The Australian Education Union has welcomed Senator Jacqui Lambie’s call for more investment into TAFE in Tasmania, saying it is a timely reminder of the $3 billion in funding cuts that the Federal Coalition Government has inflicted on the TAFE sector across the country since 2013.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that Senator Lambie’s comments had reinforced the vital role that infrastructure spending, particularly infrastructure investment in TAFE, played in boosting Australia’s flagging economy.

Ms Haythorpe asked why the Morrison Government had nearly $4 billion sitting in an unused education investment fund while TAFEs, such as the campus in Launceston, were being closed due to lack of funding to upgrade infrastructure.

“Senator Lambie‘s call for more investment in TAFE in her home state of Tasmania shows that she has recognised the vital role TAFE plays in the community,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Yesterday the Hodgman Government backed a plan to close the Launceston TAFE campus due to a lack of funding to upgrade, in the Premier’s own words, ‘outdated classrooms’. Yet the Morrison Government has had nearly $4 billion dollars sitting untouched in its Education Investment Fund for years. This defies comprehension.”

“Why has money from this fund already not been allocated to the many urgent school or TAFE-related infrastructure projects around Australia? Why has this money not been used to upgrade the Launceston TAFE campus, rather than just shut it down?” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Australia must recognise TAFE as the strong public provider at the heart of the system providing high-quality vocational education,” Ms Haythorpe said. “Yet the Federal Coalition has cut funding to the extent that there are 140,000 fewer apprentices now than when it was elected.”

“Since coming to power in 2013 the Federal Coalition has failed to invest in high-quality public vocational education to provide Australians with a pathway to real skills and long term careers.”

“Liberal/National governments are devastating TAFE funding across the country. Despite the clear and undisputed benefits that a fully funded high quality public TAFE sector provides our economy and our society, there has been a concerted and continual drive from successive Coalition governments to marginalise vocational education and deprioritise TAFE,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Ms Haythorpe said that TAFE must remain a strong public provider of vocational education in Australia. She called upon the Morrison Government to:

  • Guarantee a minimum of 70% government funding to the public TAFE system. In addition, no public funding should go to private for-profit providers, consistent with other education sectors.
  • Restore funding and rebuild the TAFE system, to restore confidence in the quality of the courses and qualifications and the institution.
  • Abandon the failed student loans experiment, and cancel the debts of all students caught up in private for-profit provider scams.
  • Re-invest in the TAFE teaching workforce and develop a future-focused TAFE workforce development strategy in collaboration with the profession and unions.
  • Develop a capital investment strategy in consultation with state governments, to address the deplorable state of TAFE facilities around the country.
  • Support a comprehensive independent inquiry into TAFE.

“The AEU will hold the Commonwealth accountable for its fundamental responsibility to Australian students to ensure that TAFE remains public, strong, vibrant and fully funded,” Ms Haythorpe said.