Fight over TAFE cuts

Central Gippsland Institute of TAFE has rejected Latrobe City councillor Graeme Middlemiss’ accusations it betrayed council following the education provider’s leaked transition plans.

Council’s submission to the State Government TAFE Reform Panel was overshadowed during Monday night’s council meeting by the leaked document which revealed an uncertain future for TAFE in Latrobe Valley.

“What it means is that the game we are playing in response to the government cuts, has changed,” Cr Middlemiss said.

“I was stunned by the cabinet-in-confidence document and to be honest I believe they (GippsTAFE) should still be fighting to retain all services, not saying to the government ‘yes we will go along with you and cut services’.

“I don’t think we have reached that stage and the fight is still on.”

The leaked document reveals a summary of transition plans to deal with the State Government’s $300 million budget cut, $10 million of which GippsTAFE lost, equating to about a third of its budget.

Cr Middlemiss said if council continued to defended GippsTAFE and fight the government funding cuts, the TAFE provider needed to “fight too”.

“I feel we are taking a hard public stance against any cuts to TAFE, and now we discover a document where TAFE appears to be just accepting massive cuts, if not actually going along with arranging them; that is the bit that has stumped me,” he said.

“I suspect we have been betrayed.”

However, GippsTAFE chief executive Peter Whitley rejected the accusations and said, if the institute had stopped fighting, there would already be closed campuses.

“What was in the transition plan was simply another strategy to elevate the fight with the State Government to ensure we have open and transparent debate,” Dr Whitley said.

“The reality is, they were blue sky options thrown on the table with limited analysis or evaluation.

“The proposal we put in are very far reaching and no one really had any belief that the totality of any proposals would get up and be successful.”

Dr Whitley said the plans stemmed from an unrealistic deadline to a State Government request to report on potential transition plan.

“We were looking for guidance from the recently established transitional taskforce because up until now there has been next to no guidance,” he said.

“We want some fair dinkum debate and discussion which we are not getting.”

Cr Middlemiss moved an alternative motion during Monday’s meeting, which involved instigating meetings between council and GippsTAFE board members on the future direction of the institute to “understand where GippsTAFE are going”.