Andrew Robb exposed in VET rort

By Leith van Onselen

Back in May, thousands of students were left in limbo as one of the biggest vocational educational training (VET) providers, Careers Australia, went into administration after losing government accreditation and funding. From the Jakarta Globe:

Careers Australia Group, a provider of vocational education and training, has gone into voluntary administration after losing government funding, putting 1,100 people out of work and 15,000 students in limbo, its administrators said on Friday (26/05).

All work placements for students, many of them from overseas, will be suspended immediately as will all school-based apprenticeships and traineeships…

The collapse of Careers Australia, which has 14 campuses, comes as the government reviews the way funding is distributed to the sector.

The Department of Education and Training said the firm had notified Careers Australia on Wednesday that it will not accredit the company for a new vocational education scheme.

“Careers Australia did not meet three of the provider criteria: financial performance, management and governance and student outcomes,” it said, adding that the government may provide financial assistance to affected students.

The collapse of Careers Australia follows the similar fate experienced by Australian Institute of Professional Education – another large private VET provider – in October last year, which also left thousands of students in limbo.

Last night, ABC’s 7.30 Report ran a segment on how Careers Australia continued to target a new set of potential students – and a new source of government money – even while its operations were under scrutiny by the Turnbull Government, with former senior Coalition MP, Andrew Robb, named as a chairman:

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Thousands of students are in limbo after paying a lot of money and studying for years for qualifications that are now up in the air.

Careers Australia has given hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funding for courses that were often sold in vulnerable neighbourhoods using inducements such as free laptops, but the education giant went bust last month, blaming its demise on being unfairly targeted during a crackdown by the Turnbull Government.

Tonight, 7.30 can reveal that even while the private college sector was under scrutiny, Careers Australia was setting its sights on a fresh set of students…

MICHAEL ATKIN: Careers Australia’s private education empire of 15 campuses in five states was built with taxpayer funding.

In just two years, it raked in $415 million from Federal Government student loans.

ROD CAMM, COUNCIL FOR PRIVATE EDUCATION AND TRAINING: The focus on high enrollments, regardless of the outcome and that has caused damaging and devastating impacts to students and our industry.

MICHAEL ATKIN: A series of 7.30 investigations revealed how Careers Australia was achieving such rapid growth.

First, the company was using door-to-door sales brokers who targeted poor communities, offering free laptops… Then it switched tactics, using large call centres to recruit job seekers or people who entered online competitions…

In October, the Turnbull Government hit back, cracking down on its main source of income – vocational education…

With the crackdown underway, Careers Australia didn’t stop. Instead, insiders have told 7.30 here at the Brisbane headquarters, it hatched a new plan, this time to target higher education students…

Careers Australia injected $17 million into the Australian School of Management, including for this splashy marketing campaign…

In January, Michael Moxon received a phone call after applying for a sales management job online. The caller was recruiting students for the Australian School of Management and Michael signed up.

MICHAEL MOXON, FMR STUDENT, AUSTRALIAN SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT: It was all about me getting a better job and they were playing the card of being this very helpful person, that all their intention is to get me a better job.

MICHAEL ATKIN: In March, alarm bells started ringing inside the tertiary education watchdog when ASM said it wanted to enrol almost 9,000 new students.

If it went ahead, the cost to the taxpayer in student loans would be astronomical – $87 million.

ANTHONY MCCLARAN, TERTIARY EDUCATION QUALITY AND STANDARDS AGENCY: We were looking at potentially very, very rapid, unprecedentedly large growth of student numbers.

MICHAEL ATKIN: The watchdog froze new enrolments while it investigated, discovering some new students were really job-seekers, and ASM had been selling unaccredited courses.

ANTHONY MCCLARAN: The standards were clearly either under direct threat or potentially being threatened and that means that there were risks for students and for the reputation of Australian higher education…

MICHAEL ATKIN: 7.30 can now reveal Careers Australia was using rogue education broker Acquire Learning to target students…Acquire was being prosecuted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for misleading and deceptive sales tactics, but even that didn’t stop Careers Australia paying Acquire to turn job-seekers into new students.

