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Tuesday, 12 March 2013
Page: 1727


Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (22:14): It is timely that I reflect on stable government, because, far from the previous speaker's concluding remarks, I find myself in a slightly different set of circumstances in my home state of Victoria. This evening I would like to raise a fairly serious topic that I have raised in this place before and that is raised repeatedly with me by constituents right across my electorate and beyond in Victoria. Like many Victorians, I am extremely troubled by the state government's tax cuts made under Premier Baillieu, and, regrettably—despite my getting my hopes up earlier on today at the prospect of a favourable announcement on TAFE—Premier Napthine has, it seems, squibbed the opportunity to actually respond to the continued problem of the defunding of TAFE in Victoria.

The TAFE cuts have had quite devastating consequences for individuals, such as for the very many staff who have lost their jobs across the state. In my own electorate, I am very much aware of individuals who have lost their jobs. I can think of one person in particular whom I certainly will not name this evening, but I reflect on his circumstances: he has three young children and no longer has an income, so now the family have only one pay packet out of two to support them. It really does trouble me very much that there are many people who find themselves in his circumstances. When they are people later in their careers, they might find it very difficult to find other work in a comparable situation. The TAFE defunding also has devastating consequences for students, needless to say—both current students in the system and prospective students who are looking for a pathway to postsecondary education.

In some cases, in a more pronounced way, TAFE defunding has devastating consequences for whole communities, as we have seen with Lilydale, where the campus was not only a source of local employment and, obviously, a place for students to come to and learn but also a valuable piece of community infrastructure. So these cuts have extremely significant and long-term ramifications for communities.

So it was very troubling today, when I had hoped that the new Premier of Victoria, Denis Napthine, might have taken the opportunity to meaningfully respond and provide appropriate funding to restore TAFE to its former position, to hear that he did not. Nevertheless, he announced an amount of $200 million over four years. To be clear, that is $50 million each year. This is seemingly for innovation and structural reform. Against this, the state government have cut around $1.2 billion across the same period of time. Last year alone, the state government cut around $290 million from TAFE, including what is referred to as full service provider funding, which means the funding TAFEs use, for instance, to provide assistance to students with a disability, amongst other important services. Certainly, we know that the Victorian TAFE Association and others have estimated that the resulting job impacts will be around 2,000 staff redundancies across the state and 1,400 in Melbourne alone.

The consequences of TAFE being defunded by a cool billion dollars are not just for those in the sector as workers or current students; obviously, there are also significant consequences for, if you like, 'feeder' schools—schools that are currently offering TAFE subjects and pathways for their students to postsecondary education. In my electorate, one of those schools is Kambrya College, and another that I can think of is Berwick Secondary College. Indeed, I have had the opportunity to visit them in the last couple of weeks. At Kambrya, for instance, last year around 60 per cent of senior school students were doing TAFE subjects as part of their VCEs or VCALs. Those students are offered a pathway to TAFE or other postsecondary education, and it gives them options. The school's principal has recently said:

What these TAFE cuts have done is reduce the options, so the offerings we had before will no longer be available.

This is an extraordinary situation that local schools find themselves in. It is in direct contrast to what we as a federal government have been offering. Indeed, two schools in my electorate have been beneficiaries of the trade-training centre program, and I dearly hope to see more. I certainly hope that schools like Kambrya College and Berwick Secondary College will look to the things that we are doing and find some comfort in the federal government's support for vocational education and training. (Time expired)