RESTORING TAFE SYSTEM: Federal Labor plan to improve TAFE system and campuses such as the Wollongong campus pictured above. Picture: Adam McLean
Universities Australia and the Australian Education Union have both backed federal Labor’s education policy.
AEU president Correna Haythorpe said Labor’s commitments to invest in preschools, public schools and TAFE would give more Australians access to the world’s best public education systems.
In his Budget reply speech on Thursday night, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten also recommitted a future Labor government to restoring uncapped university student places – unlocking educational opportunity for thousands more Australians.
This pleased Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson.
In 2017, funding for student places was frozen, cutting funding by $2.1 billion and effectively capping the number of Australians who could attend university.
“If we know one thing about our rapidly changing world, it is that we need more university graduates, not fewer,” Ms Jackson said.
“The ALP commitment is important for our future workforce and re-opens the doors of educational opportunity for all Australians.”
Universities also welcomed Labor’s commitment to rebuilding the vocational education sector following successive funding cuts and policy changes.
“We need both vocational education and universities to be strong to ensure our economy has a smart and skilled workforce into the future,” she said.
This view was shared by Whitlam MP Stephen Jones, who said caps to the university system was crippling regional universities.
“There is as much as a 15 per cent gap between participation in tertiary education when you compare regional Australia to the capital cities,” he said.
The Shadow Minister for Regional Services added unlike the Liberal Government, Labor looked at a person through every stage of the education cycle.
“We are looking at somebody from the age of three until at least higher education,” Mr Jones said.
“Unless you get that whole pipeline right you are not going to be able to deal with the needs of the individual and the workforce.”
He said Labor would restore the $13 billion to public schools, which was cut by the federal government.
The Whitlam MP added it was right of the government to restore money cut from catholic and independent schools.
“To cut it was wrong. To restore it was right but then they only half did the job and they didn’t restore all of the money that they took out of the state school system.
“That’s what we are going to do. We are going to finish the job.”
This involved also fixing a TAFE system which has “just about been decimated by state and federal governments”.
“We need to ensure that we are building TAFE physically, the campuses but also winding back the no-fee, no-start system for apprentices, particularly for those in-demand skilled shortage areas.
“This includes your traditional trades and all of those caring trades necessary to implement our aged care system and the National Disability Insurance Scheme,” Mr Jones said.