ROD CAMM: Pretty much wherever I go in this industry, colleges talk about the predatory practices of Acquire Learning…

MICHAEL ATKIN: The chairman of the Australian School of Management is former senior Turnbull Government Minister, Andrew Robb. He declined to be interviewed by 7.30, saying we should instead speak to CEO David Ensor who did not respond.

I’m shocked that Australia’s most upstanding former politician, Andrew Robb, is involved in this swindle.

More broadly, the widespread rorting of the private VET sector is yet another example of the failure of demand-driven training systems across Australia. They were supposed to give students greater choice and make providers more responsive to students and employers. But instead, Australia produced a wasteful, rorted system that has delivered a huge Budget blow-out and poor educational outcomes.

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Unconventional Economist
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  1. Seems to me there are only two business models in this country. Gerrymandered oligopoly non competitive exploiters of the public that purchase politicians and political policy like the oil gas mining banking industry and then thieving rorters that spring up steal from the tax payers with every new program funded from public purse like VET and childcare commercial university and pink bats and now aged care providers. There is nothing else in this country.

    • “There are only two ways of getting great wealth: to produce it or steal it from others.” – Stiglitz, “The price of inequality”

    • “Gerrymandered”?

      I’m pretty sure this is bribery and corruption, but definitely not Gerrymandering. That would involve Australian Electoral Commission deliberately drawing electorate boundaries to benefit one party, and that is most certainly untrue.

  2. Andrew Robb ranks with Bronwyn Bishop, Joe Hockey, David Feeney , & Richard Marles as the definitive personal embodiment of why Australians should not ever trust a politician – no matter what they purport to stand for. The only thing they really stand is their own personal aggrandizement

    • My wife is Vietnamese, she thinks Australian politicians are up their with Vietnamese Government officials, and that is really say something.

      • Mining BoganMEMBER

        Would the Vietnamese politicians be more honest in their dishonesty though?

        Ours still try to hang onto that ‘honourable’ thing.

      • @MiningBogan it is a known unknown in Vietnam, everyone knows that those who work for any kind of government department is on the take somehow, it just isn’t spoken about publicly.

      • I visited Vietnam last year and stayed at a hotel with perhaps 20 apartment rooms. Cleaning lady told us the apartment belonged to military general who used a foreigner to disguise true ownership. After these North Vietnamese raided the South, they would mark all public land as military owned and then privately divide it up for themselves. Many decades later, they would use dummy names to have these lands developed into motels, hotels and resorts. The cleaning lady says all rooms are pretty much booked all year round, so these generals are roughly pocketing $20k/usd month from this one hotel we stayed at. This occurs all over Ho Chi Minh city. Corruption there is the norm!

      • or
        Tony Abbott who had his daughter awarded a $60,000 bursary by a VET benefiary that no one else could apply for and then prosecuted the whistleblower in court
        Our current PM who is named in the Panama Papers
        Our current foreign minister who is a recipient of the “Julie Bishop Glorious Foundation”

    • The age of entitlement is not over, but it is beginning to bite. These self entitled VIPs such as Andrew Robb-it are hopefully starting to wake up to the fact that the public spotlight is beginning to shine on their scheister ways.
      Now how long before they are forced to atone, especially financially. (Don’t think I’ll live to see this ever happen though).

    • You can Stephen Conroy to that list. Head of “Responsible Wagering”. Is there a better example of an oxymoron than this lobby group?

  3. Why was this ever thing to begin with? Why did the government think it was a great idea to give millions of tax payers money to scammers who just exploited foreign student interests? Seriously, heads need to roll.

  4. I’m shocked that Australia’s most upstanding former politician, Andrew Robb, is involved in this swindle.

    Shocked but not suprised? That was my reaction to watching 7.30 and seeing Robb’s sneering face appear as part of this taxpayer funded horseshit.

  5. Federal ICAC now! The Andrew Robb story is like that of Captain Patrick Stanley Vaughan Heenan.

    • Diogenes the CynicMEMBER

      ALP and Libs voted to kill the Greens bill for a Federal ICAC…disgusting…

      • This weeks qanda, audience member PETA-lyne Relton ask a question about ‘unlike Australian politicians, low paid workers do not have the benefit of retiring with gilded nest egg or receive taxpayer funded entitlements such as helicopter rides or family holidays’, she received a brush off quickly. Nothing changes unless voters do!

