Cuts to TAFE funding by the O’Farrell state government have been hosed down by Nationals MPs Geoff Provost (Tweed) and Don Page (Ballina) after Greens MP John Kaye visited the region on Friday and met with TAFE teachers and students.
Mr Kaye warned that the region’s economy would shrink, investment would go elsewhere and jobs will disappear unless funding is maintained.
‘TAFE students, including those at the Lismore and Kingscliff campuses, are being asked to pay more in order to receive less,’ says Mr Kaye. ‘Class sizes will rise, the ranges of courses will be reduced and time to help individual students will all but disappear.
‘Cutting 800 jobs from TAFE institutions will severely compromise student learning and gut the quality and viability of public vocational education for decades to come. Increasing TAFE fees by 9.5 per cent will unfairly target some of the region’s most disadvantaged young people. Opportunities for young people to gain skills and engage with the workforce will be lost.’
A north coast TAFE teacher, who wished not to be named, told Echonetdaily said that the state government has ‘withdrawn all funding for visual arts across NSW’. He said the cuts specifically targeted visual arts including fashion and graphic design.
‘These courses were previously subsidised and would now cost in the order of $10,500.’ He added that job cuts are a certainty.
MPs blame GST
When Echonetdaily asked Mr Provost if he would be making representations on behalf of both students and teachers to maintain current funding, Mr Provost instead blamed ‘a reduction of more than $5 billion in GST revenues over the next four years’.
He says that has resulted in being ‘forced to make tough decisions, which are having an impact on TAFE’.
‘The overall fee increase represents a change of about $1 per week for Certificate I and II qualifications, and about $3 per week for Advanced Diploma qualifications.’
Similarly, minister for north coast and local Ballina MP Don Page told Echonetdaily, ‘The NSW government’s budgetary changes are largely due to a $5.4 billion reduction in GST revenue coming to NSW from the Commonwealth over the next three years. The NSW government needs to live within its means.
‘The cuts in education amount to three per cent of the education budget. The $1.7 billion over four years needs to be seen in the context of expenditure of over $53.5 billion over the same period. Frontline public school teachers will not be affected. Indeed, the NSW government has put an additional 520 teachers into the public education system. Savings will be achieved in backroom administration. Government-subsidised TAFE course fees will increase 9.5 per cent next year. TAFE NSW, however, will continue to provide generous fee exemptions; for example, Aboriginal students will continue to be exempt from paying fees and students with disabilities will continue to be fee exempt for one course per year. Institute directors retain the delegation to waive a student’s fee in cases of severe financial hardship.
‘The impacts will be felt statewide and I don’t expect the impact to be greater or lesser on the north coast. The government knows that increases in any fees are hard for households; however, it should be noted that the increases will result in fees that are still within national averages for TAFE fees.’
But Mr Kaye questioned the government’s priorities when it came to cost cutting.
‘The O’Farrell government cut $300 million in payroll tax to the top ten per cent of the largest and wealthiest companies who could easily afford it.
‘This government is clearly unwilling to make any difficult decisions.’