BAILLEAU’S ENTRÉE NOT TO HIS TASTE?
Today was the first spring day in Geelong this season that actually felt hot and I joined a noisy, vocal crowd of several hundred people gathered outside the Mercure Hotel in the centre of Geelong. We were there, uninvited, to join Victorian Liberal Premier Ted Baillieau at a lunch/meeting with VECCI (http://www.vecci.org.au), Victoria’s most influential employers group, servicing 15,000 businesses a year. We were protesting the Baillieau government’s plan to rip more than $200 million from the state’s TAFE system (http://www.tafe4all.org.au/). This is a system that caters for more than 400, 000 students across Victoria each year, mostly in trade and technical skills.
Unfortunately Ted heard we were coming and just had time for an entrée before heading out the back door before we arrived. Bit rude Ted. Sounds like the sort of thing you might do when the rellies from hell were coming to lunch. The Geelong Advertiser did call us ‘gatecrashers’ (http://www.geelongadvertiser.com.au/article/2012/10/15/353059_news.html). But this was a party that deserved gatecrashing. The rally was made up of students, staff, teachers and unions concerned about what this decision will mean. It is what Colin Long, NTEU Victorian Division Secretary described as ‘social vandalism.’
Trades Hall secretary Tim Gooden pointed out that: “Employers (those inside having lunch) need the trained workers as much as the workers need a job. They’ve got to think about their own businesses and where they are going to get the skilled people in the future.”
The Gordon TAFE in Geelong has been training students since 1888 but this decision has already caused staff redundancies and loss of courses. The flow-on effect to Geelong businesses will be enormous. This is the place where twelve years ago I did my first course in Professional Writing and which launched my writing career. Another speaker pointed out today that it’s a bit rich for the Liberal party lately to whinge about ‘class warfare’ when this is the sort of decision that will have greatest impact on students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
Even on financial grounds this is an irresponsible decision. Destroying education and employment possibilities for young people will only lead to a greater financial (not to mention human) burden on resources. Research conducted by VCOSS and the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria (YACVic) which resulted in the report, Who’s carrying the can? A report into youth services gaps in Victoria identified the need for generalist youth services across Victoria because currently large gaps exist in the availability of youth services resulting in many young people not being able to access support until they reach crisis point. With the loss of good public education the gaps can only get larger.
So as the banners get folded up and our outraged cries faded across the city, what difference did such a rally make? This is part of a larger campaign (http://www.tafe4all.org.au/takeaction.html ) against a government which holds power by just one seat and because the results of these cuts have such serious social longterm effects, the campaign will certainly continue. Hopefully Baillieau will be forced to reverse this decision before we get to the main course.