TAFE Day

June 18, 2014

 

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS(16:12): I move:

That this council—

1.Notes that—

(a)National TAFE day is held on 18 June this year;

(b)the proposed cuts to the TAFE budget in South Australia will have disastrous impacts on staff and students and the state’s economic future, social well-being and cohesion;

(c)the changes to TAFE have a particularly adverse impact on people in regional and rural parts of the state, disadvantaged communities and people with varying abilities; and

(d)the Senate inquiry into TAFE unearthed concerns about the quality of education and training provided through the private vocational education and training market.

2.Calls on both the federal and South Australiangovernments to—

(a)protect, support and expand the capacity of the public TAFE system to allow it to continue its historic role in providing high quality technical and further education to Australians of all ages and backgrounds;

(b)properly recognise the important role TAFE plays in providing vocational and technical education in areas of high and low demand, in rural and remote areas and in support of improved access and participation for disadvantaged learners; and

(c)work collaboratively to develop a national workforce strategy for the TAFE sector that addresses the level and quality of teaching qualifications in the sector, the unacceptably high rates of casual employment, and which specifically includes the allocation of adequate resources to enable TAFE teachers and institutions to develop and maintain close liaison with industry and local communities to assist them to meet their vocational and technical education needs.

3.Calls on the South Australian government to reverse the harsh budget cuts to TAFE and to abandon changes proposed to vocational education and training that undermine TAFE as a public provider.

4.Calls on the federal government to—

(a)end the current competitive tendering model of government vocational education and training;

(b)guarantee funding for the public TAFE system based on the actual costs of providing education, and one that supports a strong and increased base for capital works, maintenance, infrastructure, and equipment;

(c)ensure that the national entitlement to a guaranteed training place is only offered at TAFE; is not restricted to selected qualifications or industry areas; and can be accessed by students more than once;

(d)ensure that the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has the resources it needs to effectively audit and regulate the performance of training providers, and to enforce rigorous standards for delivery of vocational education; and

(e)develop improved standards for registration of training organisations, and ensure that every VET provider seeking registration provides vocational education as its primary purpose.

 The Greens rise today in the chamber to bring the attention of all of council to the dire straits in which the South Australian TAFE sector finds itself. Across the nation, the Greens have also pushed for a well-funded and resourced public TAFE sector, both at federal and state and territory levels. This motion that I am moving today has actually been put by Greens members of parliament in each parliament where we have a member. It is to highlight and stand in solidarity with our colleagues who today mark National TAFE Day. It also is to highlight the importance of a strong and vibrant public TAFE sector.

We take this opportunity to highlight major and pressing issues facing TAFE in South Australia. In particular, we highlight that since the passage of the TAFE bills in 2012, we have seen a degradation of what used to be a robust and publicly-owned TAFE system. This motion highlights that the proposed funding cuts to the TAFE budget in South Australia will have a disastrous impact on students and staff, and indeed on TAFE’s ability to deliver quality education and vocational studies.

To illustrate just how the funding has dramatically decreased for TAFE in South Australia, I will refer to the figures obtained by my office from the Australian government’s Productivity Commission. The most recent figures available are the 2012 figures, which clearly show that South Australia’s TAFE funding is the poorest in the nation. According to these figures, the payment to non-TAFE providers of vocational education in South Australia rose from $50.9 million in 2011 to $81 million in 2012. These figures show the increase in the non-TAFE providers’ share as a percentage of government recurrent funding, from 7.2 per cent in 2008 to 24.5 per cent in 2012. That is a 17.3 per cent rise in funding for contestability available to private RTOs.

I particularly want to draw this chamber’s attention to increased payments to non-TAFE providers, from 24.5 per cent in 2012 compared to 13.6 per cent in 2011. That is a rapid 10.9 per cent increase in contestability funding within just 12 months. The 2011-12 increase in non-TAFE providers’ funding is quite significant, and it confirms the decline of TAFE funding in South Australia.

Comparatively, Victoria has had a consistent 10 per cent increase in contestability funding. This trend is consistent because Victoria introduced aggressive TAFE reform laws in 2008. South Australia is now the second state in the country to aggressively increase its non-TAFE vocational education providers’ funding. The 2014 report on government services indicates that payments to non-TAFE providers increased by 20.6 per cent nationally in 2012, but by 58.9 per cent in Victoria and 59.1 per cent in South Australia.

What this means is that the per annual hour of TAFE funding in South Australia is the sharpest and most dramatic decline in funding from 2011 to 2012. Here in South Australia we have dropped by 25 per cent, and by a massive 45 per cent between 2003 and 2012. This takes South Australia’s per annual hour funding in 2012 of $10.57 to well below the national average of $12.62. What these figures indicate is an attack on TAFE funding, an attack on students’ opportunities and the shameless corporatisation of the vocational education sector in South Australia.

