1 June 2012
Commonwealth skills minister Chris Evans had a busy “Victorian TAFE Cuts Day” in Melbourne on 31 May, starting with an ABC Radio interview, a meeting with TAFE leaders at NMIT and a doorstop. He called on the Victorian Government to revisit its decision to cut millions of dollars from the system, which he described as undermining the training effort and putting the future of TAFEs under threat. Evans made it clear that the Commonwealth would be looking carefully at the levers available to it to negotiate changes, notably $435 million in incentive funding available toVictoria over the next five years. Acknowledging that it would be counterproductive to take action that might further harm training in Victoria, he said:
…we’ve made it very clear to the Victorian Government that our support is contingent on them maintaining their training effort, and TAFEs are the backbone of Victoria’s training system. They also do all the really important trade training. And they do a lot in terms of access and equity. They’re vital for regional Australia, where there are not often training alternatives. And when you hear the cutbacks occurring at these regional campuses, there are not alternatives in those country towns.
In passing, he was unenthusiastic about any Commonwealth takeover of vocational education, which, constitutionally, is clearly a state area of responsibility.
The simple fact is the Victorian Coalition Government is making a record ongoing investment in vocational training while introducing essential reforms designed to save the system from collapse…Over the next four years, the Coalition Government will invest $4.862 billion in vocational training subsidies alone, including new investment of $1.033 billion, a record ongoing investment.
In contrast, he said that under the National Partnership Agreement,Victoria will receive $60 million less in 2012-13 than it did in 2011-12 under the Productivity Places Program. He also said the Commonwealth has “cut substantial funding to apprentices, where some employer commencement incentives have been cut and others deferred”, at a time when the Victorian Coalition Government has increased all training subsidies for apprenticeships, filling a critical skills need.
In the recent Commonwealth Budget completion incentive payments were substituted for certain commencement incentive payments, which yields savings (in respect of people who start but don’t complete) and is widely regarded as rather sensible.