27 May 2013 | President’s comment

TAFE6.jpgTAFE is a community asset too!

As community angst intensifies over the State Government’s moves to close and sell off eight schools, we must not lose sight of the fact that one year ago this same Government proposed the closure and sale of 38 TAFE campuses across the state: a threat it is intent on delivering.

The recommendations of the Skills and Training Taskforce, characterised euphemistically as “rationalising the TAFE asset footprint”, came one step closer last week as the State Government enacted legislation to create the new TAFE Queensland entity as the employer of TAFE staff and manager of TAFE facilities. The clear implication is that the legislation paves the way for the “fire sale” of TAFE assets, as the new entity is not the State Government and therefore not bound by any commitment to seek a mandate from the people of Queensland before selling off our public assets.

Over the past 12 months, the QTU has been contacted by a number of communities concerned about the prospect of losing their TAFE campuses. The passage of the TAFE Bill last Friday, 24 May, saw a renewal of the interest by local communities in the future of their local TAFE campuses. Their concerns confirm the value of TAFE as an important community asset.

In another parallel with the schools’ closures ordeal, the identification of the TAFE campuses to be closed and sold off has yet to reach the public. Sadly, based on documented behaviour, this Government will most likely release that list via the media at an inconvenient moment and then duck for cover when the local communities realise that their worst fears have come true.

The rationalisation of TAFE has been draped in a façade of arguments about needs of industry and viability when, in reality, it is an action motivated by economic imperatives far removed from educational necessity.

The same ideologically driven approach in Victoria has seen the TAFE system there all but destroyed by the menace of “contestability”, which pays no heed to the state’s obligation to provide education for all, nor to the need of those in society best served by access to a robust TAFE system. In Victoria, arguably the state most familiar with contestability, TAFE’s share of the training “market” has fallen by 30% in less than two years and now represents as little as 50% of the training provided in that state; not because teachers suddenly lost the skills to offer courses, but because they were starved of the funds to do so.

In Queensland, the creation of the new TAFE Queensland entity goes even further in removing TAFE employees from the Queensland public service and exposing them to a new and vastly inferior suite of working conditions: all in the name of economic rationalist ideology.

Whether it is schools or TAFE campuses, the sale of public education assets in concert with a removal of working rights and funding augers the beginning of a dramatic decline in public services and the abrogation by the Queensland Government of its fundamental responsibilities to the public of Queensland.

Kevin Bates