The Greens say apprentices could be hit with a massive debt under the Coalition's Trade Support Loans Bill passed with the support of Labor.
"Imposing HECS style debts and fees on apprentices is no way to build a skilled Australian workforce," Greens higher education spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon said today.
"While this is the latest example of the Coalition's war on public higher education, the big story here is that Labor chose to vote with the Coalition rather that the Greens and the Palmer United Party to wind back the Coalition's loans plan for apprentices.
"PUP Senators voted for the Greens amendments and also voted with the Greens against the Bill.
"As a society we should be doing everything possible to ensure that people who want to learn a trade are supported and given the best chance to do so. Replacing a grant with a debt is not the way to achieve this.
"It is a joke that the Coalition is touting themselves to be supportive of apprentices when they have just taken away a $5500 grant for apprentices and replaced it with a possible debt of up to $20,000.
"Under the Coalition/Labor debt plan, apprentices could be left with a massive debt but no qualification. One of the Greens amendments waived the debt for any apprentice dismissed by their employer or if the company folded.
"Other measures covered by the Greens amendments included lowering the cap on the total loan available to $10,000 with the difference made up through matching direct government assistance; allowing apprentices to earn more before paying off their debt, and paying it back at a lower rate; and removing CPI indexation, which would have the impact of reducing the real value of the loan over time.
"The Coalition and Labor voted down these amendments.
"The fee burden apprentices could now face comes on top of the undermining of TAFE being driven by Labor's decision to open up public funding to private VET providers.
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