Richmond MP Justine Elliot slammed north coast National Party MPs in federal parliament yesterday for the coalition’s controversial plan to sell off TAFE campuses at Murwillumbah and Ballina.
Leaked Cabinet documents have revealed the coalition government wants to sell off 27 TAFE sites and that in 21 regional towns, TAFE would be closed or reduced through a partial sale.
Murwillumbah TAFE is slated to be fully sold off while and a partial sale of the Ballina TAFE is planned.
Mrs Elliot said the ‘cruel cuts’ were ‘a disgrace and I especially condemn the north coast Nationals for these closures. It shows yet again that in regional and rural areas – the Nationals just can’t be trusted’.
North Coast Institute of TAFE director, Elizabeth McGregor told media the changes were necessary because demand for TAFE services had changed.
Ms McGregor told the ABC that at Murwillumbah, demand for on-campus courses had decreased but TAFE was ‘not leaving town’, regardless of ‘what we do with buildings’.
In her speech to parliament, Mrs Elliot said the ‘cruel government cuts’ would impact ‘on the training opportunities, and the subsequent future employment opportunities, for our young people’.
‘Compounding this situation is the fact that this government has no new ideas for training young people for the jobs of the future,’ she said.
‘Firstly and most alarmingly, under this government we have seen a drop of nearly 100,000 in the number of apprentices in training.
‘This major drop will be felt particularly severely in regional areas—where unemployment is consistently higher than in the cities and where youth unemployment is always high.
‘The government needs to implement policies that actually help apprentices and not cut every bit of funding available. They should be focused on training a skilled workforce for the future.
‘It is also a great concern that apprenticeship commencements and completions are down approximately 20 per cent for the 12 months to 31 December 2014, a massive reduction.
‘This reflects the government’s lack of support and lack of incentives to ensure that apprentices are able to complete their training.
‘It is appalling that there has not been one policy put forward by the government that increases investment in apprentices to help them start and complete an apprenticeship.’
‘This government’s relentless attack on the training of tomorrow’s apprentices began with the first budget and has just continued at every opportunity it has.
‘We have seen it make $1 billion in cuts to apprenticeship programs. We have seen it replace apprentice support with apprentice debt by abolishing the Tools for Your Trade program.
‘We have had a rebadging and cutting of funding to the Australian Apprenticeships Centres, along with the abolition of the Joint Group Training Program.
‘The government has also cut support for adult apprentices, and this is particularly cruel in our current economic situation, in which many industries are transitioning and often older workers require retraining.
‘The fact is that we should be investing in training the workforce of the future, not cutting every program that helps them train and helps people enter or re-enter the workforce.
‘Two years of the Abbott government has meant a decrease in training for Australians. In particular,
‘Young Australians are paying the price, especially when it comes to TAFE cuts.
‘The fact is that TAFE plays an important role in our towns, and TAFE means so many local students can access the education and skills they need.
‘Often TAFE provides courses no private provider would deliver. On top of the TAFE closures, it was also reported recently that North Coast TAFE will be restructured and almost 200 jobs will be redefined.
‘Reportedly, up to 60 of these positions will simply disappear and the remaining ones will have reduced conditions on hours and remuneration, another really bad blow for TAFE on the North Coast,’ Mrs Elliot said.
‘We also heard last week that the Abbott government is looking at a takeover of vocational education, including TAFE,’ she said.
Mrs Elliot said a Labor government ‘will back TAFE by guaranteeing that a portion of government funding for vocational education is dedicated to public TAFE.
‘So only Labor really understands the vital role that TAFE plays.
‘The fact is that our economy has been damaged by the Liberals’ and Nationals’ $2 billion cut to TAFE and vocational education.
‘In contrast to all this, Labor is the party that believes in investing and training. Labor is backing TAFE.’