Speech on TAFE NSW

In Parliament | 22.06.17


The Hon. PENNY SHARPE ( 11:03 ): I speak in favour of this important motion. We have heard a lot of interesting comments from Government members about TAFE.

The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: They are called facts.

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE: Let us talk about some of those facts. This week the Treasurer talked about our State budget being the envy of the world. I do not know how he can say that this budget is the envy of the world when $105 million has been cut from its recurrent budget and $30 million has been cut from capital funding. The vocational education system is a public system that has been in operation for decades. It has touched every community and provided skills, training and education to many thousands of families across this State. Since 2012, there have been 63,000 fewer enrolments in TAFE. Let us not talk only about enrolments. Every person who is not able to enrol in TAFE is being denied an education. Their opportunity to learn skills to gain employment is being denied because they are not able to go to TAFE. If that situation is the envy of the world, we are living in a sad world.

Since 2012, 5,689 teachers and support staff have been sacked. That is almost 6,000 staff. Most of those staff have been lost from regional areas. It is unbelievable that The Nationals are defending this motion. Permanent head teachers have gone from those communities. For decades people in those communities have worked with employers and young people to enable them to enter trades. They are now gone from those communities forever. The support staff in outreach who tracked down kids who were not attending school are no longer there. They are no longer talking to the kids who did not finish year 12 and saying, "We have a course for you. We can give you another go at education." They are gone. If that situation is the envy of the world, it is a very sad day in New South Wales.

TAFE is one of the most successful public policy programs that has been implemented in Australia. It is a public commitment to public education, vocational education and training. It has trained the many thousands of tradies that we rely on every day to build our infrastructure and houses, to look after our plumbing, and to ensure we are not electrocuted. It has also trained many women as childcare assistants who stayed at home when their kids were small and then worked part-time while their kids were at school. My mum was one of them. My mum started off as a secretary and became a childcare assistant because she went to TAFE. Tens of thousands of stories like this exist. Many people have lost their jobs and have had career changes. They have trained as accountants or enrolled nurses. We understate the value of TAFE at our peril. It is not only about apprenticeships and blue-collar jobs. It is about career changes and people being able to learn and stay in lifelong work.

Many kids find studying for the traditional Higher School Certificate [HSC] very challenging and we have lost many of them along the way. TAFE has always been an important safety net. Most of the outreach programs are now defunded. Every TAFE had caring and skilled people in outreach. I have met them. Most members in this Chamber have probably met them. Those people are extraordinary because they will go to any length to find the spark in kids that reignites their interest in education so they find a pathway back to gaining skills and qualifications. I have had experience of second chance education. I used to be a foster carer and the kids I looked after never did well at school. They found it hard and it was second chance education in an adult learning environment with caring outreach workers and social workers that allowed them to return to school to complete their HSC. It is an extraordinary outcome.

TAFE is also important when it comes to Aboriginal and disability education. TAFE has delivered more qualifications to Aboriginal people in this State than any other trading provider. Again, those opportunities are gone in all regional areas where jobs are thin on the ground. Indigenous peoples are missing out, particularly those in remote and rural New South Wales. Members have mentioned figures on disability education. TAFE is the only public system that has the supports in place so that students with disabilities are able to complete their certificates. Those opportunities are gone. This Government has a wrong and twisted view if it is prepared to throw out TAFE and thinks its budget is the envy of the world. This is not the only budget to blame; it is all the Government's budgets since it has been in office.

I refer to what has happened in the regions, particularly on the South Coast. The South Coast has the lowest workforce participation in Australia with only 45 per cent of its population participating in any sort of work. It has the highest youth unemployment in New South Wales at 27.3 per cent, so more than a quarter of those people cannot participate in education because the Government has got rid of every pre-apprenticeship training course at TAFE in those areas on the South Coast. People who live in Tuross Head, Moruya, Batemans Bay, Ulladulla or Nowra have to travel to Wollongong to get pre-apprenticeship training. We know in those areas very little transport is available and it is impossible for young people on the South Coast to access pre-apprenticeship training.

In this area of high unemployment and low workforce participation there has been a 21 per cent decline in apprenticeships in the Shoalhaven. While we all agree it is terrible to have no apprenticeships, every apprenticeship has a story of a young person who has found an employer to work with to get the skills they need so they can build for their future. The decline in apprenticeships is a disgrace. For The Nationals and the Liberal Party to say that we have never had it better and commencements are terrific is appalling because they are not terrific on the South Coast. The Government has got rid of all pre-apprenticeship training and the Government thinks that is a reasonable outcome. In relation to meeting the needs of the local communities, Ulladulla is one of the most important—

The Hon. Paul Green: High youth unemployment.

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE: High unemployment but where are the jobs? The jobs are in tourism and hospitality but those courses no longer exist in Ulladulla and the last permanent teacher has just been sacked. The idea that everything in TAFE is wonderful and that this Government is investing in TAFE is wrong. If we talk to anyone in any regional community about the raw numbers of job cuts they will say the opposite. Smart and Skilled has been nothing of the sort and is one of this Government's most Orwellian-named programs. The program has jacked up fees, sacked staff and limited access for people to what used to be, what should be and what must be a publicly provided vocational education training system that allows people to get the skills they need for the future. TAFE allowed people who did not work well in year 12 to have a second chance at education, to train and to change careers, and to make a contribution to our community. If we do not find pathways for them to gain the education that will enable them to bloom we will do ourselves and our State a great disservice. I commend the motion to the House.

HANSARD - NSW Legislative Council, 22 June 2017

Text of the original motion by the Hon Lynda Voltz MLC:

(1) That this House notes:

  (a) the continued decimation of TAFE under the Berejiklian Government with budget documents confirming that a further $105 million was cut from the TAFE recurrent budget and $30.4 million from the capital funding;

  (b) there are now 63,000 fewer enrolments in our TAFE colleges since 2012;

  (c) 5,689 teachers and support staff have been sacked since 2012;

  (d) recurrent expenditure on education has fallen to 20.3 per cent of the State budget; and

  (e) with skills shortages at crisis levels across many industries, the Berejiklian Government has shown a complete disregard for vocational education and the future workforce of New South Wales.

(2) That this House calls on the Berejiklian Government to immediately reverse these cuts and reinvest to reverse the damage done to TAFE since 2012.