Education and Training Reform Amendment (Skills) Bill 2011

I rise to speak on the Education and Training Reform Amendment (Skills) Bill 2011, and I say at the outset that the opposition does not oppose the bill. Essentially this is a technical bill that amends the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 in order to make the necessary changes to the current provisions in regard to activities of TAFE and adult education institutes that occur outside Victoria.

The bill makes it clear that Victoria’s TAFE and adult education institutes can operate interstate and overseas — that is a good thing — and it validates past activities so that TAFE institutes are considered to have always had those powers and functions beyond state borders. The bill also amends the Accident Compensation Act 1985 in order to ensure that insurance coverage through WorkCover is provided to students who undertake work placements. As I have many students in my electorate who undertake work placements, that amendment is a very pleasing thing for them and their families. This also includes work experience and structured workplace learning placements of senior secondary students who are undertaking their education with a secondary education provider that is not a school. In my electorate there are many students undertaking such placements, many of whom go to Narre Community Learning Centre.

The changes presented in this bill are necessary, which is why we will not be opposing them.

However, I find the bill’s overall objectives and the Baillieu government’s overall objects in this area quite curious.

While on the one hand it is making sure that students have appropriate insurance coverage during work placements, despite what we have just heard from the member for Caulfield, the government’s undermining of TAFEs means that next year there will be fewer students undertaking work placements. There is no doubt about that. If you look at the budget papers and do not try to put a gloss on them on behalf of your friends on the front bench, you will see that there has been a cut of around $250 million in funding for TAFEs and vocational training providers.

There is no doubt that these cuts will force student fees to skyrocket and providers will be forced to cut courses.

If you go out and talk to your local TAFE providers, especially the large ones, you hear that this is the problem they are very much grappling with at the moment, as they are trying to deal with these cuts and get their budgets back in order. As the member for Eltham clearly said — this was so poorly put down by members opposite — when he was talking about the very real job cuts that are happening in the TAFE sector at this moment — —

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! I bring the member back to the bill. It is a very narrow bill, and I ask her to focus on the bill.

Ms GRALEY — With due respect, Deputy Speaker, people have been given very wide range. The member for Caulfield spoke about that. I am responding to his concerns — —

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The Chair has just asked the member to come back to the bill. It is a narrow bill. Lead speakers are always given a wider opportunity to speak. I am in the Chair. If the member wishes to challenge my ruling, that is up to her. Please speak on the bill.

Mr Noonan — On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, I do not want to cut into the member’s time, but I raised this very issue during the member for Caulfield’s contribution and the Speaker, who was in the chair, not 5 minutes ago allowed a great deal of latitude on the basis that this was a reasonably wide-ranging debate. That was just 5 minutes ago.

Mr Gidley — On the point of order, Deputy Speaker, my recollection of the contribution by the member for Caulfield was that it was very much on the narrow focus of the bill and the effect of the bill on the industry — —

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! We are discussing the member for Narre Warren South’s contribution.

Mr Herbert — On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, with due respect in terms of your ruling, the problem we have here appears to be that we have had two different people in the chair and different rulings have been given. Whilst I was given some latitude in terms of my contribution, a point of order was raised about a speaker on the other side and a wide-ranging contribution was allowed. I would think that the same courtesy should be extended in this instance.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! It is very difficult for me; I do not know in what the context the latitude was given. I ask all speakers to speak on the legislation before the house.

Ms GRALEY — I am going to respond to some of the comments made by the member for Caulfield, because I think it is my right as a member of Parliament to respond to some very inaccurate comments that reflect poorly and have a great effect on members of my constituency. The member for Caulfield was up here saying that cuts to the Victorian certificate of learning (VCAL) are not impacting on schools. An article in today’s Age on the Premier’s report card says that VCAL cuts are impacting badly on schools — —

Mr Gidley — On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, it is clear that the member is ignoring your ruling. The bill is not about VCAL or comments that may or may not have been made about VCAL; the bill relates to the activities of TAFE institutions.

I ask you to bring the speaker back to the bill and to cease defying your ruling.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! I do not uphold the point of order at this moment. I am listening carefully to the direction the member is intending to take on this bill.

Ms GRALEY — As I said, I was responding to the comments of the member for Caulfield because they need to be responded to. The fact is that the cuts to TAFEs and to VCAL are having a really great effect on the families of my electorate. If you do not believe me, I will read you a letter that has been sent to me — —

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The member for Narre Warren South should address her comments through the Chair and ignore interjections — —

Ms GRALEY — And I suggest that the member for Burwood should listen up.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The member for Narre Warren South should address her comments through the Chair and ignore interjections.

Ms GRALEY — I will read this letter because it is from a parent who has written to me about the cuts to education funding.

Mr Watt interjected.

Ms GRALEY — ‘This is our challenge now’, she says. The member for Burwood should listen up. She goes on to say:

Hillcrest offers only VCE, and there is no point in my son Jesse going down this pathway. Our only option is to apply to do VCAL certificate 1 in sound and lighting. I have contacted Narre Warren South P-12 College to enrol Jesse, and they informed me that there is a waiting list of 200 students for next year.

The member for Caulfield has been up here saying that there has been no impact on VCAL and TAFE funding, that funds have not been cut, that fees are not going up and in fact that nobody will miss out on work placements — —

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! I bring the member back to the bill, or I will sit her down.

Ms GRALEY — As the bill deals specifically with work placements and the ability of students to undertake work placements, what I am concerned about here is that there are over 200 students on a waiting list who will not be able to go to school next year, who will not be able to enter a TAFE and who will not be able to get a work placement because, firstly, they are on a waiting list and, secondly, they will not be able to afford it. I would really like to hear from those opposite about what is going to happen to the 200 students on the waiting list at my school. I would really like the minister to come in here and face up to us and tell us what is going to happen. I would like him to ring up this mother — —

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The member for Narre Warren South has finished her contribution.

Ms GRALEY — As with — —

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The member for Narre Warren South was advised that if she continued to direct her remarks away from the bill, I would not hear her.

Mr Herbert — On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, I seek some clarity. The member was speaking about VCAL, which is directly related to clause 13 of the bill, which is about the capacity of registered providers to provide work placements in Victoria. That is exactly what the training provider that the member for Narre Warren South was talking about does, but it cannot do so for 200 students. I am not sure why, when there were 36 seconds to go — —

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The member for Narre Warren South was at that time not speaking about the bill.