A political funding carrot for TasTAFE is in the court of the Tasmanian Government after federal Labor secured national funds for vocational education.
Senator Carol Brown announced late on Thursday afternoon an agreement had been struck between the federal government and the Opposition for a new $50 million investment to upgrade TAFE infrastructure across the country.
The fund will be matched by participating states and territories but it is unclear if the Tasmanian Government will accept the funding offer to match. The government was contacted for comment.
"TasTAFE in our state has seen ongoing trouble attracting teachers, repairing facilities and meeting the needs of students. Cancellation of entire courses has been reported far too often due to TasTAFE being underfunded by state and federal Liberal governments," Senator Brown said.
This week, The Examiner has detailed how course cancellations and delays have caused students and teachers to lose faith in TasTAFE's ability to deliver quality and modern training at its campuses across the state. It also revealed the government had decided to close the Launceston city campus of TasTAFE and consolidate services to the Alanvale site.
"I call on the Premier to be first in line so our state can benefit from the $50 million funds secured by Labor. It can meet the urgent need to fix TasTAFE for the sake of industry as well as future jobs for Tasmanians," Senator Brown said.
The deal was secured in exchange for Labor's support for the government's emergency response fund, which was debated in the Senate on Thursday.
Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie attempted to secure part of a $4 billion education fund that had been earmarked to be transitioned to emergency relief but was unable to secure support for that proposal.
She expressed her frustration and challenged the government to visit the Devonport TasTAFE campus, to see first-hand the ageing infrastructure.
"Come to my side of town. Come to the Devonport TAFE campus in Tasmania. Let me show you the rust, the holes, the water damage. Let me show you the equipment they're training the kids in my community with. Let me show you the date stamp that says it was manufactured during the Cold War," she said.
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"People are sick of this kind of cheap student politics in this place. You can't close down the Education Investment Fund on its merits so you change the bill to make it so the money's going to something so inoffensive that nobody could possibly object."
Senator Lambie said TAFE's were "a cornerstone or rural and regional Australia and more than training centres."
"They're landmarks. They're symbols. And when a symbol is left to fall by the wayside through a lack of investment, it says something about how that community sees itself.
"If you're not investing in training my community, you're not investing in my community. That's not alright with me."
Senator Brown said it was now up to the Tasmanian Government to seize this new funding opportunity.
"It is now up to the state Liberal government to seize this opportunity and to get on with restoring TasTAFE to a functioning education centre for skills for Tasmanians," she said.