Page 1152 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 4 May 2022

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foundations through a positive funding partnership. The ACT government is open to pursuing significant reforms, like activity-based funding, in a phased and measured way. However, rapid transitions that force change on the sector before it is ready would run counter to all Australian governments’ shared ownership of the national training system and quality improvement goals.

The ACT government has strong concerns about several aspects of the current federal government’s proposed funding model. Chief among these are the risk of cuts to public providers like CIT and the risk of higher fees for students. Public providers are at the core of the Australian training system, yet the Morrison government’s proposed model would reduce funding and long-term funding certainty for public providers in many instances.

The proposed efficient national pricing model does not take account of the very real differences in cost of delivery between public and private providers. Here in Canberra our public provider, the CIT, delivers training to students from all backgrounds and abilities and provides a range of course offerings not available in the private RTO market due to their limited financial return. Like other TAFEs around Australia, this means our public provider has a higher cost structure than private equivalents. Any new funding model must recognise the unique role of public providers and ensure that they are properly and sustainably funded for the long term.

There is also a risk that the proposed funding model leads to significant increases in student fees for many courses which are essential to meeting current and future skills needs. The ACT government has modelled the impact on local fees using some of the federal government’s own pricing data developed by the National Skills Commission. This highlights a range of worrying potential fee hikes. For example, the student fee for a diploma of early childhood education and care or a diploma of community services could increase by nearly 250 per cent. We could also see higher fees for courses in other key sectors. At a time when so many businesses are struggling to find the skilled workers they need, it is unbelievable that the Morrison government has put forward a plan to make training more expensive for students, not cheaper.

These are just two of the ACT’s major concerns with the proposed national skills agreement; there are many others. In November last year we joined with all states and territories, including Liberal states, I should add, in rejecting the commonwealth’s model and setting out an alternative proposal that could form the basis for a genuine partnership on skills, going forward. The commonwealth had not responded to that proposal ahead of the federal election being called. This means there is now no chance of a new agreement being signed by the deadline of June this year. This is extremely disappointing, and we hope that whoever forms government after the 21 May election comes back to the negotiating table with a new approach.

There are encouraging signs that a new Labor government federally would take a different tack. The fact that Anthony Albanese has made free TAFE a cornerstone of Labor’s economic plan is a really strong start. Labor in government also has a strong track record of building genuine partnerships with the states and territories. After all, it was the Rudd and Gillard governments that established and expanded the current

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