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Issue #1598      June 19, 2013

TAFE privatisation in Qld

On Friday June 7, the federal government caved into pressure from the Queensland government, and handed over more than $356 million of Commonwealth partnership funding. The next day, the Queensland government announced detail of a VET (vocational education and training) reform process which is more damaging to the TAFE sector than any other VET reform process in the country.

The Queensland government’s announcement that it would strip TAFE institutes of all of their assets, and then open these assets up to private for-profit RTOs (registered training organisation) is the first stage in the dismantling of TAFE, and a far more damaging VET reform process than those implemented in Victoria or South Australia.

The Queensland government’s reform plan would see TAFEs operate at a huge commercial disadvantage from their private competitors, who appear to have been influential in determining the detail of these proposals. ACPET, the peak body representing private for-profit providers called for a functional separation between TAFE infrastructure and delivery in a pre-budget submission, and were well represented in the Taskforce established by the government to determine the future of TAFE.

It is impossible to see what, if any concessions the federal government has elicited from the Queensland government in return for the handover of the Partnership funding. There is no mention or guarantee of community service obligation, or full service delivery funding to give real meaning to a claim that the plan would “recognise the services” TAFE provides to its students. The removal of this funding in Victoria has significantly damaged TAFE institutions.

TAFEs will not be able to own any facilities, and will be forced to compete with private providers for use of public facilities. Private providers will be able to own their own facilities, operate them for profit, and will not be required to offer them for use to other RTOs.

Details of Queensland reforms

  • From July 1, 2013 – selected training providers (TAFE and private) to offer government-subsidised training in a number of priority CIII qualifications
  • From July 1, 2014, all public funding will be fully contestable
  • Strip TAFE Queensland of all assets, transfer to a specialist commercial management entity, “rationalise” asset base and facilitate third party (private for profit provider) use
  • TAFE Queensland will remain a “key” player in the training sector and funding will specifically recognise the services TAFE provides to its students and communities that cannot be delivered by the private sector
  • Queensland Certificate III guarantee for “eligible” Queenslanders “up to and including their first CIII level qualification in a priority area”
  • TAFE Queensland Act 2013 establishes TAFE Queensland as an independent statutory body with a commercial focus from July 1, 2013, and the future creation of seven amalgamated TAFE institutes, the formation of a commercially focused board
  • Access to VET FEE HELP for Diploma, Advanced Diploma and selected CIV-level qualifications.

What do the Queensland reforms mean?

  • Queensland reforms go further than SA and Victoria – TAFE was left in control of its assets in those states
  • TAFEs will be positioned at a commercial disadvantage – handicapped. Private providers own their own assets, are not obliged to share facilities with competitors, even where they have purchased their facilities from government funds
  • TAFEs will become “itinerant” providers – virtual institution without assets. Everything that goes with being an institution will be stripped away. The intellectual, social and cultural capital of TAFE will be dissipated
  • The establishment of the specialist commercial entity to manage assets will duplicate effort
  • There is no mention and no detail and therefore no guarantee of funding for community service obligations (stripped away entirely in Victoria)
  • It is clear that the Queensland government has been strongly influenced by the peak private provider body, ACPET, which called for a functional separation between TAFE infrastructure and delivery, and complained that its members were locked out of public facilities
  • ACPET had two members on the training taskforce established by the Newman government, TAFE had no representatives
  • VET private RTOs are for-profit organisations (unlike private schools which technically cannot be for-profit) – they will be able to profit from the delivery of government funded training, purchase property and infrastructure – TAFEs will not be able to do either of these things
  • Many of the facilities purchased and owned by private for profit RTOs have been purchased with government funding
  • Queensland TAFEs will become residual providers of last chance rather than first choice – they are to deliver courses which the private sector doesn’t want to deliver because they are not profitable.

To join the campaign to support TAFE sign up at www.stoptafecuts.com.au.
Australian Education Union   

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