ASQA cops a comprehensive serve in parliament
The Australian Skills Quality Authority’s “broadly over-reaching and focus on over-compliance has now almost gained ASQA an affectionate term for an absolute focus on administrative trivia,” Andrew Laming (Liberal – Queensland) told the House of Representatives, Wednesday night.
What he said: Mr Laming’s speech addressed ASQA’s processes and culture, focusing on the way it assesses the performance of Registered Training Organisations and cited claims of inconsistency in audits and over-zealous enforcement.
He offered anecdotal evidence to make his case, including one ASQA warning that a training organisation could be liable for an $11m penalty
“Snuffing out an RTO by simply telling it, ‘If you want to take on this decision, there’s the door to (the) Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and lawyer up,’ is not the conduct of a regulator that is building confidence in our sector,” Mr Laming added.
While he acknowledges the catastrophe that was VET FEE HELP, “no-one would want to see a dodgy provider getting away with blue murder, and we have seen plenty of that in 2013, 2014 and 2015” he says “it appears to me ASQA is increasingly using the AAT as a vehicle for extinguishing RTOs simply by legal cost, reputational damage and delay.”
What now?: Mr Laming is chair of the House of Representatives committee on employment, education and training and as such can command the attention of ministers. Perhaps his speech will encourage the executive to look again at advice from Valerie Braithwaite, in her 2018 review of ASQA’s legislation (the government accepted nearly all recommendations).
“As a regulator (ASQA’s) role is to motivate RTOs to reflect on their performance, what they might do better and how they might go about improving their performance. Recommendations in this review favour continuous improvement over mandating quality standards that all RTOs must achieve. … Ultimately, the way ASQA should regulate for quality (as opposed to sufficiency) is to look at how well RTOs go about setting their own higher standards, checking if such standards are met, motivating through praise and encouragement and support when they have achieved improvement, and advising on options when they have not,” Professor Braithwaite suggested.