TAFE privatisation not the answer

One could excuse Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff for allowing an opinion piece (The Mercury 19/3/2021) to be published in his name that demonstrates how little the Liberal Government understands about TasTAFE and the teachers it employs.

However, Premier Peter Gutwein and the Liberal Government can’t be forgiven for trying to mislead the Tasmanian people.

They say if you repeat a lie often enough people will believe it, but Tasmanians aren’t stupid.

The Liberal Party’s TAFE privatisation plan is falling apart faster than they can try and sell it with taxpayer funded advertising.

Two things immediately demolish the Liberals’ privatisation plan:

  1. The Government’s privatisation timeline won’t see anything change this year. Meanwhile, the issues raised can be quickly and simply dealt with through negotiations with teachers that should already have commenced.
  2. TasTAFE teachers have tabled proposals for flexibility, attracting and retaining high quality teachers from industry and increased course options and student places, but the Government rejected them.

Tasmanians know the Liberal Party can’t be trusted on TAFE because they have underfunded it and mismanaged it for seven years – why would anyone believe they have a fix now?

TasTAFE teachers are experts from industry and know the needs of their students and industries very well. These same teachers have been completely ignored and insulted by a Liberal Government that is looking for someone to blame for the problems they caused.

It’s time to stop the lies.

CHRISTMAS & EASTER SHUTDOWNS: TasTAFE teachers can and do work through periods of compulsory shutdown over Christmas and Easter. We even proposed additional flexibility for work in these times and the Government rejected our proposals just two years ago.

The Government knows that TasTAFE does not shut for 11 weeks and that teachers can work through to meet the needs of students and employers as necessary. It hasn’t stopped them lying to the public about it.

‘FLEXIBILITY’: teachers bend over backwards to meet the needs of students and industry we work with every day. Our members start as early as 5:00am to meet industry needs and others are working well into the night at campuses such as Drysdale where the restaurant is open until 9:00pm.

We are responsive and flexible. That the Liberal Party doesn’t know this just shows that the Government has not done their research, they’re simply running a false case to justify what they really want to do – privatise TAFE.

TasTAFE, like all Registered Training Organisations, deliver from nationally endorsed training packages which are written by employer groups. If certain employers are unhappy about what is being taught, they need to talk to their industry representatives at the national level and get them changed.

We want to respond quickly to the needs of the employers we work with, but the training proposals we develop with industry get lost management systems the Minister has put in place.

I’ve personally worked for two years to get a welding course delivered, but in the two years it has taken employers have had to bring people in from outside Tasmania to do the work.

All these issues could be raised in negotiations with teachers right now, but the Government haven’t even had the courtesy to make a phone call or set up a meeting – they just aren’t serious about anything but their political agenda.

TasTAFE is a statutory authority, answerable to a board, CEO and ultimately the Minister for Education. It’s the Minister who is answerable for TasTAFE because he can direct anything we do.

Privatisation is an admission of incompetence from this Government, there’s nothing else stopping them achieving what they want to achieve.

Tasmanians aren’t stupid, if it looks, walks and smells like privatisation, it’s privatisation.

‘Full cost recovery’ shifts the cost onto the employers and students, a terrible outcome for Tasmania, students and employers.

Privatising TAFE is to turn it from a public education and training institute with a focus on all Tasmanians and community benefit into a business run for cost recovery and profit as others are.

Running TAFE as a business puts profit ahead of people, but TAFE is all about people – teachers, students, staff and industry. We are about education and training, not profit.

The Government’s report says educators should be taken out of decision making. The very experts and professionals of their fields who serve their students, industries and communities should be ignored and removed from their expertise?

Teachers are the solution, not the problem.

Now teachers are facing the threat of losing the very conditions that attract leaders from industry into teaching.

As teachers, support staff and proud public educators, we are always ready and willing to work with the Government and industry to lead Tasmania’s economic recovery, but first the Liberal Party must end their war on TAFE and phony privatisation agenda and invite teachers to the table.

Investment in TAFE, more teachers, more students and more course options simply requires a budget commitment from Government that could be announced tomorrow.

Given the government has previously rejected the very proposals they now say they want for TasTAFE, the question has to be asked: what’s the real agenda of Premier Peter Gutwein?

Perhaps we would know if he would simply pick up the phone to a TasTAFE teacher.


Simon Bailey

Australian Education Union Tasmania TAFE President