Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Michaelia Cash Channels Groucho Marx

Groucho Marx famously once said "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well I have others.”

Minister Michaelia Cash is doing her best to channel him with her two totally different positions concerning penalty rates.

On the one hand she says penalty rates are not for the Government to decide, but a matter for the Fair Work Commission.

But then she says that the Government will not change penalty rates without taking a proposal to the voters at an election first.

So what really is the Government's position? That penalty rates are a matter for the Fair Work Commission or a matter for Government? And if they are a matter for the Fair Work Commission, why did the Government send them off to the Productivity Commission in the first place?

Workers are entitled to more security than this. They are entitled to know whether the government supports continued Sunday penalty rates or not. They know that claims that cutting the Sunday rate will create more jobs are nonsense. They know that if their penalty rate is cut they will have to work more hours to make up for the pay cut, so there is a negligible prospect of more work for people who don't already have work.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Private Training Colleges Should Be Cut

The Federal Government is lamenting its latest Budget blow out (I know, I know, the government that said under it there would be no surprises and no excuses). It says we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

We certainly have a spending problem when it comes to bankrolling private training colleges. The States used to fund Technical and Further Education, and it worked well. But then some bright sparks decided that the free market could do technical and further education better than the public sector.

Private training colleges sprang up, and successive Federal Governments decided they were worth bankrolling. The cost of courses has trebled since VET Fee Help funding came on tap in 2012. We've seen the flowering of online courses – with a 92 per cent dropout rate! – and college brokers, who forge peoples signatures and sign up the brain injured and intellectually disabled to courses they have no hope of completing.

Some private colleges now receive hundreds of millions of dollars every year. For example "Careers Australia" received $146 million in 2014, and less than 1200 students graduated from its courses. You would think that at over $100,000 per successful student the Government might have concluded that it was more efficient to put the money into TAFE, but you would be wrong. This year "Careers Australia" received a whopping $229 million in public funding for the eleven months to November 15. This is $27 million more than the biggest publicly funded provider, NSW TAFE, got this year. No wonder the deficit is increasing!

Many of these courses have given students debts of tens of thousands of dollars, and no job with which to repay them. This ideological experiment has been a disaster. The Government should cut the funding of these private colleges, which have spread like Prickly Pear, and save itself some serious money by funding TAFE places that industry has ticked off on as genuinely likely to lead to employment.