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TAFE Tasmania


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Tags: TasTAFE, Education, Australian Education Union, Landscape Restoration

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, this is a very interesting and significant debate, particularly for young Tasmanians who are looking for affordable public vocational training options. It also needs to be seen through the prism, or context, of this Government's previous attempt to privatise the Hobart TAFE building, its current attempt to sell off the iconic Treasury buildings, its move to privatise areas of our national parks and Wilderness World Heritage Areas and the basic truth that this is a government that believes public assets are there to sell off to privatise to long-term lease. This is a government that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

If the move from the city building - which I acknowledge is old - out to the Alanvale campus leads to a substantially better TAFE offering with modern state-of-the-art facilities, that is one thing, but we do not have any reassurance that is going to be the case. We have had concerns raised about the current state of the Alanvale campus. The Australian Education Union's TAFE vice-president, Damien von Samorzewski, has said that moving to Alanvale raises some serious questions. There are concerns about the time line. There have been teacher recruitment issues which have plagued the vocational education and training provider for the past 12 months, have caused issues amongst teaching staff and students, and Mr von Samorzewski says the Alanvale campus already had existing challenges with ageing classrooms and infrastructure along with a lack adequate parking.

The reason there is a level of cynicism about this Government's approach to TasTAFE is because the federal coalition government has gutted public vocational training. This Government has sought to sell off the publicly owned TAFE building in Hobart, and for the first three years at least of this Government in it state budgets, there was no new money for TAFE. There was no extra investment into public vocational training. When you talk to young people who want to go to one of those course offerings, the price of a TAFE course is prohibitive for young people.

We have seen, ever since Tony Abbott first became prime minister, this corrosion of public vocational training and propping up a whole lot of private training providers who have really, in some cases, very dubious governance, poor course offerings at very high prices, and there is a lack of regulation around those private training providers. As a small island state with high youth unemployment, as Ms O'Byrne has pointed out, about 13.7 per cent youth unemployment, and it is higher in the south of the state, as that sort of a state, we need to be making sure that we are properly funding our public vocational training.

Mr Rockliff - I agree with you. The 2012 Labor reforms were the ones that really damaged the vocational education and training systems.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, it was the previous Labor government that split up TasTAFE and created enormous problems.

Mr Rockliff - I am talking federally.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you. Because it was then Education minister, Nick McKim, who restored TasTAFE after an experiment that failed.

Mr Shelton - Because of pressure from the opposition.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, Mr Shelton, you are quite wrong. It was not because of that. He was briefed, he understood the situation, and he recognised that TasTAFE needed to be restored. I was there, you were not. I was in government, in Cabinet. Mr Shelton was not.

We will always be proud supporters of public vocational education and training and we strongly believe there do need to be centres of excellence in TasTAFE in Tasmania and we should be focusing on those areas of jobs growth in the future.

The aged and disability sectors over the next 10 years will need about 10 000 new skilled workers in the caring industries. There is not enough being done to attract young people into those sectors, to make studying to go into age and disability care affordable. It is a fact that those sectors are having to import workers from overseas because there simply are not the people here with the skills and the training to go straight into those areas of employment growth.

We definitely need a centre of excellence in landscape restoration and reforestation. The significant areas where we will need expertise, skills and a large labour force in the future, will be in repairing some of the damage that has been caused over the course of the 20th century, making sure that we are planting carbon in the ground, that we are drawing down carbon and methane out of the atmosphere and that we are protecting biodiversity and restoring habitats. Tasmania is uniquely placed to have a centre of excellence in landscape restoration.

I hope that the minister for Education sees that as a potential path forward in Tasmania, where we can be skilling people up, to invest their energy back into the earth and to repair some of the damage that has been done. Also, to be teaching other states and territories and businesses how to repair the damage of the 20th century which is still ongoing to this day. We have a government at the moment that apparently is committed to logging 356 000 hectares of high conservation value carbon sink forest from 8 April next year, which is morally inexcusable and economically completely stupid.

We will not stand by and let that happen. In an age of climate emergency, that is a crime against nature and future generations. The carbon that is in the ground needs to stay in the ground.