5th May 2016
Mr GREG PIPER ( Lake Macquarie ) ( 13: 01 :17 ): I am always happy to support well-considered motions moved by the member for Wallsend, including this motion on Glendale TAFE. I recognise the member as a great grassroots advocate for her electorate. She is in tune with what her constituents think. Like TAFE campuses across the State, Glendale has been hugely valuable in delivering high-quality vocational education and training to thousands of people year after year. Many thousands of people in my electorate of Lake Macquarie have attained trade qualifications at Glendale campus, and I have no doubt that many thousands more would like to be able to do the same in the future.
But Glendale campus, like others, is struggling to retain its status as a premier place of education and training due to the gradual erosion of funding, cutbacks to courses and staffing levels, and the skyrocketing costs now associated with this sort of learning and development. In particular, welding and metal fabrication courses at Glendale have provided valuable skills to a great number of young tradespeople over many decades, but the future of those courses is threatened by funding cuts and cuts to staffing levels. The comments of the member for Upper Hunter would be wonderful if they were true, but we have heard the exact opposite from our constituents.
In the Hunter region we have an economy that is still largely underpinned by older, traditional industries such as the mining industry, which the member for Upper Hunter knows about. But we can also see the future, with new, emergent, clean industries including in clean energy production. We are once again going through change—something not new to the region—and, as it did in the past, TAFE if given a fair go will ably deliver for our area and for New South Wales. I do not think I have to remind the House of the important role that TAFE plays in our communities. But clearly some members need convincing that TAFE is more than a service industry that can and should compete against private providers, who have the luxury of picking and choosing the most profitable courses to deliver.
In 2006, the Allen Consulting Group report commissioned by the then Government found that over the next 20 years—and we are now in the middle of that period—$6.4 million worth of benefits would flow into the economy for every $1 million invested in the TAFE system. Despite this, the working hours for part-time teachers has been reduced almost consistently over the past five years. I reiterate the concerns I have expressed previously in this Chamber about the increases to course fees and the reduction in course choices. I also repeat the concerns I hold about the private sector contracts that are undermining the TAFE sector and which, as we have experienced in the Hunter, are often going to companies or providers with no affiliation with or connection to the Hunter region and with questionable bona fides. Large numbers of my constituents have complained to me about what is happening to our TAFE system, and certainly none has welcomed the changes.
New South Wales needs a strong public-sector organisation that will continue to offer vocational education and training to all, regardless of their background, where they live or their ability to pay. TAFE has done this effectively in the past and the struggle it is now having is due not to a failure of the model but to the dogged pursuit of a conservative ideology that falsely believes competition will always deliver better outcomes. TAFE has been a great friend to New South Wales, underpinning its ability to lead the nation across all sectors for many years. Yes, it needs to grow and adapt to a changing world, but it has always done that and can continue to do so if supported by the Government. I commend the motion and thank the member for Wallsend for bringing this matter before the House.
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