  6. sydboy007MEMBER

    as cartman would say goddammit

    it’s enough to me me go have a swig out of my Johnnie Walker Blue Label 1805 Celebration Blend Scotch Whisky BOTTLE NO. 46. See what strayan politics has driven me to reus? At the rate things are going I’ll have to tap that equity mate button to buy meself some more barely drinkable scotch.

  7. I’ve got a mate from the former Yugoslavia,he said there is just as much political corruption here as there was over there. But the good thing was when they caught them over there, they took em out and shot em.

  8. It is pretty bloody simple:

    Aussie graduates would be more desirable to Aussie bosses if there was a $50k/year tax on each 457 visa.

  9. More tax-payer funds wasted. Quelle surprise!

    People who argue for ‘more government’ are essentially arguing for more of this shit.

  10. Silly me I thought this was a pure Bernays supply side privatize [everything] party w/ the attendant corruption and looting…..

  11. This is old news now about this pathetic knob who sold out Australia’s future to a communist regime, and yet applauded by the LNP for his great contribution to get this ridiculous FTA up that serves Australia’s interests 0%.

    Aged care just around the corner for this prick. Then he can get a real taste of culture, the same culture he has played a large contribution in infiltrating into Australia.

    That will fix the likes of this baby boomer cretan.

    We really have no reason to complain if those of us still choose to make an idiotic decision in voting for the LNP or ALP.

    So wake up Australia….Your major parties are screwing you over on every fucking measure, from housing affordability, to immigration, to population explosion, to declining living standards, to cost of living…..every fucking measure going backwards.

    The ALP and LNP are dated, irrelevant, and no longer serving Australians.

    They are sellouts, corrupt as fuck mother fucking cunts that care less about our children’s welfare than their own pockets.

    Stop fucking voting for these cunts.

    • “sold out Australia’s future to a communist regime.”

      Disheveled… um no… neoliberalism is a far right wing conservative agenda, the left walked through the door with the Third Way or Washington consensus pact….

      PS. China is state capitalism with a loose regulatory enviroment, currently changing the latter.

      • Piss off boomer.
        You shit the rest of us with your second rate bullshit pseduo intelligence.
        Um ……..pompous snob…..obviously educated via some legal fraternity bubble etc…..
        Get in the real world … people may actually start listening to your drivel.

      • Yes, Aus = Neo liberal crony capitalism as Visioned in US centric think tanks from the 1950’s-70’s then manifested into being with Ronnie Regan and Maggie Thatcher (This is what the gnome Howard drooled over for 15 years before fucking up Aus).
        The vision was:
        No unions.
        No pay rises for the masses.
        Freedom for the financial grown ups to do as they please, ie de-regulated banking
        The masses to take on loans to buy everything instead of getting pay rises and saving up.
        After destruction of the unions then offshoring jobs and immigration as needed (wanted re low wages)
        Privatisation of everything.
        and so on.
        Only now are a few people catching up with this agenda in terms of it not being good for society after all. The big disapointment was Labor going along with it all and not undoing it when they had the chance.

        The whole thing with over priced housing, casualised jobs, job offshoring and mass immigration are just the extended symptoms of this political dogma and in fact has now move up into cronyism and corruption.

      • Nice to see your vulgar in full splendor Steernorth…

        “Piss off boomer.”

        Not a boomer and don’t identify as such, not a fan of broad sweeping generalizations, attempting to pigeonhole vast swaths of individuals, and groups, across vast regions for ideological reasons.

        “You shit the rest of us with your second rate bullshit pseduo intelligence.”

        So many categorical errors and facilities of composition launched with a royal – WE – in a subjective proclamation.

        “Um ……..pompous snob…..obviously educated via some legal fraternity bubble etc…..”

        I currently work in the trades ninny, tho it would be interesting to see if you could keep up with me.

        “Get in the real world … people may actually start listening to your drivel.”

        Real world – ????? – like real people – ????? – what a pompous thing to say…. how does one define such and whom is qualified to make such proclamations.

        Disheveled…. the meta it burns….

        PS. concur 99….