Economics Legislation Committee
Estimates hearings 28 May 2012
Mr Chris Robinson, Chief Commissioner, Australian Skills Quality Authority
Dr Dianne Orr, Commisssioner Compliance, Australian Skills Quality Authority
Senator RHIANNON: I understand that Victoria has not referred its VET powers to ASQA. I was wondering if ASQA was using the lessons from the Victorian experience, where private providers were found to be wanting, with substandard courses and the rorting of public funding?
Mr Robinson : Obviously there are a lot of issues behind that question. Some of them relate to the contracts that the Victorian government has, and the management of those, for purchasing training from various private providers. In our case, we are looking closely at the providers we regulate. Information has been exchanged between the Victorian department and ourselves about whether there are some issues we should be following up on. We are following up on those in the case of some Victorian providers.
Senator RHIANNON: Could you expand on what the issues are?
Mr Robinson : In our case, we look at whether anything is affecting the requirements under the act for their registration as a training provider. If there are concerns about quality that affect whether or not they are meeting the standards required of a training provider, that is where we would follow up and look into that question. There are other issues, however, to do with whether or not they have provided the amount of training or the type of training that they were contracted to provide under their contracts. That is a matter for the Victorian government in managing its contracts with those providers. That is a different set of quality issues, if you like, to do with the contracts that they were given and whether they supplied what they had promised to supply. In our case, though, if there are any ramifications for the registration of those providers, those are the sorts of issues we might follow up and look into. We have done so in a number of cases.
Senator RHIANNON: What are the actual measures you have put in place so a Victorian scenario could not happen federally?
Mr Robinson : Largely those issues are to do with the relationship that the department in Victoria, as a funder of training, has with the providers it has a contract with to supply that training. In our case, if that has ramifications for their licence or their registration as a training provider, we look at that. Basically we require training providers to meet the required standards spelt out in the act at all times. If there is a training provider out there who is not meeting those, we can take regulatory action against them, even if they have not put an application in to extend their licence or their registration at this time. We can follow up with them in any case if there is a reason to.
Senator RHIANNON: How many providers have not met compliance requirements since 1 July last year?
Mr Robinson : We have made 147 refusals of application. That is against a backdrop of 2,185 applications altogether that have been finalised by us in the period 1 July to 31 March, the first nine months of our operation. We have completed 2,185 applications overall since we commenced, and we have made refusals in 147 cases. That included 40 refusals of applications to be registered as an RTO for the first time or become a new RTO. There were 24 cases of refusing the registration of an existing provider and there were 83 cases where we did not approve the addition of new courses to that RTO. We have also made another three cancellations or suspensions of registration of RTOs where these were not in relation to an application but arose out of action taken as a result of other inquiries.
Senator RHIANNON: To clarify, was it the 2,185 who were successful and the 147 who were not successful?
Mr Robinson : There were actually 2,185 completed by 31 March. Of those, 1,948, or 89 per cent, were approved; 147 were refused; and 90 were withdrawn by the person putting the application in.
Senator RHIANNON: So, the 147 is a subset of the 2,185?
Mr Robinson : Correct.
Senator RHIANNON: Is the 90 a subset of the 147?
Mr Robinson : No, it is a subset of the 2,185—a different subset.
Senator RHIANNON: Could you expand on the grounds for the refusals?
Mr Robinson : Yes. Essentially, in the case of an existing provider who is, for example, going for its registration renewal, it is when we have a concern and we have identified that there are a number of outstanding issues when we have risk assessed them. We have sent them off for an audit and someone will have gone out and audited their operation. It is generally when they are found to be not compliant with the standards for the quality of provision and delivery of the training or the quality of assessment, or where they have staff not properly qualified to run the programs—those sorts of issues. Where they are very serious, that would lead to a refusal of the application to continue as a training provider. We do give these providers a period of one month to identify the non-compliances that have been identified and to rectify them. If they cannot, we then take that further action.
Senator RHIANNON: How many complaints have been made about Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students?
Mr Robinson : We have had 550-odd complaints altogether about training providers that have been registered with ASQA.
Senator RHIANNON: Are they about different bodies or may they cover—I am trying to get the number of—
Mr Robinson : They are different complaints that have been registered. Some of them might have been more than one about the same provider.
Senator RHIANNON: That is what I am trying to get at.
Mr Robinson : I do not have the figures in front of me about how many of those were in relation to the CRICOS.
Dr Orr : ASQA refers complaints from international students to the Overseas Students Ombudsman.
Mr Robinson : And that is the Commonwealth Ombudsman as well. There is a process there. They have been given new powers since last year to deal with complaints by overseas students. I cannot tell you how many of the 550 were specifically about overseas students in the first instance, but we will get you that on notice. We might have referred many of those to the Commonwealth Overseas Students Ombudsman.