I would like to read out a statement made by the then minister when we were debating the TAFE bill here in this chamber in 2012. The then minister representing the minister for higher education, minister Wortley, stated:

The state government is committed to recognising the importance of TAFE SA as the state’s largest provider of publicly funded training within this context. TAFE SA will continue to play an important role in this new demand-driven VET system, by meeting industry training and community service needs and contributing to the social and economic development of regional communities.

It is interesting to see that the government pointed out how TAFE would contribute to the social and economic development of regional communities. I say interesting, because on one hand the government has praised TAFE for contributing to the social and economic development of those communities, yet we have seen the closure of a number of programs in TAFE campuses throughout regional communities in South Australia. This has impacted on the viability of those campuses to remain open into the future.

The closing down of TAFE campuses has a particularly adverse impact on people in regional and rural parts of our state. The following TAFE campuses and courses have closed since the contestability model was introduced:

Croydon campus will close in July, as staff move to Regency. This was part of the four campuses closing for the Tonsley TAFE and upgrade of the Regency TAFE campus; Roseworthy TAFE campus was to close on 30 June 2014, but will now remain open until the end of this year; the Renaissance Centre ELS program was to relocate to the Adelaide campus, resulting in the end of the centre’s use; however this has been put on hold as a result of the finance associated with remodelling the Adelaide campus;

I understand that there are very strong rumours that Urrbrae Agricultural High School may be moving from that area, and I urge the government to respond to that when it replies to this motion.

At present, many programs are being cut or relocated, resulting in a reduction in face-to-face teaching following a push to further increase online models of course delivery.

When debating the TAFE bill in 2012, the then minister spoke highly of supporting vocational training in regional and rural areas of our state, yet courses have been cancelled at the Port Lincoln campus. Port Lincoln TAFE management closed the Port Lincoln training guarantee for SACE automotive classes at the end of June, and I would like to read out what one of the staff from Port Lincoln said:

Resultant impact on local employers, due to disruption of apprentice administrative and training processes. Significant delays in start dates of apprentice training due to uncertainty of classes becoming available at Port Lincoln campus. Employers and Australian Apprenticeships Centres angry with service given by TAFE SA as a result.

Naracoorte campus has also had its hairdressing course cancelled. Parents and students expressed their anger on local ABC radio and, indeed, were most concerned about the lack of consultation provided.

One interview with Robyn Verrall, a Naracoorte TAFE student, about the hair and beauty students’ situation at Naracoorte TAFE, those students having just been told their course was closing, saw Ms Verrall say that she was two years into that hair and beauty course and she that she would not be able to finish it at Naracoorte. She said that it would be a six-hour trip to TAFE in Mount Gambier and that at least 10 students would be affected. She also told the radio that she had been told it was being closed because it was no longer considered financially viable. Ms Verrall said that local hairdressers and beauticians work as teachers for the course and that that will have a flow-on effect for that local community, not just for the students but for the staff and for the community and the services available within the community itself.

There are rumours coming from the staff at Naracoorte campus that there will be 25 regional campuses closed in the near future, including the Naracoorte campus. An article from the print media in the Riverland states:

The TAFE SA Riverland branches have seen seven staff jobs cut, including four full-time and three part-time jobs at Berri and Renmark campuses. The staff were offered targeted voluntary separation packages. TAFE SA’s business development and regions executive director Cathie Brown said, ‘The changes which come just over 12 months after TAFE announced it would merge its regional and city offices in Adelaide would create no loss of service to students.’

The music program at Noarlunga, which provided courses for composition, music business principles and provided experience in performing at on-the-job venues, has also been hit. TAFE is about hands-on experience and delivering training and experience to meet industry needs.

The Noarlunga TAFE campus met those expectations and had, indeed, outstanding and emerging musicians and music business professionals. However, this campus has also now been closed. When TAFE campuses are closed down and scrapped so are opportunities for the students in those communities and also opportunities and development within and across those communities.

With the closure of music programs at Noarlunga, all the building and construction programs have been moved to Tonsley, and this has left vacant workshops at Noarlunga. Graphic design has been moved to Tea Tree Gully and the Women’s Education Program, as was responded to in this place by the current minister, appears to be in limbo after early reports that it was also for the chop. At Mount Gambier—

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: Mr Acting President, I cannot hear the Hon. Ms Franks for the members on my left.

The ACTING PRESIDENT (Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins): The Hon. Ms Vincent has a good point. I have been keeping an eye on a couple of conversations in this chamber. I think the Hon. Ms Frank deserves the opportunity to speak without competing with other conversations. I call the Hon. Ms Franks.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: At the Mount Gambier TAFE the graphic design program has indeed been cut. At the Tea Tree Gully campus the enforcement of new budget cuts has resulted in the beauty courses not having been listed in the SATAC guide for semester 2. That means only fee for services courses will be on offer at Tea Tree Gully.

