Our TAFE is in their hands

tafe-100.gifDespite Government protests that the recommendations contained in the interim report of the Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce (the Taskforce) are not yet Government policy, they prove that we have much reason to fear for the fate of both TAFE and the schools sector under a Newman LNP Government.

An election promise of the Newman Government, the Taskforce was established on 19 June to review the technical and further education (TAFE) and vocational education and training (VET) programs of Queensland. The membership of the Taskforce was announced via ministerial media statement and excluded the QTU while favouring private training providers and industry representatives. The QTU has worked closely with the sole union representative (from the CFMEU) to ensure that he was briefed on the issues of TAFE from an educator’s perspective.

Released on 31 August, the interim report sets the scene for a virtually apocalyptic restructure of TAFE and VET including:

  • the reduction of the number of TAFE institutes from 13 to 6 (or perhaps 7) (recommendation 2.11);
  • the reduction of the number of TAFE campuses from 82 to 44 (recommendation 2.11);
  • a “fire sale” of TAFE assets (recommendation 2.6);
  • dismantling the industrial relations framework and working and learning conditions of TAFE institutes (recommendations 2.4, 2.5);
  • carving off TAFE Queensland to become a Statutory Body, a separate entity outside of the current Department of Education, Training and Employment (recommendation 2.8); and
  • a total focus on competition in traditional TAFE markets (recommendations 2.8, 2.9).

Based on our now thorough understanding of the abuses of TAFE experienced under a rampant conservative government in Victoria, Queensland might be expected to avoid the worst of those excesses. There is some tiny glimmer of hope that some common sense will underpin the eventual recommendations of the Taskforce with one of the recommendations proposing the need for upfront investment in TAFE over the “short to medium term” to realise the long term gains envisaged by the Taskforce.

On the whole however, the Taskforce has sung from the songsheet of the Newman Government and delivered an initial report that will shape the future of TAFE in this state in ways that will have long-term negative consequences on vulnerable Queenslanders, vocational education and training and the state’s economy as skill shortages go unmet.

TAFE is the canary in the education mine shaft. QTU members in the schools sector realise that the fate of TAFE can easily be visited on the state education system as a whole and will react strongly to any attack on TAFE by the Government. While we will await the final outcomes of the Taskforce with great trepidation, the time from now until then must be filled with local action to press home to state MPs what they and their communities stand to lose if the TAFE restructure as proposed is allowed to go ahead.

N.B. - The QTU has made a submission to the Taskforce on behalf of QTU members (submissions closed on Friday 7 September). This submission will be published when it has been made publicly available by the Taskforce.

Kevin Bates
QTU President
10 September 2012