Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 17 September 2012
Page: 7029

Vocational Education and Training


Senator MARSHALL (Victoria) (14:29): My question is to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Chris Evans. Can the minister advise the Senate on how the Gillard government's record investment in skills and training is being put at risk by the cuts announced by coalition state governments?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:29): I thank Senator Marshall for his ongoing interest in vocational education in Victoria. It is well known that the federal government has made a record investment in skills and training in this country in order to support the states in providing educational opportunity for young people and to meet the skills needs of industry. It is a vital time for the development of skills in our economy, and that is why we have invested.

But recent announcements by the Victorian and New South Wales Liberal-National governments put that effort at risk. Despite their signing up to a COAG agreement in April which is designed to lift the effort, to lift the number of training places and the quality of those places, they have made savage cuts to the TAFE budgets in their states. As a result of that we are seeing a full-on assault on the capacity of the TAFE systems in those states to provide opportunities for their young people. We have seen the loss of jobs for trainers, we have seen the loss of opportunity to attend campuses. Campuses are closing, courses are closing and there is great damage being done to our capacity to support education in this country.

Those governments committed to lift their efforts, but what we are seeing is savage cuts which are destroying the capacity to train in those states, reducing opportunities, seeing staff thrown out of work. Fundamentally, we rely on that training effort to meet the skills needs of employers. They will increasingly look to overseas labour if they cannot get the skills. If kids cannot get a chance at a trade or vocational training then we will see employers looking elsewhere. We need to continue to make that investment in the skills of young people if we are to prosper as a country. (Time expired)


Senator MARSHALL (Victoria) (14:31): Mr President, I thank the minister for that answer and I have a supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate on how the Baillieu government's cuts to TAFE funding are impacting on my home state of Victoria?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:32): It is true that the Victorian situation is the most dire. What we have seen in Victoria is that the government have removed $300 million from the system, an absolute savaging of the TAFE system. At a time when they say they are committed to training and skilling, they rip $300 million out. Leaked Victorian Liberal-National cabinet documents—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! There is a debate going on which makes it difficult to hear the answer. Senator Marshall is entitled to hear the answer.

Senator CHRIS EVANS: Leaked cabinet documents on the weekend showed the impacts of those cuts by the Liberal-National government. We are seeing campuses threatened to be closed around Victoria. We are seeing courses closed. We are seeing increases in student fees of 100 per cent and more, complete devastation of a range of TAFEs. This will impact on those students and their capacity to get a chance. The Victorian government must rethink this terrible attack on the TAFE system. (Time expired)




Senator MARSHALL (Victoria) (14:33): Mr President, I thank the minister for that answer and I have a second supplementary question. Is the minister aware of the impacts on students of the Baillieu government's cuts?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:33): What we know is that students will get less opportunity, they will be charged higher fees and they will have to travel, many of them, a long way to get access to a TAFE. The hits on the rural and regional parts of Victoria are devastating. We see a range of closures in regional Victoria which will mean students in those communities will not get access to TAFEs. They are the only training providers of any substance in many of those communities.

In addition to that, many of the TAFEs, according to a leaked cabinet document, are looking at fee increases of 100 per cent. TAFEs traditionally have provided opportunities to working-class kids and rural and regional kids that otherwise would be denied them. These cuts will mean those opportunities are not there. This Victorian Liberal-National government has forgotten people in rural and regional Australia and is going to really undermine the effort to provide the highly skilled workforce of the future.