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Wednesday, 2 November 1983
Page: 2250

Mr GEAR(7.35) —I was to have participated in the education debate that has just finished. My area of interest is technical and further education, and I suppose that in some ways it is symbolic that again TAFE missed out. It has missed out in many education debates around Australia and there are a few reasons for this. Firstly, the TAFE student body is transitory, that is, they have never established a national body to argue on their behalf. In places such as this and in higher education institutions where education debates are held, TAFE has not been represented. I come from the TAFE sector, where I used to teach before I was successful in the last election, and therefore I hope to redress that balance in some small way.

The Labor Government from 1972 to 1975 and also this Government have been committed to the TAFE sector. The previous Labor Government, the Whitlam Government, initiated the Kangan report to look at TAFE and some of its problems . It was the first time that the TAFE problems had been addressed, and we came to grips with some of the issues that were involved in that vast expanse of educational offerings. The report was widely accepted by the Government, mainly because its philosophy was in sympathy with that of the Government. The main recommendation of the report was that the educational offerings should focus on individuals rather than on large employers. They are not mutually incompatible, but the report certainly argued that the needs of industry would never be satisfied unless the needs of the individual were satisfied first. The report also recommended the removal of some academic barriers that stopped people from getting into TAFE. There were distance barriers that stopped people from getting to TAFE and also some barriers for those people with physical disabilities. The report recognised all these matters. It was an excellent report which went much of the way to improving the offerings in the TAFE sector.

Not only did the report make recommendations on aspects such as these but it also recommended a large infusion of money into TAFE, which the government of the day accepted. Since then Liberal-National Party governments have increased the TAFE funding but not by as much as is needed. As I have said, TAFE is very diverse. It has been asked to respond to a number of challenges not only in the work force but also in leisure activities. From my experience I can focus on one example. Back in the 1980s, when we were supposed to have the big boom, TAFE was asked to come up within a short period of two months with a course that would turn out tradesmen. It did this, mainly because of the efforts of the teachers involved and certainly not because of the resources it was given. As an example of this starving of resources, this year, even with the increased funding that we have been able to give TAFE, only $74.3m has been allocated for about 700,000 students. On a cost per student basis, that comes to $105. Compare that $105 per student in the TAFE sector with universities and colleges of advanced education, which spend $5,000 per student. I do not have to point out the imbalance or the injustice done to those students who rely on the TAFE sector to increase their education in the hope of getting skills that might equip them to take their place in the work force or to others who are taking up leisure activities.

The funding shortage has also led to TAFE being unable to accommodate all the students it would like to accommodate. This year in New South Wales it had to turn away 35,000 students and in Victoria 10,000 students. The TAFE capital works program has a sorry history of neglect. This year we are giving $126m to TAFE. It is not enough because it is estimated that in New South Wales alone $ 500m worth of works would need to be taken into account if we were to bring TAFE colleges up to a suitable condition to service adequately the people in them. Sometimes the colleges are in an unsafe condition, and that problem must be addressed. I conclude by congratulating the TAFE members of the New South Wales Teachers Federation, a body that has done a lot for education in the TAFE sector and education generally. I wish to mention a few of its members, particularly Cassandra Parkinson, Lesley Hodsdon and Rex Hewett, who give up a lot of their time to try to enhance the objectives of the TAFE sector.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.