Budget’s silence on TAFE speaks volumes

3 April 2019

The Morrison Government’s Budget has failed to provide a single dollar of specific funding for TAFE – in fact it is completely silent on TAFE altogether.

The Budget’s focus on industry over TAFE shows a complete abrogation of the government’s responsibility to ensure that Australia has a strong, public TAFE system at the heart of vocational education.

Since being in government the Federal Coalition has overseen:

  • 140,000 fewer apprentices now than when it was elected.
  • $3 billion cut from vocational education.
  • a decline in enrolments in vocational education and training.
  • a decline in TAFE enrolments in particular, which have plummeted by 24.5 per cent.

Australian Education Union (AEU) Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that the Budget would do nothing to revitalise the TAFE sector. She said the lack of extra funding for TAFE was exacerbated by the Morrison Government’s announcement of a National Skill Commission which would give industry free reign over VET qualification design.

“Scott Morrison’s Budget continues the Federal Coalition’s agenda of privatising vocational education in Australia,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“This is a Budget which fails to give a fair go to TAFE. It will deny many thousands of Australians the opportunity to build the skills they need for the careers they want.”

“There is no additional specified funding for TAFE in the Budget. What we have is a sleight of hand by the Morrison Government with the majority of the $525 million actually being repurposed money,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“This funding is essentially a repackaging of the Skilling Australians Fund. In reality, there is just $55 million of new money for vocational education over five years.”

“The states and territories that signed up to this fund stand to lose over $80 million from what they were promised last year,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“This is on top of the cuts to VET in last year’s Budget, in which $270 million was cut from apprenticeships when Scott Morrison was Treasurer.

“With the 140,000 apprenticeships lost since the Coalition came to office, 80,000 apprentices over five years does not make up the shortfall and will not address existing skills shortages,” Ms Haythorpe said. “Meanwhile, the additional incentives for businesses and apprentices are no guarantee of success.”

Ms Haythorpe said the establishment of the National Skills Commission would mean that industry would dominate VET course design in what can only be viewed as more evidence of Scott Morrison’s privatisation agenda.

“TAFE needs to be the heart of a strong, public vocational education sector in Australia,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The introduction of private-for profit education providers has been a disaster for Australia’s vocational education system. Putting industry in charge of qualification design will make things even worse.”

“The VET FEE HELP scheme saw billions of dollars flow to dubious for-profit training providers with hundreds of thousands of students left with bad debts,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The Australian Skills Quality Authority, the Government’s own regulator, said parts of the Australian training market are already in a race to the bottom. The Productivity Commission has described the Australian VET system as ‘a mess’.”

“The solution is quite simple. We need a strong public TAFE sector that is fully funded, but unfortunately Scott Morrison has neglected to deliver that in this budget for our students,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The Morrison Budget has failed the ‘fair go’ test when it comes to TAFE. By contrast, Labor has guaranteed that at least two-thirds of all government funding will go to TAFE if it wins government.”

“Labor has also said that they will conduct a comprehensive post-secondary review, which has been welcomed broadly across the sector and which will be in stark contrast to the short-term, politically-driven, industry-based focus of the Steven Joyce review commissioned by the Morrison Government.”

“If this Budget is Scott Morrison’s idea of a fair go for TAFE students, then it’s time for Mr Morrison to go,” Ms Haythorpe said.