Bolton : Yes, where they can get them or where they are not operating overseas or that sort of thing.

Senator KIM CARR: Sure, but what I am saying to you is: why can type a regime not apply in the education industry as it does in the immigration industry?

Mr Bolton : I think that is definitely a question that could well be asked and indeed is something the government could look at.

Senator SINODINOS: I just wanted to ask, ACCI's perspective on this in part is that, when it comes to the VET sector, that industry or enterprise should play a bigger role in driving the outcomes or expressing their expectations about what training should achieve.

Mr Bolton : That certainly is the case. We very strongly advocated that there needs to be a stronger engagement of industry in each phase of the training. Industry plays a role obviously in setting the competency standards through the development of training packages. But often from there the role of industry is diminished. We have advocated for stronger industry engagement through the development of training and assessment strategies by RTOs themselves. The new standards for RTOs do actually reflect the need for industry engagement. We had, in the development of the standards, pushed quite strongly for a number of stronger statements to be included in the area of industry engagement. But in the argy-bargy of setting the standards, it was watered down slightly from what we had advocated for.

Senator SINODINOS: What was watered down?

Mr Bolton : It was the need for strong industry engagement strategies in place by all RTOs delivering qualifications in Australia. The conversations that occurred at the time were with the training provider bodies and it was more or less decided that that would be difficult for a regulator to fully enforce.

Senator SINODINOS: To enforce what, higher standards?

Mr Bolton : An understanding of an engagement strategy by an RTO.

Senator SINODINOS: An engagement strategy with employers?

Mr Bolton : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: Industry refers to more than just employers, doesn't it?

Mr Bolton : It does, yes. We do readily acknowledge that employers and unions make up industry.

Senator KIM CARR: It is a remarkable proposition that you put to us that this could not be done.

Mr Bolton : I am not saying that it could not be done. I am not too sure of the conversation that happened around some of the areas but certainly, with the department and some of the VET provider bodies, it was considered difficult what we had originally proposed.

Senator SINODINOS: So at the moment, your main influence is over what, competency standards? Do you provide input to those?

Mr Bolton : We provide competency standards through training packages. Industry is engaged through the current industry skills councils in developing those training packages.

Senator SINODINOS: And those industry skills councils, are they government funded?

Mr Bolton : They are, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: Are they being abolished?

Mr Bolton : At the moment, there is a state of flux. Industry skills councils are moving into the system of skills support organisations, so there is going to be a secretariat body. The industry reference groups, which were the industry subcommittees sitting under the industry skills councils, are going to be more responsible for developing those competency standards.

Senator KIM CARR: They are being abolished though, aren't they?

Mr Bolton : They are being defunded, yes.

Senator SINODINOS: They are going to a different structure.

CHAIR: Which is more responsive to industry?

Mr Bolton : We believe it will be, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: Are there unions involved with these new structures?

Mr Bolton : There are indeed. Most of the industry reference committees are made up of employers, unions, and, in some cases, training providers.

Senator SINODINOS: You talk in your submission about contestability and your view is that contestability on balance has been a good thing?

Mr Bolton : Yes.

Senator SINODINOS: What do you mean by that? How has it been a good thing?

Mr Bolton : It has opened up the VET market to a great many people who previously would not have been able to access training. Previously, VET was almost solely the regime of apprentices and government employees and the realm of the big utilities. It has really opened up the sector to a much broader range of people. I think in 2013 there were three million VET students across the country, which was quite fantastic when you consider the number of students going through other education sectors.

Senator SINODINOS: So before that, it was apprentices, people employed in big utilities and what was the third category?

Mr Bolton : Often government employees undergoing upskilling.

Senator SINODINOS: But in expanding to these new groups, has there been a bit of a phase of having to learn how to engage with these groups?

Mr Bolton : Yes. When a market grows substantially in a short amount of time, there are always a few issues that pop up. When the regulator that is supposed to oversee that market does not grow or is not resourced to cope with that growth, there are always a few little issues.

Senator SINODINOS: The regulator in this case being ASQA?

Mr Bolton : ASQA has only been in place for a couple of years. Previously, each state and territory maintained its own regulatory structure.

Senator SINODINOS: In that regard, we heard evidence earlier in the day that there is a bit of a plethora of Commonwealth and state bodies and programs in this area. Is this right?

Mr Bolton : There is, yes. Some time ago, ACCI had tried to map out the jurisdictional boundaries of where everyone was and we ended up with a whiteboard that was covered in almost an explosion of lines and arrows going everywhere.

Senator SINODINOS: And this complexity, from an employer perspective, is an issue?

