Matters of Public Importance - TAFE
09 May 2018
I am so grateful to have the opportunity to talk on this matter of public importance today. In fact I am absolutely amazed that those opposite are even seeking to go down this path because their record is completely abysmal when it comes to TAFE. It has been an unmitigated disaster, so much so that in this reference they have had to pad it out with road and rail projects, schools and hospitals, support for Victorians living with a disability, and family violence. They have had to pad it out with a whole bunch of other topics because most of them do not think that they can get 15 minutes out of talking about their record on TAFE. Why? Because it is absolutely terrible. There are 151 000 fewer students annually enrolled in government-subsidised training here in Victoria since they came to government. There are 151 000 fewer students on your watch per year.
From the outset I want to say that this side of the house supports well-resourced public education. We support the resourcing of public providers no matter what lies those opposite tell. If we want some context — and I notice that the Minister for Education, the Deputy Premier, who put up this motion, has scurried out of the house, because he does not actually want to hear the reality of his record — if the education minister wants to know why TAFE is doing it tough, he just needs to turn and have a word to the person who sits next to him, the Leader of the House, who with John Brumby back in 2009 was the architect of these reforms that opened TAFE up to a contestable marketplace. That is the record of those opposite. That is why TAFE is struggling.
Ms Thomas interjected.
The SPEAKER — Order! The member for Macedon, come to order!
Ms RYAN — It is not due to anything on this side of the house. It is because of those 2009 reforms, where you guys opened TAFE up to a completely contestable market. That is the reality, and that is your record. If you want any proof of that, if you want any proof of just how embarrassed those opposite are of their record on TAFE, then these reports right here are evidence. These are the annual reports from the TAFE sector. When were they tabled? They were tabled on budget day, under the cover of the budget, when, 'There's nothing to see here'. If these reports showed a good story, do you think they would have been tabled on budget day, when no other story in the state gets a run? Of course not. They could have tabled them on a quiet news day, when they could boast about their results in training, but they are too embarrassed to do that, so they snuck them out on budget day. And look at them all go quiet now.
Why don't we have a look at some of these reports. Those opposite, here is some advice for you: these annual reports contain something called 'Notes to the financial statements'. Look up 2.1; it is very instructive. You will find that the vast majority of these TAFE institutes are now receiving more money in cash bailouts than they are to train students, because they are in a disastrous financial position under you. Why don't we start with Melbourne Polytechnic — $40 million in contestable funding, $33 million in bailout funding. They have done pretty well actually, but thank God for that $76 million asset revaluation, because that kept them in the black — otherwise they would have had real trouble.
What about Federation Training, an institute that has been totally neglected by those opposite? Seventeen million dollars for student training. How much in government bailout money? Twenty million dollars — and they still turned a $17 million deficit.
What about South West TAFE? They had an outright deficit of $3 million. They received $11.7 million for student training. How much in government bailouts? They received $16.1 million. What about Wodonga TAFE? They received $15.7 million in contestable funding. How much in bailouts? They received $10.2 million. Wodonga have actually done alright because they have got some big federal contracts in defence training.
What about GOTAFE? There is a disaster. Where is the report the minister promised us weeks ago into allegations of rorting at GOTAFE? We have not seen that yet. They received $20.7 million in contestable funding and $24.7 million in bailouts — a comprehensive result of $4.9 million. They would have been in deficit if you had not rescued them. On and on it goes. Do not tell me you have rescued TAFE. You have not rescued TAFE. TAFE is suffering under you. It is doing it harder under you, and what is the reason? Who came up with the model that TAFE is now operating under? Was it us? No, it was not. It was you. It was the Minister for Public Transport and former Premier John Brumby. That is why TAFE is doing it so tough.
We now have free TAFE, and it is definitely a great marketing exercise. It will hopefully get bums on seats, because that is what it is designed to do. It has got no other purpose. It is not for the good of students; it is just to try to get people through the door so we can say we have rescued TAFE. But it is pretty interesting: if you go back to Bruce Mackenzie's VET Funding Review, which is what you guys commissioned, he says:
The risk for learners under the VTG —
that is the Victorian training guarantee —
is that if they make poor choices enticed by low or no fees they potentially exhaust their entitlement for a qualification at that level. This has likely resulted in over-enrolments in some areas of provision, and budget pressure at the aggregate level.
Your own reviewer told you not to make courses free because students find it more difficult to get a job —
Mr Nardella interjected.
Ms RYAN — No, Don, this is Bruce Mackenzie, the grandfather of TAFE, a well-loved figure on your side, who told you not to do this.
Adult and community education providers —
The SPEAKER — Order! Before calling the member for Yan Yean, I ask the member for Euroa in her contribution to address her remarks through the Chair — it may result in less interjections from those opposite — and I ask her to refer to members by their correct titles.
Ms Green — Thank you for that comment, Speaker. That was exactly the point of order that I was going to raise. The member should not be reflecting on you as Chair.
