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Labor Matter of Public Importance - TasTAFE

30 October 2019

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Deputy Speaker, there are matter of public importance debates where I wonder what we have achieved by having the debate and today is one of them. We have the Opposition making some very valid points about issues with TasTAFE funding, resourcing, the fact that it has been letting down students, that two intakes of nursing have been lost. Valid points are made. Then the minister gets up, and the member for Braddon, and just talks about how great they are without any real reflection on the points that have been made.

Mrs Rylah - I talked about nursing.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, I sat through this one and waited until the end because I wanted to hear what everyone said. It would be much more helpful to these debates if when the minister stands up he acknowledges that there is much to do instead of -

A member - I did.

Ms O'CONNOR - But the minister talked pretty much the whole time, as did you, Mrs Rylah, about Labor. To be fair, Mrs Rylah, Labor was in government five-and-a-half years ago and it was not a federal Labor government that cut the funds, the guts out of the TAFE system in Australia. It was not a Labor government. It was a Liberal government, a Liberal-National coalition that started the rot of public skills and vocational training providers in this country. It was the proliferation of our private training providers, a lot of whom in the past, it has been very clear, were a little bit dodgy, a little bit unregulated. There was an undermining of the TAFE system in this country that goes right back to Tony Abbott as prime minister.

Mr Rockliff - The 2012 Labor policy did a lot of damage to the VET system right across the country.

Ms O'Byrne - Which we recognise, but then sought to resolve and you would not support the resolution of it. We can move through this genuinely.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order. Both members have made their contribution. I ask that the member be allowed to make a contribution.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. It was wonderful to see in here this morning English language teacher, Jenny Annells, and her students from the migrant learning program at TasTAFE. It was a reminder to us all of the enormous importance of a publicly-funded, well-resourced, robustly politically supported public skills and training provider. The young people who come to this island from other parts of the world, with limited English language skills are incredibly well supported through that program. I pay respect to Jenny Annells and the outstanding work that she does, also the work that she does with students against racism. It is a reminder to us all that you need to have good, publicly-funded providers like TasTAFE.

We also need to make sure that our TAFE system is equipping young Tasmanians for a very different future, for a future where there will be increased automation of a lot of sectors, which have been jobs-rich sectors in the past. We do have to teach our young people the skills that will allow them to go into the jobs that robots cannot take. We believe that should be a real focus of our public education and training system in Tasmania.

As we know, the areas of skill shortage for Tasmania in the future are pressing. They are in areas like aged and disability care and health services. Employment in health services is growing enormously. There has been a big lag in training up the people to go into the aged and disability care systems. We are dealing with a very significant shortfall of employees for those sectors. Given they have been in government for five-and-a-half years, that is on the head of this Government.

We also need to be making sure that when we invest in training people to go into the construction sector, that we are giving them green skills in construction. We do not want to just keep building houses and buildings like we used to in the past. We cannot do that because, as we know, there are a whole lot of risks associated with global heating. We need to be really clever about construction sector and how we are building homes that keep people and communities safe.

We should also recognise that some of the most vital work to be done in this century will be in the area of landscape restoration, of repairing some of the damage of the 20th century. Wouldn't it be fantastic if not only we had the centre of excellence at TasTAFE in aged and disability care, but also in landscape restoration? We really could be a beacon to the world of how to repair some of the damage of the past and skill young people up to be part of that vital repair work.

I have a question for the minister which he is not going to be able to answer, necessarily, because he has already spoken. As I understand it there was an allocation in this year's budget of $200 000 for TasTAFE's involvement in the new training college at Kangaroo Bay. Is that right, Mr Rockliff? Did we? What happened?

Mr Rockliff - If you provide a question on notice I can get that question answered for you.

Ms O'CONNOR - But is that allocation still with TasTAFE, or is it for Claremont College now, or is it for Kangaroo Bay?

Mr Rockliff - I suggest you write to me on that because it is with me. It is not with TasTAFE now. Maybe you can drop me a note.

Ms O'CONNOR - As we know, the University of Tasmania has made a decision to support the Kangaroo Bay hospitality college, which is being built by Shandong Chambroad. I know there are concerns within the community that three or four potential providers were given an opportunity to partner in that Kangaroo Bay development and chose not to. As I understand it, one of them was Drysdale, and yet UTAS has signed up. I believe there are some legitimate questions about why UTAS would attach itself to that development and how much benefit will come to young Tasmanians in rural and regional areas through that college.

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