12 March 1991 - Current
Ms WARD (Eltham) (14:33:10) — I know that, like me, TAFE is pretty important to you, Speaker, especially considering that we have an excellent TAFE right on our doorsteps in our electorates. It is amazing to me that we have just had the person from the opposition who purports to be defending TAFE say that she does not support TAFE courses being free. She does not support opportunity. This is exactly the problem that those opposite have got: they are the party that denies opportunity, they are the party that does not want to create opportunity, and they are the party that do nothing and can do nothing.
The fact is that they will stand up and say they do not want to help kids get into TAFE. They do not want to be proactive about improving TAFE numbers. They do not want to be proactive about helping to create training opportunities for young people to help them get the jobs that they need which are, as the Minister for Education said, the jobs the whole state needs because we have got so much work going on in this state that we have a skills shortage. We have a skills shortage, and what are those opposite going to do about it? Well, they are not going to create TAFE courses for kids to get into, that is for sure. They are absolutely not.
Now the thing that is quite amazing about the opposition spokesperson on education's speech just now is that not once did she talk about the federal government. Not once did she talk about the $80 billion tax cut for big business. They are supporting big business, but not those who need the jobs in business, not those who need employment, not those who are needed to make those businesses thrive. They do not get any support. Big business gets an $80 billion tax cut. What did the federal Treasurer do? He then took the axe to TAFE: $200 million worth of cuts to TAFE across the nation. What does that mean for this state? A cut of about $60 million. Coincidentally this is a similar amount that the Liberal Party in Victoria cut from the Country Fire Authority when they were in government. It is interesting how this lot like to cut.
Speaker, I have to thank you for your contribution and the work that was put into reopening Greensborough TAFE, along with the former member for Eltham, Steve Herbert, me, the member for Yan Yean and the member for Ivanhoe. Four and a half thousand local people across those communities signed a petition against this TAFE cut. Those opposite are kidding themselves if they think that TAFE kids are not grateful for the work that Steve Herbert did in restoring TAFE. I know that there are people in our corridor who are very grateful for the fact that Greensborough TAFE has now reopened. Those 4500 people who signed that petition, who wanted those opportunities for the people in our communities to have training, to get the skills that they need to find job pathways were exactly right, and that is exactly what this government has done.
The Premier visited the TAFE last week along with the Speaker, me and the Minister for Training and Skills. As he said, 'There was a padlock on the gate of Greensborough TAFE in 2013'. Why was that padlock there? It was there because those opposite thought it was right to deny the north-east their own TAFE. They took skills and training out of my community. They closed the gate, they padlocked it and they said, 'This will be a housing development. We are going to flog this off to developers because we do not think that we need to provide training and skills opportunities'.
Funnily enough, guess what? Their Liberal mate and mayor of Nillumbik Peter Clarke has just tried to do the same thing in Nillumbik. He has tried to flog off 17 beautiful parcels of land to developers, and guess what? The community that we live in has again stood up to the Liberals trying to flog off community assets to developers and said 'no'. They stood up and were counted and guess what? The Liberals had to back down. I see silence now from those opposite and that is exactly right because they should be ashamed of what they do to communities. They should be absolutely ashamed of the destruction they wreak when they cut and when they flog off useful community assets to developers.
Why did they close Greensborough TAFE? They talk now about fewer enrolments. I tell you what: it takes more than five minutes to rebuild TAFE, and it takes more than five minutes to reopen a TAFE. A lot of people have put in a lot of work to reopen Greensborough TAFE. I thank them for their commitment and I thank them for everything they did. The member for Yan Yean has just passed me a note reminding me that those opposite cut 500 bus services in our area too, which fed directly to that TAFE. Then they said that there are declining enrolments, we have to close this TAFE. They got rid of the buses taking people to TAFE!
It takes more than five minutes to rebuild the scorched earth that was left behind by those opposite from the four years that they were in government. That is exactly what they did with TAFE: TAFE was scorched earth. It is now a thriving site and there is a lot going on. One of the things that this TAFE is going to offer is work for people who are training for the national disability insurance scheme, a federal government policy that is suffering from a skills shortage and needs people trained up to help them with it. Those opposite do not want to create any policies that can actually help the labour force skill up and get in there.
Chief executive of the Business Council of Australia Jennifer Westacott said last year that almost 1 million jobs will be created in Australia over the next five years, but there will not be enough skilled workers to fill them. You and I both know, Speaker, that a lot of those jobs are here in Victoria. Victoria is the powerhouse when it comes to jobs in this country. It is the work of the Andrews government that is creating those jobs. It is the work of the Andrews government that is creating the skills and training opportunities for people to get into those jobs — for us to give local jobs to local people. Those opposite might want to import workers from overseas. We know that they do not want to pay penalty rates, we know that they do not believe in a minimum wage and we know that they do not want to ensure that people are paid properly, so maybe they do want to bring people in from overseas for these jobs. But we do not. We want Victorians to be skilled, we want Victorians to have jobs and we want Victorians to have well-paid jobs. We want them to have a good quality of life in this state, and skills and training is exactly a part of that.
For those opposite to be so short-sighted and think that by providing free courses in TAFE in the areas where we are desperately short of skills — where we really need help, where we want our kids to get those opportunities — is a joke just shows you why they are not ready for government, because they cannot see ahead. They cannot see what is needed. They cannot see how to govern. They cannot see what they need to do and the work that they need to put in to create a good and healthy, thriving and vibrant state.
It is shameful that it has come to this, that after nearly four years in opposition they still have not got their act together, they still do not know what they are doing and they still do not understand the importance of TAFE. They do not value TAFE. They want to talk it down. They do not value it. They do not understand the challenges that kids can face getting into training, getting the skills they need and getting into employment. Interestingly, the opposition spokeswoman on TAFE spoke about local learning and employment networks (LLENs) not getting help. Speaker, the one thing the Banyule Nillumbik LLEN — your LLEN and mine — spoke to me about, and I am sure they spoke to you about it, was the Navigator program and how important it is. This government is putting $44 million in this budget into the Navigator program.
We had some pilot programs of Navigator running across the state, and by the end of 2017 the program had worked with 1030 young people and returned 691 of them into education. That is a terrific result that is going to be replicated in LLENs across the state as people get into the Navigator program and kids are given the help they need to then find pathways to meaningful employment — employment that pays them well, that helps pay their bills and helps make them feel like they are a contributor to the community and society.
This is what a Labor government does. A Labor government sees the value in each and every person, and a Labor government wants to enhance that value. A Labor government wants to support these people achieve that. We want to help them along the pathway. Those opposite want to deny opportunity, because that is all they are able to do. The federal government has shown it by cutting TAFE in this federal budget, and those opposite did it themselves when they were in government. The fact that all they know how to do is rip TAFE up and not support it means that they are not ready for government, and they should really look at themselves and try harder.