Transcript of Doorstop Interview:
Enmore TAFE, Enmore, Sydney
Howard’s Skills Announcements
Sunday, 26 September 2004
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Today’s announcement by the Prime Minister is the biggest spending spree that we have seen in the run up to an election. This is a government that will promise anything to get re-elected. Today we have seen the ‘mother’ of all clearance sales where everything must go, including as we know, Mr. Howard, who is going to go in a year or two to make way for Peter Costello, if he is re-elected.
The Howard government has finally acknowledged that there is a skills crisis in Australia. This is a crisis that has been looming for years, and yet the Howard government has refused to respond. Not only that, it has cut funding in real terms since 1997 to TAFE institutions which are world class, such as Enmore TAFE, where this media conference is taking place today.
Funding per teaching hour has dropped by around 19% since 1997, and the proportion of VET funding coming from the Commonwealth has fallen from 25% to 22.2%. Even worse, the Vocational Education and Training sector, which receives funding under the Australian National Training Authority Agreement, because the government has refused to put in real growth funding, that agreement between Federal and States broke down last year. So the agreement that was supposed to come into place on the 1 January now isn’t in operation, so we have no national ANTA Agreement, we indeed don’t even have an ANTA CEO at the moment, running vocational training in Australia.
Instead of supporting a world class system, which looks after 1.7 million students who receive Vocational Education and Training a year, across 1460 TAFE campuses, the Prime Minister has chosen to announce a stunt of 24 Vocational Colleges which would be outside the existing Education and Training system.
He announced today that it would take place in Gladstone, for example. Well in Gladstone, at both Gladstone High School and at Tooloola High School; there is already a world-class VET course system in place as part of those High Schools. It is linked with industry, linked with group training, and linked with TAFE. It is already happening, and it would appear that the Prime Minister is ignorant of how the VET system, and in particular, the VET in schools system is operating throughout Australia.
Labor’s had in place, now since May, our announcement of the Youth Guarantee, a $700 million program, of which $118 million was to pay for all Vocational Education and Training courses in school. We have had in place for 18 months, 20,000 new TAFE places, and the government has simply failed to respond.
Then at the last minute, in the dying days of an election campaign, the government has desperately put out policy on the run, which is ill thought out and today’s policy backs up its ill thought out policy announced earlier on in the week, where it announced $800 toolkits for apprentices without understanding that that may well lead to the losses of their tool allowance, which is $1100, leaving them potentially $300 a year worse off.
JOURNALIST: Today’s announcement is fairly significant and it is probably likely to be received by the majority of Australians who don’t have a tertiary education, do you think that the announcement like today’s, will actually, its probably not a very wise strategy to oppose it?”
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well I think there are 1.7 million Australians currently engaged with TAFE and VET, and TAFE teachers, and people who are families of people involved in the existing VET system, who will be asking themselves today: “Hang on, why is it that the Prime Minister didn’t mention the word TAFE today in his speech? Why is it, that this is a government that hates anything that is public? They hate public education, and that’s why they’ve been running down government schools. They hate public health and that’s why they’ve been attacking Medicare, and this today is an attack on our publicly funded TAFE system, which proves that this is simply an ideological agenda from a Government that doesn’t understand that of the 420,000 senior secondary students last year, almost half – 203,000 of them were doing a VET in schools course… (plane noise drowns out comments)