THE Victorian government has defended its cuts to the state’s TAFE sector, calling the system unsustainable and too costly for taxpayers.
Speaking during a visit to Ballarat yesterday, Treasurer Kim Wells said Victorian taxpayers couldn’t be expected to pay for a system which had blown out in cost from $800m to $1.3 billion in just two years.
“The system we inherited from the previous Labor government had no capping, meaning anyone could do any course at any time, anywhere and expect the taxpayer to pay for it,” Mr Wells said.
“At the end of the day you have to look at it and say “this is just not right” and . . . the taxpayer has to think it isn’t fair anymore.”
Mr Wells did not respond directly to questions about comments by upper house Liberal MP Simon Ramsay that reaction to the cuts represented “hysteria” and that the “party is over” for the TAFE sector.
Mr Ramsay said this week that protests to the cuts had been turned into “political opportunism”, including by the Labor opposition.
University of Ballarat vice-chancellor David Battersby told a Committee for Ballarat breakfast the cuts would have a deleterious impact on the community, including on the horse racing industry.
“As a result of the (government funding) decisions that have been made, it is likely we will have to get out of racing education,” Dr Battersby said.
“That’s a tragedy and it is one of these deleterious impacts at a lower level in terms of this relatively blunt instrument that is being used to rejig the subsidies around training.”
He said primary industries training and aspects of aged care would also suffer as a result of the cuts.
Ballarat West MP Sharon Knight called for Mr Wells to meet TAFE staff and students from the University of Ballarat face to face.
“The Baillieu government has outrageously attacked TAFE providers following this decision and I’d expect that the Treasurer would want to meet with staff and their union representatives to explain the cuts,” Ms Knight said.
“If for no other reason than to apologise for Mr Ramsay’s slur, I think the Treasurer must be very keen to meet with these teachers.
“This callous spin insults the great training provided by the University of Ballarat and the dedicated teachers who provide it.”