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Monday, 15 June 2020
Page: 4246

Vocational Education and Training

Dear Chair

I write to you concerning Petition EN1129 in relation to the regulatory strategies. policies and activities of the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA).

The Australian Government is committed to a quality vocational education and training (VET) system underpinned by a trusted, respected and independent regulator that takes appropriate regulatory action to protect students and uphold the integrity and reputation of the system.

On 30 October 2019, I announced $18.1 million towards a program of reforms to enhance ASQA's engagement with the VET sector and ensure its regulatory approach is fair, transparent and effective. The reforms respond to key recommendations from the 2019 Expert Review of Australia's VET System (the Joyce Review) and the 2018 review of the National VET Regulator Act 2011 (the Braithwaite Review).

The reforms include expanding ASQA's role to ensure a broader focus on supporting training providers to understand their compliance requirements, ensuring ASQA's regulatory approach is focused on student outcomes, improving the transparency and consistency of regulatory decisions, and improving ASQA's use and collection of data to help identify and remove poor quality providers from the system. The Government recently passed the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment Act 2020 as the first step towards these reforms.

I also announced a rapid review of ASQA's regulatory practices, governance and culture which will be completed in March 2020. The review is evaluating the effectiveness of ASQA's internal regulatory policies and practices, including how ASQA undertakes audits, and how it makes and reviews regulatory decisions. It is also considering how ASQA's regulatory approach fits within the broader context of the VET Quality Framework and identifying potential areas for change to drive improvements across the sector, as well as evaluating ASQA's governance to ensure it is aligned with best practice regulation. Stakeholders have been engaged with the process and have provided feedback on ASQA's regulatory practices directly to the regulatory expert undertaking the review.

In response to initial review findings, I have introduced further legislative amendments to the National VET Regulator (NVETR) Act 2011 into Parliament to give effect to a new governance model for ASQA. This new model revises the current governance model from a three commissioner structure to a single agency head (Chief Executive Officer) supported by additional Senior Executive Service staff and an expert advisory council. This new structure will provide ASQA with more effective and fit-for-purpose governance, including through clearer roles and responsibilities and access to expert advice, to better support effective decision-making and improve accountability. It will ensure ASQA is well positioned to address existing challenges and respond to future reform.

The findings of the review will inform a program of ongoing reform to support ASQA's continued evolution as a modern and effective regulator. It will ensure ASQA has the capability and capacity it needs to be a strong independent regulator focused on ensuring high quality student outcomes, while expanding its focus to support and foster excellence across the VET sector more broadly.

As the issues raised by the petition will be addressed through this reform agenda, I do not believe there is the need for a Standing Committee to initiate a formal inquiry at this time.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to this petition.

Yours sincerely

from the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Cash