More politics means TAFE and Tasmanians lose

Peter Gutwein and the Liberal Party, if allowed to implement their TasTAFE privatisation plan, will not be able to keep one promise on TAFE.

Whether you call the Liberal Party’s policy privatisation or not – the reality of the policy is that it puts TAFE out of the Government’s control.

So Peter Gutwein can’t promise 100 new TasTAFE teachers because he won’t be able to employ even one.

The Liberal Party have committed to privatise the workforce – every TasTAFE  teacher and staff member would be dumped from the public service into the private sector.

Peter Gutwein’s policy means he can’t begin to improve the TasTAFE facilities his Government have neglected for seven years. He can’t keep a promise for a coat of paint, let alone new buildings.

While your TV news and newspapers are full of the political games, there’s a very simple reality:

Only one political party has a policy that instantly breaks any promise they make on TAFE, and that’s the Liberal Party.

You would think this would be the question asked at every press conference, the thing you most need to know as voters – after all, elections are about who can be trusted, who will keep their commitments.  Yet we get more political games.

There seems to be total agreement from all sides that TasTAFE is central to Tasmania’s economic recovery and our future. As educators, we know this is true of all public education.

Politicians and political commentators keep us distracted and fail to acknowledge one simple fact – Peter Gutwein’s policy takes the public interest out of public education.

No matter what side of politics you think has the public interest at heart, only the Liberal Party have a policy that takes TasTAFE out of public control.

The Liberal Party want to pretend it didn’t happen, that they didn’t adopt a policy that breaks their TAFE promises before they even make them.

It is written in black and white – Peter Gutwein adopted every recommendation of his hand-picked COVID recovery committee (PESRAC). Did they read them? Do they understand them?

We now know how fundamentally flawed the PESRAC policy on TasTAFE adopted by the Liberal Party is. Alarm bells should be ringing.

Just one public submission to PESRAC made any criticism of TasTAFE or recommended structural change and it came from a lobby group founded by the PESRAC Chairperson himself.

Was this a credible lobby group? Their only other public contribution was a failed proposal for a multi-billion dollar toll road tunnel under Hobart that would save just five minutes on your commute (if you were willing to pay – welcome to privatised roads!)

This lobby group doesn’t represent industry, they didn’t talk to TasTAFE teachers or students, their submission was just two pages and suggested a “Jetstar model” for TAFE.

Yes, a “Jetstar Model” for Tasmania’s public vocational education and training provider. This single submission turned into Peter Gutwein’s TasTAFE policy.

Is it privatisation? Either way ordinary Tasmanians and our Government lose all control and the public interest would be lost to profit motives.

Here’s the reality of Peter Gutwein’s TAFE policy:

  1. Full cost recovery (PESRAC policy) – this means decisions about courses, fees, teachers, campuses and resources will be about money – not skill shortages, industry, students or public benefit.
  2. Commercial rate of return (government business regulation) – demand for profit means decision making is commercial and public interest is lost.
  3. No government control or authority (PESRAC) – employing teachers, capital works priorities and other decisions would be entirely in the hands of the business entity, not Government (so no, you can’t promise 100 teachers)
  4. Teachers and staff dumped into private sector, out of public service (PESRAC). The Fair Work Act is for private companies, not public educators, but this change is specified in the Liberal Party policy.
  5. More public money to private training companies (PESRAC). Further undermining public education and training by giving money out to private interests rather than investing in our reliable, high quality public institution.

In combination, most Tasmanians would see this is as privatisation of TasTAFE. An article could be written about each of these points, ensuring voters are properly informed when they go to vote.

Questions could be asked of the Liberal Party – which courses and campuses will be closed because they don’t deliver a commercial rate of return or full cost recovery? The truth is they can’t answer that because closing campuses and courses will be a commercial decision out of Government’s hands.

The Tasmanian people don’t get a chance to question Peter Gutwein and the Liberal Party on why they would maintain a policy that breaks their own election promises. We rely on the media to hold them to account and inform us before we vote.

Let’s hope we see more policy, more accountability and less political distractions for the remaining weeks of the campaign.


Simon Bailey

Australian Education Union Tasmania TAFE President