Marshall Govt’s VET plan will privatise TAFE by stealth

The Marshall Government’s new VET plan shows it is determined to sell South Australia’s TAFE system to the highest bidder and allow private training providers to line their own pockets at the expense of TAFE students.

The plan will give profit-seeking private training providers access to TAFE SA sites at the same time that TAFE budgets in South Australia are being slashed.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe warned other states and territories not to follow suit, saying it would severely impact the ability of Australians to access affordable, high-quality vocational education. She said it would leave hundreds of thousands of trainees and apprentices across Australia at the mercy of profit-seeking private training providers.

“The Marshall Government’s agenda on vocational education is clear. It plans to wash its hands of responsibility for VET by privatising TAFE SA and allowing private training providers to line their pockets at the expense of students,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“It’s clear that big business is aligning with Liberal governments at both a state and federal level in a push to squeeze TAFE out completely and hand responsibility for vocational education to private providers.”

“The private sector’s idea of VET-sector competition is to drive down costs and standards and drive the ‘competition’-that means TAFE-out of business. Then it can jack up prices and force students to pay through the nose,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“TAFE is one of the crown jewels of the Australian education system. It has proudly provided vocational education for generations of Australians in everything from plumbing to nursing, childcare and IT.”

“The Marshall Government’s plan is a poorly-disguised bid by private training providers to line their own pockets at the expense of TAFE by hiding behind words like ‘choice’ and competition’,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Ms Haythorpe said that the Marshall Government’s new plan was the culmination of a years-long campaign to slash budgets and government support for TAFE SA:

  • SA government-funded VET student numbers have reduced from 150,000 in 2013 to just 63,000 in 2017
  • The SA Government’s total recurrent VET funding contribution has been cut by 40% since 2013, with recurrent VET expenditure per person now the second lowest in the country (after NSW)
  • Thirteen TAFE SA campuses have closed and more than 700 jobs have been lost, while moreTAFE campuses were earmarked for closure in the 2018 state budget

Ms Haythorpe said the moves by the Marshall Government to marginalise TAFE SA and favour private training providers were reflected nationally.

“Despite the clear and undisputed benefits that a robustly funded and administered public TAFE and vocational education sector provides our economy and our society, there has been a concerted and continual drive from successive Coalition governments to marginalise vocational education and deprioritise TAFE,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“This anti-TAFE push is gathering speed. In its first Federal Budget the Morrison Government included no additional specified funding for TAFE-amazingly, it failed to mention TAFE at all.”

“History has shown that private providers aren’t interested in quality education. ITECA represents profit-seeking private education providers and is focused on taking government TAFE funding and giving it to private providers,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Ms Haythorpe said that TAFE must remain a strong public provider of vocational education in Australia. She called upon the Morrison Government to:

  • Guarantee a minimum of 70% government funding to the public TAFE system. In addition, no public funding should go to private for-profit providers, consistent with other education sectors.
  • Restore funding and rebuild the TAFE system, to restore confidence in the quality of the courses and qualifications and the institution.
  • Abandon the failed student loans experiment, and cancel the debts of all students caught up in private for-profit provider scams.
  • Re-invest in the TAFE teaching workforce and develop a future-focused TAFE workforce development strategy in collaboration with the profession and unions.
  • Develop a capital investment strategy in consultation with state governments, to address the deplorable state of TAFE facilities around the country.
  • Support a comprehensive independent inquiry into TAFE.

“Any proposal which undermines the importance of the Commonwealth and state and territory governments working together to build a strong, vibrant, fully funded public TAFE will be fiercely opposed by the AEU,” Ms Haythorpe said.

/Public Release. View in full here.

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