STATE Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews has issued a challenge to Premier Ted Baillieu to explain the reasons behind the TAFE cuts to students when he visits Ballarat next week.
Mr Andrews was in town yesterday to talk to students, staff and union members at the University of Ballarat SMB campus about the $300 million cuts announced in the state budget in May.
“A couple of weeks ago we asked Premier Baillieu in the state parliament whether as part of next week regional sitting, he’d sit down with the people his TAFE cuts are hurting – the students and teachers – and he refused to answer that question,” Mr Andrews said.
“... We can only assume ... he won’t have the courage to sit down and hear about the impacts of his cutbacks.”
The University of Ballarat, which is facing a deficit of $20 million, has undertaken staff redundancies and announced up to 60 programs would no longer be offered due to the state government slashing funding in its budget.
Mr Andrews said the people of Ballarat understood that at a time when almost one in five young people who wanted a job couldn’t find one, the last thing the community should be doing was hack into the TAFE system.
“TAFE is all about the skills that our economy needs ... the skills our young people need to get the future they are entitled to and Mr Baillieu’s TAFE cuts make it harder,” he said.
“I am prepared to listen the difficulties, the pain, the hardships these savage TAFE cuts are afflicting upon young people and those who work in our TAFE sector.”
However, Mr Andrews refused to offer a guarantee that Labor would reinstate the funding if back in power.
“We’ll have a clear TAFE, employment and training policy,” he said. “We’ll release that in good time.”
SMB student Tom Dalton, 23, said he was unsure what the future would bring for him. He said he hoped the Premier would explain the cuts.
“Premier Baillieu needs to come down and have a chat with us,” he said.
“But he is pretty gutless. When he was in town last time he just walked through a crowd of people and didn’t even look past.”
A government spokesperson said the Premier’s schedule had not been finalised.