Petersham TAFE West Street campus is the latest victim of the Baird Government's ideological war on TAFE. Staff and students have been told the campus will close by the end of 2016. Some were told to pack their bags by the end of the week. The campus has a long history as a public education facility and is home to the Media and Radio School, to childcare courses and language studies, and to crucial services, including the library and security. The campus is also home to the important events and programs run by the Sydney Institute's Outreach program. This program targets vulnerable and marginalised people outside the traditional education system, including migrant women, homeless and transient youth and the unemployed—essentially, the people who will benefit most from the vocational education and training best provided by TAFE. While it appears in the short term that courses, students and staff will be relocated to other TAFE campuses, I am concerned about what happens in the long term and that staff be given firm guarantees that they will keep their jobs.
The loss of West Street campus also represents something much larger. West Street campus is the canary in the coalmine for TAFE services across New South Wales. Under its Smart and Skilled program, this Government has cut $1.7 billion from education and training. It has sacked 5,200 TAFE teachers and support staff. It has increased student fees dramatically, putting vocational training out of reach for many who want and need it most. Enrolments have fallen by 126,000 students. Twenty-seven TAFE sites had been previously flagged for sale, and Petersham TAFE West Street campus makes it 28. Meanwhile, the Government has held on to $267 million that should otherwise have gone to TAFE.
The Government will claim that it needs to close the campus because demand for TAFE courses in the inner west has fallen. Yes, we know that under Smart and Skilled enrolments at Sydney TAFE have fallen by 20 per cent. But if the Government raises student fees, cuts courses and strips TAFE of the resources it requires to deliver the highest standard of vocational training, of course demand will fall. At the same time, rather than protecting the interests of students, this Government has turned a blind eye while private colleges fleece young people to line the pockets of dodgy operators.
It does not have to be this way. Labor has a plan to fix it. Labor has a bill before the Parliament to cap funding for private colleges and to guarantee that 70 per cent of all funding for vocational training is reserved for TAFE. This will restore TAFE as the primary provider of vocational training and restore students' faith and confidence in TAFE. It will support the amazing staff who work in TAFE colleges across the State and it will put an end to the fire sale of TAFE assets and campuses that we are seeing under this Government.
The truth is that this Government refuses to make the proper investments in TAFE because it stands opposed to public education and is addicted to the sugar hit that comes from selling off public assets. The last thing the inner-west community wants to see is Petersham TAFE West Street campus sold to developers. It is an important inner-west landmark with a storied and valued history as a public education facility. It was once Petersham Girls' High School. It should be kept, if not as a TAFE campus, as a public education facility. The schools in the inner west are some of the best in the country, but any parent or teacher will tell you that they are bursting at the seams.
On top of the demand that exists already, the Baird Government plans thousands of extra dwellings as part of the new Parramatta Road plan and the mass rezonings along the Sydenham to Bankstown line. These plans have been light on detail about the provision of essential community services that make our cities liveable. We have seen no information about hospitals, childcare centres or precious open space for children to play in. We have not heard a single thing about public education.
I call on the Government to maintain Petersham TAFE West Street campus as a public education facility. The inner west does not need yet more blocks of apartments; it needs more public education facilities. I also call on the Government to reverse the cuts and to reinvest in our TAFE system. TAFE future-proofs our economy. It provides opportunities for young people who want to learn a trade and obtain the skills they need for employment. TAFE also provides a crucial second chance to the many students who fall through the cracks of our education system or our society more broadly. They rely on TAFE to get back on their feet and to move forward with their lives. The loss of Petersham TAFE West Street campus is a tragedy for the inner west. TAFE is too important to lose. We must fight to ensure that it continues to serve the people of New South Wales.