After months of media scrutiny and criticism, it was clear that something was wrong with the ‘VET-FEE-HELP’ scheme. Reports indicated widespread fraud and misconduct, making it seem as though the Government would have to crack down on errant educational companies conning ordinary Australians into an impossible deal. But will the Government step up to the plate and protect its citizens?

The schemes generally involved the sale of diplomas and other courses to the economically depressed and disenfranchised, who frequently signed up based on the promise of an incentive (for example, an iPad). Despite the alarmingly low rate of ‘take-up’, the company would then be reimbursed by the Government. The big-money merry-go-round ended in millions of dollars worth of accumulated debt and the widespread defrauding of the taxpayer coffers.

According to Assistant Education Minister Simon Birmingham, the government will be introducing a raft of measures to crack down on ‘government training loan’ scams. But critics have pointed out that some of the sales tactics, such as door-to-door knocking and cold-calling, are not being limited by the apparent ‘reforms’.

Senator Birmingham claimed that the preventative measures, including the banning of free iPads (specifically) and more onerous entry requirements would effectively deter companies from dodgy behaviour.

“I think the most effective way is to tackle the heart of the problem, and the heart of the problem is that people are being signed up to these courses for the wrong reasons,” he told the media. “That will pretty much break the business model for those that engage in cold-calling or cold-canvassing or door-to-door sales.”

Despite these claims, the Government has chosen not to regulate those specific tactics, a move which has drawn the ire of industry groups and insiders. Speaking on behalf of the Consumer Action Law Centre, Katherine Temple said the Liberal Government was failing to protect the most disenfranchised within our society.

“These requirements … they don’t actually prohibit door knocking or cold-calling which is where we see a lot of the problems with these high-pressure sales tactics,” she told the ABC. “Sales people are using these sales tactics to encourage or induce these students to sign up to courses it’s unlikely they’re ever going to be able to finish.”

It’s a sorry state of affairs and a delicate situation which reveals much about the nature of employment (and unemployment) within Australia…

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