Greens rally against TAFE cuts

THE Greens are taking a stand against further TAFE cuts that have the potential to “gut” the central west in light of the looming jobs crisis, says Greens regional development spokesman Jeremy Buckingham.

The former Orange councillor and Greens education spokesman John Kaye launched Dr Kaye’s bill to freeze all budget cuts and restore TAFE funding to 2011 levels at the TAFE Western Orange campus yesterday. 

The Greens argue a TAFE funding model introduced by the state government, in which only courses that fill skills shortages will receive taxpayer funding, threatens the affordability of courses and students’ futures.

Government subsidies for the fine arts course have already been axed and union delegates fear it is only the beginning. They claim the introduction of the Smart and Skilled program will strip 40 per cent of TAFE’s funding. 

A recent restructure of the Western Institute of TAFE meant 13 people lost their jobs, according to the Australian Education Union.

Delegates yesterday stood with teachers, staff and students who played instruments and sang songs with anti-government lyrics and questioned why they should have a second-rate education. 

Mr Buckingham said with the imminent closure of Electrolux and Simplot in Bathurst it was essential that public vocational training remained affordable.

“About 5000 to 6000 people work in the TAFE system and about 800 have already lost jobs,” he said. 

Dr Kaye said he would introduce his bill - called the TAFE Changes Moratorium - in March and would fight to stop fees rising and keep high-quality staff by blocking the Smart and Skilled program. 

“It will freeze the O’Farrell government’s aggressive Smart and Skilled market that would create a race to the bottom with low-cost, low-quality private providers,” he said.

Member for Orange Andrew Gee was unavailable to answer questions about the future of the Orange campus but issued a statement that said all the Greens wanted to do was “raise taxes and ban things”.

He said changes were expected at TAFE in 2014 but no “significant reduction in training”.

Mr Gee said the Orange campus was not in decline and pointed to the multimillion dollar investment  in the Winhanganha Aboriginal Learning Centre as evidence of the “exciting things happening at TAFE Western”.

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