Ms RYAN — Thank you, Speaker, for your very kind direction. Adult and community education providers who work at the front line of the provision of training and skills in this state often work with a cohort of very vulnerable and disadvantaged students. They are gutted by this decision, because the government has made a special provision for TAFE and has completely excluded them. In talking to their sector I have learned that they are incredibly concerned that they are going to lose enrolments and that people are going to turn away from adult and community education because suddenly they will be on an uneven playing field. Karen Hagan, who is the general manager of Campaspe College of Adult Education (CCAE), wrote to me as well as to the Leader of The Nationals, and here are some of the things that she said:
QUOTE AWAITING VERIFICATION.
CCAE is a community-based not-for-profit registered training organisation under Learn Local. I am extremely disappointed that Learn Locals are not considered in the $172 million bucket of cash thrown at TAFEs. Without any consideration this will signal the death knell for many Learn Locals that are RTOs, including CCAE.
I will just repeat that:
… this will signal the death knell for many Learn Locals that are RTOs, including CCAE.
We simply cannot survive or compete against such ruthless and unfair funding tactics.
She goes on to say:
We have not had a voice in this budget.
Adult and community education providers have said to me, 'Why would someone come along and enrol in our courses when in six months time they can go and get them for free at TAFE?'. These are not dodgy, rorting RTOs. These are not-for-profit community-based organisations delivering at the front line of training that those opposite are undercutting and threatening to decimate.
It is incredibly clear to me in talking to people throughout the sector that this was not a decision made in collaboration with anyone within the training sector. It was not a decision made in collaboration with the department. In fact the day after the budget, on the Wednesday, there were departmental officials running around desperately trying to explain the details to stakeholders. They had no idea what was actually going on. We had the Premier come out and tell the media that there were no residency requirements for free TAFE courses, and then — shock, horror — everyone suddenly realised, 'Oh my God, that could mean we are training international students who are flying in from overseas, coming and using the TAFE system and then flying back, and there is no benefit to the Victorian economy of that', and, 'Oh my God, residency is actually a requirement under Skills First and VTG contracts'. So we had to back-pedal on that, and we then got a commitment that there was in fact a residency requirement.
This was policy made up on the run. It was not policy based on evidence. It was not policy based on research. It was made up on the run due to the desperation of those opposite because student numbers in this state are bottoming out. We have seen an awful performance by our TAFE system in Victoria under those opposite. There is no TAFE rescue. It is a TAFE disaster.
Another part of this reference talks about staff cuts, because we would all like to believe that the coalition cuts staff. That is the little narrative going at the moment among those opposite. We remember that former minister Steve Herbert, when he was not busy ferrying his dogs around in his ministerial car, told us there would be a moratorium on staff redundancies in TAFE. This is not an analysis of this year's annual report, because I have not gotten there yet — I am sure the numbers will be just as reflective — but this is an analysis of last year. If you go through all the TAFE annual reports, it shows that 620 TAFE staff have lost their jobs since those opposite were elected. Yet here they are prancing around in here, telling us that we cut TAFE staff. They have let 620 full-time equivalent staff go out of the TAFE system on their watch — and more last year. We will get to those numbers in a few weeks, no doubt. There are actually 959 ongoing positions that have gone out of the system, and there has been an increase of 339 fixed or casual staff. There is a mass casualisation of the workforce going on under those opposite, who pretend to be the friend of TAFE teachers and who pretend to be the friend of the TAFE workforce. It is a furphy. They are complete and utter frauds.
The Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings are very interesting, particularly when you get the bureaucrats there, because they try to dance around the figures and do everything they can to obscure and obfuscate for the government. You can just imagine the trouble they would have got into this year when they blew the whistle and we discovered that the TAFE budget last year was underspent by $502 million. You barely spent half of the TAFE budget. You are not investing more money in training. You are not investing more money in TAFE. You have taken it and sucked it all back in, and you are putting a little bit back out as free TAFE courses. That is what is happening, and people around the sector know it because their courses have been capped. In December the places in child care, a massive growth industry, were suddenly reduced by 90 per cent. Everyone was left scratching their heads, saying, 'God, what's going on? There's no money'. People were suddenly having their contracts capped. They had students wanting to come through the door and do training, but the department was saying, 'Sorry, we can't give you any increases in places because there's not actually any funding there'.
The Treasurer has sucked all that money back, and now you are chucking a little bit back out under the guise of free TAFE to make it look like you are investing more money. You are not. You are complete and utter frauds. Sorry, Speaker; I am mindful of your ruling. Those opposite are absolute frauds. They have not rescued TAFE. They are total frauds.
We believe in a well-funded public system. We believe that TAFE plays an important role in Victoria, and we will support TAFE no matter what scare campaigns those opposite try to run. I would suggest that those on the middle benches and those on the back benches actually pick up a couple of these reports, study them in detail and see whether they should actually have full faith in their spin doctors.
It might sound like a good narrative, but the reality is in all of these reports. I would urge those opposite to pick them up and read note 2.1 to the financial statements. I am happy to give them an education in how to do that if needed, but let me tell you — Labor has not rescued TAFE. TAFE is in a worse position now than when Labor came to government.