“Taxation without education is tyranny”, union secretary tells Ballarat rally against TAFE cuts
TAFE staff, students and supporters gave Premier Ted Baillieu and his community cabinet the promised “warm welcome” when the Legislative Assembly sat in Ballarat and the Legislative Council in Bendigo today.
However, neither the Premier nor other government MPs ventured anywhere near either of the rallies which attracted 400 in Ballarat and 200 in Bendigo against the government cuts which rip out $20 million, 100 full-time jobs and 43 courses from the University of Ballarat TAFE and $9 million, 100 full-time jobs and 39 courses from Bendigo TAFE. Thousands of students will lose out.
The protests were organised by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), the Australian Education Union (AEU) and Save Ballarat TAFE and brought together staff, students, community members and supporters from other unions.
The Ballarat rally heard from NTEU Victorian Division Secretary Dr Colin Long, University of Ballarat Branch President Dr Jeremy Smith, Ballarat Trades & Labour Secretary Brett Edgington, AEU President Mary Bluett and four students.
Dr Long told the crowd that the University of Ballarat had taken awa some of the water-filled bollards that it had used to construct a ‘stockade’ for protestors yesterday.
“There was no other place to gather so despite our misgivings we were corralled into a holding pen – or what we chose to call ‘a new Eureka stockade’,” he said.
“Yesterday the government opened the Museum for Australian Democracy at Eureka. What a bitter irony, then, that a stockade has once again been built, but this time to protect the government from its people. It shows how scared the Baillieu Government is in facing the anger of people in Ballarat and Victoria against the vicious attacks on TAFE.
“It shows how scared Baillieu is about the real expression of democracy. It’s only the big end of town, the owners of private companies posing as training organisations that Mr Baillieu will listen to. If he won’t listen to us now, we will hound him until the next election, when we will be heard and we will consign his tawdry government to the dustbin of history.”
Dr Long said that concerns about the TAFE cuts had been raised all over the state by unions, students, staff, TAFE CEOs, business leaders, churches, school councils and school principals.
“When you combine this with the wonderful display of support for the AEU’s campaign in schools yesterday, never has there been such a concerted outpouring of anger about the treatment of education in this state,” he said.
“The TAFE cuts are hitting regional areas hardest. Jobs, courses, campuses are already gone and going. Add the cuts to fire fighting budgets announced this week, the cuts to the public service, including the Department of Primary Industries, and, once again, the pattern is clear:
“Coalition governments are bad for regional Victoria. The Minister for Education, Peter Hall, let us remember, is a National Party member. For now, anyway. Let’s see what he’s doing after the next election.”
Dr Long said that the people of Ballarat had a long history of standing up against unfair and oppressive governments.
“You have done it again today,” he told the crowd. “You will continue to do so until this government is gone and until future governments restore TAFE to its rightful place at the centre of vocational education and training in Victoria.
“In 1854 the Ballarat Reform League met at Bakery Hill to pass a resolution that formed the basis of the movement that we commemorate today as the Eureka Rebellion: “...that it is the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in making the laws he is called on to obey, that taxation without representation is tyranny’.
“We will borrow this resolution today and assert with one strong voice: ‘taxation without education is tyranny’.”
A petition of 28,000 signatures opposed to the TAFE cuts was tabled at the Legislative Assembly sitting.
In Bendigo, protestors formed a guard of dishonour for the visiting government members.
Bendigo TAFE has already made 20% of its staff redundant in 12 months prior to the cuts announced by the Baillieu Government on 1 May. Three more jobs were slashed last week – a career counsellor, student welfare officer and student services officer. More cuts are mooted for mid to late September.
Bendigo TAFE will be forced to close its Kyneton campus and cease to offer 39 courses in the areas of business management, finance, graphic design, visual arts, hospitality, retail, agriculture and shearing.
“These cuts are ripping the hearts out of Bendigo and Ballarat. Students are being left with fewer and fewer options when it comes to getting education and skills, jobs for local residents are going and local businesses and farms are losing out on both skilled staff and contracts for goods and services. It’s a stupid decision all round,” Dr Long said.
Media comment: Colin Long, Victorian Division Secretary, NTEU, 0403 920 361
More info: Carmel Shute NTEU Media Officer: 0412 569 356