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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 30 June 2011) . . Page.. 3162 ..

The environment is changing. I have been alluding to this, yelling at people in some instances to get attention to this, for a number of years, in fact. This reform has been a long time coming, but it is coming. There is no avoiding it and we must respond. The best way to encapsulate the change that is coming is that it will be very much student centred.

It will not be a case of the training provider deciding which courses they offer and hoping that students come and enrol. The funding will follow students. That means that there has to be change. That can be very confronting for some who have been busily going about their business of providing worthwhile and socially useful training courses at the CIT for a number of years and doing a fantastic job.

But if the enrolments are not there and competition comes from the private sector, from other TAFEs and from other higher education institutions in this contested space within the Australian training framework, we can have all the conversations we want in this place about the need to pour more and more money in. That will not solve the issue.

I do not think I can stress this anymore. This will be the biggest issue that we have to resolve in this calendar year. I intend to take Professor Bradley’s advice very seriously and to engage in an extensive debate. I do note that the precursor to all of this was the learning capital work. There was an extensive committee representing a variety of stakeholders in this area that has spent more than a year examining all of these issues and making a series of recommendations.

Flowing from those recommendations was a request for a specific piece of work around CIT and UC. Professor Bradley is undertaking that. The national landscape and the changes have been known for some time. Skills Australia, the national body, has made a series of recommendations and the federal government has put $1.75 billion on the table for reform of public TAFE. They have also put an equivalent amount of money on the table in terms of structural adjustment funding in the higher education sector.

I think that Ms Hunter is absolutely right in her observation, and this came up in estimates. There are significant threats but there are also significant opportunities. In this context, we must seriously engage with these issues. That will undoubtedly mean taking decisions that not everyone will agree with. I do not believe that there will be an outcome throughout this that will keep every single stakeholder happy. It would be ideal if there was, but seeing and observing the somewhat entrenched positions that I am seeing already in the conversations I have had to date, I think it will be difficult to achieve an outcome that keeps every stakeholder happy. We would be deluding ourselves if we thought we could.

The decision we have to make is what is best for education and training in the ACT and what will ensure that our institutions, of which we are rightly proud, have a viable future in the long term. I take this matter very seriously. I repeat that it is the most significant decision that we will have to make as an Assembly later this year.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

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