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Greens: Abbott should address TAFE funding not increase student debt

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Commenting on Coalition plans for HECS-style loans for apprentices, the Greens said the scheme was another example of the opposition pushing costs onto students, driving privatisation of vocational training, and would not deliver the skilled workforce Australia needs.

“Opposition leader Tony Abbott should increase TAFE funding as it is not much use having tools if there are no quality training courses available,” Australian Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne said.

“Liberal state governments in Queensland, NSW and Victoria have slashed TAFE funding on top of federal cuts with huge job losses and course reductions particularly in regional Australia.

“This is a sign of things to come as an Abbott government would promote private providers at the expense of TAFE. That's why the Greens have pledged to inject $1.2 billion into a TAFE rescue and revitalisation package over the forward estimates.

“Mr Abbott might don another fluoro jacket and get his photo taken with young workers but this scheme is all about helping his big business backers rather than young workers.

“Loans are a disincentive to young people starting their training. It looks like the Coalition is testing the waters to see how big a HECS fee increase they could get away with for TAFE students.

“Rather than put the cost burden onto apprentices the opposition should commit to retaining ‘The Tools For Your Trade’ system. These tax-exempt cash payments assist apprentices with the purchase of relevant tools.”

Greens higher education spokesperson Lee Rhiannon said: “Australia needs a long term vision for revitalising the public TAFE system to meet future high-level skills, and workforce development that is crucial to our economic future.

“The next government should address the current skills shortages and the pressures apprentices are under by securing increased public funding for TAFE.

“The Greens do not support any moves to a Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) style university loans scheme for TAFE students.

“The top priority in vocational education and training must be an overhaul of the current VET funding arrangements that have directed billions of dollars to private training providers ahead of TAFEs.”

Media contacts: Senator Milne - Peter Stahel 0437 587 562 Senator Rhiannon - 0487 350 880