Labor defends TAFE plan

LABOR’S plan to invest heavily in TAFE, should it come into government, was reiterated by Opposition Member for Eastern Victoria Matt Viney as part of the party’s Plan for Jobs and Growth released last week.

Speaking to The Express in response to criticism from various parties, including current Skills Minister Peter Hall, Mr Viney said the investment would be funded from any budget surplus the present State Government would leave behind.

“It is our highest priority,” Mr Viney said.

“The (present State Government) have doubled the state debt, so we have to wait and see what condition the budget is left in if we return to government.”

Mr Viney said the plan to reverse the downsizing, course-cutting and fee hikes seen in the TAFE sector recently was a “major plank within the plan”.

“We believe it is fundamental in creating an environment for jobs and economic growth, to properly fund skills training,” he said.

“What we see now in the Latrobe Valley, more and more young people have to go to Melbourne to train, and that is unacceptable.”

In a statement last week, Skills Minister Peter Hall “set the record straight”, saying Labor’s TAFE policy was unfunded and its claims about training in the state were wrong.

Calling Labor’s policy “half-baked”, Mr Hall said the party had misunderstood the training market.

“Labor said additional funding for its policy would come from ‘savings obtained from the crackdown on unscrupulous providers,” he said, adding in the past year, 75 Registered Training Organisations had their registration cancelled.

He also said it was “nonsense” for training providers to be federally funded as 80 per cent of Victorian providers who were recipients of state funding already had an arrangement with the Commonwealth.

The National Tertiary Education Union was cautiously optimistic on Labor’s plan, saying while it was a significant step forward, it did not go far enough or provide details of proposed funding.