The Market Has Failed, It’s Time To Back TAFE

In a speech to the Australian Education Union today, Shadow Minister for Vocational Education, Sharon Bird, today reaffirmed Labor’s commitment to TAFE and called on the Liberals to:

1. Come clean about their secret plans for a TAFE-destroying takeover;

2. Let voters know exactly what their plans for TAFE are;

3. Reassure apprentices that they will not use what’s left of apprenticeship support to give more tax cuts to their wealthy mates in the Budget;

4. Give a guarantee that they will not cut more funding from skills programs in the Budget.

Over the past two years it has become clear that there has been a failure in the market and we have seen the proliferation of opportunistic and sub-standard training providers costing the taxpayers and students billions of dollars.

Last year, on National TAFE Day, Bill Shorten and Sharon Bird announced Labor’s plan to back TAFE into the future by developing a National Priority Plan.

For the first time there will be a clear description at the national level on the role and purpose of public provision – it will describe what government expects from TAFE as the public provider and will make clear the aspects of TAFE that define its purpose and describes specifically how it is different from being just “another provider”.

Having defined the unique role of TAFE as our public provider, the negotiation with the states and territories will work to deliver on this by providing quarantined and guaranteed funding to TAFE.

This comprehensive National Priority Plan will define the unique role of TAFE and place it squarely as the public provider within the VET sector – as the cornerstone of our economy’s need to train and retrain its workforce and to deliver on improving the participation, productivity, innovation and growth efforts required for the nation.

Labor has also announced a full, evidence based review of the vocational education and training system.

Bill Shorten has made it clear that the system has swung too far towards the private sector. For this reason we will work with the states and territories to put the balance right between the contestable and non-contestable funding model to ensure it delivers the outcomes that are intended. 

The leaked COAG Discussion Paper on a Federal Takeover of the sector makes it clear that the Abbott/Turnbull Government only sees TAFE as “just another provider” and is happy to leave it to a fully marketised free-for-all despite all the evidence now available of how disastrous that would be. 

The sector is crying out for stability – training our future workforce is in our national interest.  Having experienced, well-skilled workers will increase productivity and help to grow our economy.

After the crisis in the vocational education sector, it is time the Minister stepped up and gave the sector some reassurance that his mate Malcolm won’t be raiding the skills sector for more savings so that they can give tax cuts to their wealthy mates.