TAFE Newsflash #2,  18 April 2013

TAFE Bill Introduced

On Tuesday the 16th of April, the TAFE Queensland Bill 2013 was introduced to State Parliament. This is the first of a series of actions by the LNP government implementing the recommendations of the Skills and Training Taskforce (STT). Given the lack of open community and worker consultation by the government it is only now that a clearer view of the future of TAFE Queensland as a public institution is being revealed.

The legislation will establish TAFE Queensland as a statutory body responsible directly to the Minister. It will have a board which is made up of 9 individuals. In response to a direct question in a radio interview on 17 April, the Minister did not rule out union representation on the board but neither did he commit to it.  

The board will have a commercial focus although the new TAFE Queensland will be a not-for-profit body that will be required to engage with industry and deliver “VET in an efficient and effective manner.”

The Bill will repeal the current statutory status of both South Bank and Gold Coast Institutes and all TAFE institutes will be transferred to the new TAFE Authority over a 12 month period from 1 July 2013. The Bill also provides for the rights of employees transferred from one entity to the other ensuring that those on contracts will have continuity of employment arrangements.

One commendable outcome from the Bill will be the protection of “TAFE” and “Technical and Further Education” as brands. These terms will not be able to be utilised by other parties (e.g. private training organisations) without the permission of the Minister.

However the Bill also makes provision for the new entity to move its staff outside of the protections of the Public Service Act 2008 through the development of “a flexible, responsive and contemporary employment model.” The intention is to remain within the jurisdiction of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.

In his radio interview, while discussing the legislation and the STT recommendations, the Minister again attacked the role of TAFE Teachers. He referred expressly to the current conditions of teachers as being a key reason for the (alleged) underperformance of TAFE. The QTU maintains that TAFE stands for quality vocational education because teaching is the heart of TAFE. The attempts by the Minister to undermine the professional standing of TAFE teachers will only damage the standing of TAFE Queensland at a time of enormous change, when the system requires the goodwill and commitment of its most valuable employees.

The QTU is committed to TAFE as the public provider and to maintaining the conditions of the professional educational staff of TAFE. Enterprise bargaining negotiations are continuing.