There is no more important role of government than providing young Australians with access to a decent education. Education is the great enabler. It is the springboard to a decent job and security in life. It ensures Australians have higher living standards and our economy is more productive.
In the past, Australia has had one of the best technical and further education systems in the world. TAFE has provided equitable, affordable access to trades and further education for millions of Australian kids to give them the skills to get a good, secure job—skills that boost our economy and increase our living standards.
Unfortunately, the Liberals have changed that. The Abbott and Baird governments have smashed the New South Wales TAFE system. They have made it harder for our kids to access TAFE training to get a decent education—a springboard into a good job. This is not just a view that I hold; it is also the view of many in our community.
I wish to quote some examples of the letters that people have written to me outlining their issues with TAFE. Maggie of Kingsford writes:
I am a person living with multiple disabilities. However, in the right job, I believe I can work, and I want to work. I very much want to earn an income. But even though I have tried very hard to find a job, I have not been successful. When I went to TAFE to enrol in certificate III in jewellery trade at Enmore, I discovered that the cost was $11,070.
In 2014, under the current system before Smart and Skilled, I would have been able to enrol in this course for free under fee exemption for people with a disability. Even without fee exemption, certificate III courses cost $419 in 2014. So the cost has gone up by $10,651 in one year.
Christine, of Maroubra—a 50-year-old woman who has had to leave work due to ill health—writes:
To regain employment I have enrolled in a certificate III in travel and tourism, which was to cost me an affordable $580 or near to. As I will never be able to return to the type of job that I've held within the aviation industry for nearly 26 years, I need to obtain a diploma to start a small business up. I've been absolutely floored to find out that I will have to pay up to $6,000 to complete a six-month diploma and that the certificate III course is approximately $4,000 to $5,000.
They are the views of people in our community.
The New South Wales Liberal government, the Baird government, have deregulated TAFE through their Smart and Skilled program. They have cut $1.7 billion from the TAFE system and 1,100 TAFE teachers and support staff have been sacked—and we have just heard the result.
This gives us an insight into what will occur if universities in Australia are deregulated, as the Abbott government wish to do. Fees will go through the roof, as they have in TAFE. In the 2014-15 budget, the Abbott government cut $2 billion from technical and further education support in this country—$66 billion cut from the adult apprentice program; 10,000 training places cut in the skills for education and employment program; $43.8 million cut from the skills for education and employment program; and the Tools for Your Trade program was wiped out.
This has led to thousands of members of our community returning a petition to my electorate opposing the Abbott and Baird governments' TAFE cuts and supporting TAFE in New South Wales, and I thank those members of our community who have returned that petition. I will present it to the parliament in the coming weeks as it is still returning to the office.
The result of all these reforms is that it makes it harder for our kids to access a quality education. A good education is the key to a decent job, to starting a family, to buying a home and to security in a person's life. All this is being undermined by the Abbott and Baird governments. It says everything about how the Liberal governments in New South Wales and federally value education in this country. I am opposed to these TAFE cuts, and I thank the members of our community who are supporting the campaign to restore funding for TAFE in New South Wales.