April 2, 2014  |  Adjournment

TAFE Policy

Mr  HOWARD (Ballarat  East)—  I raise  a matter  for the  attention  of  the Minister for Higher Education and Skills. I ask  the minister  to take action to clarify for  the people  of Ballan  and region the coalition policy in regard to TAFE and to confirm or otherwise that  the coalition  plans to  construct a  new TAFE  or  technical  school  in  Ballan.  I raise  this matter  in light  of  an announcement  made  by The  Nationals  candidate  for  Buninyong,  as  presented recently  in the Moorabool News.  I have that article  in  front of me now.  The Nationals candidate for Buninyong, whose name is Sonia Smith, has announced that if she is elected, presumably as part of the coalition team, Ballan will by 2020 gain a technical school or TAFE, creating 50 ongoing jobs in Ballan plus further jobs during construction.

This is quite  a surprising announcement, given  that Ballan currently does  not have a secondary school. It  has  two primary schools at present. However, given that The Nationals candidate is clearly representing The Nationals party, a part of the coalition government, you have to  ask  the  question:  is this candidate simply speaking off the top of her head, or is it  in fact coalition policy that a new  TAFE technical  school will be  built in  Ballan by  2020? Obviously  the people of Ballan deserve an  honest answer to this question. I suspect that this is  not coalition policy, but I want  the  Minister  for  Higher  Education  and Skills, who is present at the table, to confirm this statement or otherwise.

The reason it seems unlikely is that under this term  of government we have seen TAFE, which was  a  strong  component  of our educational sector in the Ballarat region within my electorate, go from being a very strong sector to being  a much weaker sector.

Some  $20 million  has been  cut from  the TAFE  sector  of  the  University  of Ballarat, now Federation University Australia, which saw  something in the order of 40 courses dropped and 50  staff — I think it  might even have been more  — lose their jobs. Now we  see that the hub of  TAFE in Ballarat, what is  now the SMB campus — which of course is where many of the  young people of Ballan would have  gone  for  TAFE courses and which used  to  be  a thriving hub — has many buildings that have had to find alternative uses. I want the minister to clarify the future of TAFE options in Ballan.