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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9324

Mr MITCHELL (McEwen) (20:18): It is always good to follow Mr Symon and his eloquent speeches, particularly about TAFE. I want to commend the member for Riverina for having the intestinal fortitude to turn up and do this while his Victorian colleagues go and hide under their rock. Unfortunately, though, his speech had nothing to do with the motion before the House. In fact, he did not even know who the relevant minister is. He should know—it is one of his lot; one of the Nationals.

At the 2010 election the Baillieu Liberals and their lapdog Nats made the following commitments: Victorian teachers were to be the highest paid in Australia and there would be no public service cuts. What a difference two years makes! Victoria has faced a series of cuts to public education funding, including the ripping of hundreds of millions of dollars out of TAFEs, the cutting of the education maintenance allowance for low-income earners, and ending the School Start Bonus whilst decimating the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning. The actions of the Baillieu Liberals represent the largest attack on Victorian education in a generation—an attack on education that is worst than the Kennett era. Many people have said that it is worse than the Kennett era, because at least he had a plan. Sure it was all about cutting and it was a cruel savage one that led to the skills shortage in Victoria but, unlike Baillieu, he actually had a plan.

Not content with slashing $500 million from Victoria's education budget last year, the Baillieu government delivered another series of cuts in this year's budget: slashing the school portion of the EMA, cutting school staff bonuses and slashing the TAFE. On 24 May 2012, Peter Hall said that reports that the TAFE sector could lose 2,000 jobs because of funding cuts were 'alarmist'. But, so far, in fewer than four months, we have seen Bendigo TAFE sack 120 staff; Kangan TAFE sack 150 staff; Box Hill TAFE sack 200 staff; Gippsland Advance TAFE, which is in nationally held territory, cut 68 jobs; and GippsTAFE cut 35 staff, including an entire department, because of these savage and cruel blows. Hundreds of TAFE courses will be cancelled.

The member opposite defends his Liberal-National mates. On 20 August 2012, the crisis training courses for CFA firefighters was dumped because of the Baillieu government's TAFE cuts. All the Victorian CFA firefighters now have to do distance education in New South Wales because those opposite do not care about education at all. So far we have seen Swinburne University announce it will close its Lilydale and Prahran campuses, and of course the member for Casey, back under his rock, does not come in here and defend his mates who have actually done these cuts.

The EMA, as was pointed out, is very important to families of low income. It helps them and it helps the schools. With the schools losing that money, that cuts out excursions, extracurricular activities, uniforms and that sort of thing for people who are low-income earners. The Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning has also been cut. Sixty-five per cent of students in my region finish high school, which is 17 per cent below the national average, yet the Liberal-Nationals go straight into parliament and what do they do? They cut education and they cut VCAL. Despite promising to have a course in Wallan Secondary College, in the first budget they cut it. The teachers had been employed, classes had been done and the first thing they did was cut it.

The member for Riverina, in his strong defence of his mates down in Victoria, talked about Victorian schools. Let's go to the first thing that was listed to be cut by Ted Baillieu—or Mr Fail-You, as he is commonly known—the now Premier of Victoria. The first thing to be cut was the previous Victorian government's—the Brumby Labor government—10-year plan to rebuild every school in Victoria. So far, Sunbury Secondary College in my electorate has had three audits on urgent works that need doing. Not one cent has come forward. Minister Hall, the bloke who claimed that he was dead against it but kept going ahead with it, has been out to the school. They have had three audits and not one red cent has come forward. Despite what the Nationals may think when they are in government, writing out audits is not going to make problems go away. They are still going to be there.

The fact of the matter is that, when you look at what they have done and what they will continue to do while in government, it is an absolute disgrace. Particularly country areas in Victoria are affected with the loss of TAFEs, but the Nationals and the Liberals do not care. Minister Hall has not only sold out country Victoria in record time; he has sold out our kids, sold out TAFE and sold out education—all because he wanted a car and a title.