Kevin Bates
QTU President

President’s Comment 30 November 2012

And the uncertainty rolls on!

The Newman government today released its response to the Skills and Training Taskforce (the taskforce) report into the Queensland vocational education and training (VET) sector. It is a document filled with contradictions which can only draw out the uncertainty for students, teachers and the community about the future of TAFE in Queensland.

An initial reading of the government’s position shows that, as expected, it has adopted the taskforce's recommendations almost without exception, with Minister John-Paul Langbroek boasting to the media that the government has accepted 37 of the taskforce's 40 recommendations. In fact, only the suggestion that an industry dominated skills commission manage vocational education and training funding for the state has been knocked back. 

The uproar around the threatened sale of TAFE campuses may already be having some effect, with the government now only committed to selling 13 campuses “already approved for disposal or currently vacant and not considered fit for purpose”. While the proceeds from the sale of these assets will be reinvested in the state’s training system, there is no guarantee that these proceeds will flow to TAFE. Instead we could find public assets being sold off to allow more to be spent on private providers, something of a recurring pattern of behaviour for this state government.

The reprieve for Queensland's other campuses is by no means final. The government still has them in its sights, lining up a viability review that will not be concluded until the end of 2013. Twelve more months of uncertainty lie ahead for communities waiting to see where the Newman axe will fall next.

In a move of staggering audacity that not even the most ardent anti-TAFE reformers in the southern states have dared to attempt, the government has also committed to ensuring that the use of public resources is maximised by handing private providers the keys to public facilities. This is more than strange. No business, if indeed that is how TAFE should be viewed, would ever agree to handing its competitors access to its assets. A proposal that is apparently intended to reduce the cost base of the TAFE sector will in reality only lead to a loss of amenity for the public provider.

QTU members will be particularly concerned by the government's statements regarding impending negotiations for a new enterprise bargaining agreement in 2013. While it has committed to negotiating with unions and employees, it will do so with the sole objective of delivering "increased productivity", a concept alien to those concerned with the provision of quality education and indicative of this government's failure to grasp the essence of VET and TAFE. Key issues such as increased casualisation don’t rate a mention, but they will inevitably be a factor in attempts to realise “more flexible and modern industrial relations arrangements”.

A more detailed analysis of the response is underway and further commentary provided in due course.  

What is clear already is that, while the form it will take will not be clear until the end of the first quarter of 2013, the much anticipated attack on TAFE is about to be launched. 

Save TAFE for Queensland.
Kevin Bates

30 November 2012