NSW ALP State Conference, Sunday 14 February, 2016

BIRD: Thank you. Can I start by thanking the Education Committee members for the fantastic work they have been doing around New South Wales on this Platform and I am happy to endorse it. Thank you also for coming to Cunningham and having a long session with us down there. 

Delegates there is a really important issue facing us at the next federal election. Make no mistake about it, this election will determine the survival of TAFE in this country, that is what we face. If you want to see evidence of that, talk to our Victorian colleagues about what a conservative government did to our fantastic TAFE system in that state. They had strangled it to the point of disappearing across regional and rural Victoria and it was only the election of the Labor Government that saved TAFE in Victoria. We have a responsibility to do exactly the same thing at the federal level. 

Delegates we saw, only in the last few weeks, a leaked document that the Turnbull Liberal Government was planning to completely privatise and take over the vocational sector. Their view is TAFE is no different to any other training provider it will not survive in that environment, it’s a public provider, its job goes beyond what any other training provider does. 

It’s there in our regions and rural areas.  

It’s there to determine access for people with a disability. 

It’s there to give fair opportunity to our Indigenous Australians. 

It’s there to give second chance education for people who have missed out for one reason or another on their schooling. 

It’s there to work with our retrenched worker who need to be upskilled and given a new opportunity at work. 

It is our public provider, our TAFE, that does that task and if we don’t stand up at the next federal election it will be the end of it. 

I am really pleased that at our National TAFE Day last year Bill Shorten, at a forum co-hosted by the Australian Education Union and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, stood up and said he was going to make this a federal election issue.  He committed to a TAFE funding guarantee and the use of the COAG process to hold every State Government accountable for sustaining and building and long term future of our TAFE system. 

Delegates, you know as well as I know, I know this is in your hearts and minds and no matter what community environment you go into and talk to people about, one thing that Linda Burney said is that they suddenly all want to talk to you about their TAFE and apprenticeship opportunities for young people. 

This federal government has decimated them - $2 billion cut out. 

$1 billion cut out of apprentice support. 

100,000 fewer apprentices in training since they were elected and yet they want to bring in people from overseas to do the jobs and they don’t want to train our own people to take up those opportunities. 

It’s a great Platform, it’s solid work and the committee should be commended on it and I ask each of us not just to support this Platform but go out and spread the word, the time is urgent that we get this message into our community. 

Thank you delegates.