Mr Bolton : Yes it is. Many employers simply do not have the depth of knowledge required to navigate the VET system. There is a variety of funding models out there that are provided either by state or federal or in some cases community RTOs using donations until they set up their own funding regimes. There are different regulatory regimes. Western Australia and Victoria have separate regimes to the rest of the country. Indeed, there are different rules applied by different states as to who can access state funding. South Australia under the Skills for All program added an extra layer of regulation on top of what ASQA does to allow funding under the Skills for All regime. So it is quite difficult for employers to understand where the money is coming from and it is quite difficult for them to understand how the qualifications are developed, where they can access it and how they can actually get a qualification for one of their employees to do what they want them to do.

Senator SINODINOS: Is there any central repository of information to help people navigate all this?

Mr Bolton : There has been for some years now a system in place—the education and training advisers funded by the current Department of Education—that funds industry associations to have in place a person in each state and territory to provide a point of contact to help employers navigate their way through the system. There are also things like the industry skills advisers—a recent regime that has been set up to assist businesses that are applying for government funding under the Industry Skills Fund.

Senator SINODINOS: And some of these people, like the education and training advisers, were located in industry associations?

Mr Bolton : Yes.

Senator SINODINOS: I see. Part of the evidence we heard earlier in the day was around the targeting of people who might be vulnerable to provide potential students, particularly in the private provider space. Has ACCI turned its mind to the ways we can provide better pathways for people like that? Is that something you guys are focused on?

Mr Bolton : It is, yes. We have done a lot of work around the employability of vulnerable people and those cohorts that have traditionally sat outside the workforce. ACCI and the Business Council of Australia many years ago developed the Employability Skills Framework, which essentially outlined what skills people need to enter the workforce and progress through the world of work. We have also done a lot of work with government and training providers over the years in developing concepts around job readiness, pre-apprenticeship programs and other transitionary programs to assist people getting into work.

Senator SINODINOS: Do you think there is a case for pre-vetting people who are applying to undertake some of these courses?

Mr Bolton : There certainly is. Indeed, in most cases the training package qualifications themselves do have information that acts as pre-vetting. Often the training package development process identifies prerequisite skills or at least the prerequisite level of knowledge and understanding that should be in place before a person undertakes a qualification. Unfortunately a great many RTOs do not necessarily apply that in signing up new students.

Senator SINODINOS: So it is a case of holding their feet to the fire so that they enforce those—

Mr Bolton : Essentially, yes. The new standards do have in place—I think it is kicking off in 2016—a requirement for an up-front assessment of new students to ensure that the course is right for them.

Senator SINODINOS: Finally, it is in your submission that there have been a number of actions taken in recent times to try and improve the operation of the market, including improving the quality of training outcomes, better compliance, transparency et cetera. So you are arguing for more time for those measures to work through and see whether they have an impact?

Mr Bolton : Yes. The new standards only came into place on 1 January for new RTOs and on 1 April for existing RTOs, so we have not had time to see the flow-on effect of the application of those standards. On questions around marketing, ethical practices and industry engagement, it is all in the new standards. We think there should be adequate time given to ASQA and indeed the sector itself to allow the flow-on effects of those new standards coming into place before we can really provide an assessment of where quality has gone.

ACTING CHAIR: The ACTU had a recommendation that they would like 30 per cent of public funding to be dedicated to contestable space, leaving 70 per cent of public funding heading off to TAFE. I have had a lot of experience in the education system in Victoria in particular. I have seen some fabulous TAFE courses. I have also had a lot of small business owners and industry specialists in my office talking about their views on the training that goes on, particularly in certain areas. The up-to-date nature of skills and the high pace of technological change within their particular industry is not actually being passed on in some TAFE situations. We also heard from the CFMEU this morning about their RTO and its operation in the private market providing options and choice for students, which I think is really important. Do you have a view about 70 per cent of the public dollar going to TAFE and the impact that that will have on skills development in our community?

Mr Bolton : In an open market it is quite dangerous to start putting quotas and targets in place. If you look at the flow of public moneys, up until the implementation of the student entitlement model it almost was a 70-30 split; indeed, it was probably a lot higher. When I first started as a TAFE teacher 15 or 20 years ago, 95 per cent of the training in Queensland was delivered by TAFE. So we have seen times when the vast majority of the funding was absorbed by the large public institutes. TAFE does not 'own' quality in VET; there are a great many providers out there who do a fantastic job—private providers, totally 'for profit' providers. There are also a lot of providers out there that are owned by industry associations and unions—sometimes jointly. There are some very great joint industry providers out there that are—

ACTING CHAIR: Perhaps that is a model going forward?

Mr Bolton : Indeed; there are some great models out there already. As I was saying, TAFE does not own quality in the VET sector, and I think it would be very dangerous to curtail the sector by only allowing 30 per cent of it to flow through to the majority of private providers out there.

ACTING CHAIR: Thank you very much for your evidence today.