My office has been informed that these continuing students and any new potential students studying under this funding arrangement will have to be transferred to the Adelaide campus. There will be staff cuts at the Tea Tree Gully campus as student numbers diminish, resulting in part-time instruction, contract staff and then probably packages offered to permanent staff. It is clear from this evidence that the TAFE sector has been under enormous pressure following policy decisions that this Labor government introduced to, what they term, open up government funding to competition from private providers.

Major and continuing cuts in government funding to the TAFE sector, coupled with the diversion of substantial public funding from TAFE to private for-profit RTOs under the contestability model, has resulted in a funding crisis for TAFE institutions in our state, with major losses of staff, resources and infrastructure.

This contestability model has diminished the TAFE sector’s capacity to provide supported, affordable and quality vocational training and further education not just to students but, as I say, to communities and to industries across our state.

Given that more students attend TAFE than our universities and that TAFE is crucial to Australia’s VET system, there are serious concerns here about the future of accessible pathways into either education, career transition or, indeed, ensuring we have quality skills within this state. That is why I move this motion today and that is why the Greens move this same motion across state parliaments today. We are calling on all state governments to guarantee the funding for a public TAFE system and we are calling on all state governments to end the current competitive tendering model of government vocational education and training.

I have listened with interest to the minister’s lack of response to questions raised in this place on course closures, campus closures and potential closures and, indeed, cuts across the board. This government seems to have decided that it has no responsibility or accountability to this parliament on these matters, branding them operational.

The Hon. S.G. Wade interjecting:

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: However, it is more than happy, as the Hon. Stephen Wade interjects and I certainly concur, to brag about its achievements in this area when it suits it. One particular area of great concern is that I would have thought the Labor Weatherill government would have held the arts within our TAFE system in higher regard. The Adelaide College of the Arts (ACArts) is one of the nation’s pre-eminent centres for arts training. Under the ‘Stronger as one’ model, with profitability as the key driver, it would seem that there is little chance that the vision seen by the Chair of the College’s Arts Advisory Board, Ms Robyn Archer AO, for this centre to become an arts training centre of excellence.

Certainly, that is the concern that has been raised in the AEU South Australian branch’s submission to the current TAFE inquiry being undertaken federally, and I have to say that I concur. Ms Archer notes that South Australia has long branded itself as the Festival State and that Adelaide has only recently been rebranded as the Creative City. She says of ACArts that it is ‘an institution which screams potential for arts training.’ She said in her 18 March 2013 Hawke Centre address:

But ACArts has been working under the nationally familiar cloud of [being told] “you cost too much”…its future has continued to remain uncertain because of various shifts and changes in TAFE SA.

Just a week or so before the Creative City branding, the new TAFE Board, chaired by Mr Peter Vaughan, announced the new shape of ONE TAFE as it will be in the future.

That meeting that Ms Archer referred to, she goes on to say, was a good meeting but a meeting in which it was agreed that indeed the idea that under this new system such a centre of excellence that we would like to see at the Adelaide College of Arts, which has been promised not just to TAFE but indeed to South Australia for so many years and which was indeed some of the continuing motivation for the Arts Advisory Board and those involved in that vision, has been said to be, and I quote from that transcript, ‘will not be possible within this restructure.’

It is a sad day for South Australia. It is a sad day for a state that continues to call itself a Festival State and indeed for a city that brands itself a Creative City. That is not just a visionary goal, that is not just something that we would like to be just for the hell of it, it is something that we have to be if we are to find our place in a global market where we do not have labour that can be undersold across this globe. We do not have cheap labour that we can sell to the lowest bidder. We have to be creative, we have to find our niche in this global market and that is why these things are so vital to get right, and that is why this government cannot continue to wash its hands of its responsibility here in ensuring that TAFE is all it could and should be for South Australians.

I spoke today at the National TAFE Day event down at the Co-op Coffee Shop, which I have previously mentioned in this place. The Co-op Coffee Shop hosted a fabulous event that was vibrant in all the best senses of the word and in none of the government imposed red tape senses of the word. It was community, it was grass roots, it was energetic and it was optimistic. They have very little to be optimistic about under this current regime; however, they are going to continue to fight for what they know is right and that is the role that TAFE has in changing lives, in transforming lives and in giving people that first, second and third chance to ensure that people are able to get the skills that they need, not just for their own personal development but for what our community and our economy need, and to place ourselves in the best position possible.

I think that many South Australians would be concerned to know the direction that this government has had and the attitude that this government has had with a minister who refuses to answer operational questions on TAFE SA. I think most South Australians would expect accountability from their government in this area, and with that I look forward not only to a renewed interest in TAFE but a renewed approach to TAFE, and a moment for the government to perhaps take this motion as an opportunity to pause and reflect on their direction. With that, I commend the motion to the council

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