Minister Birmingham comments about basket weaving TAFE course causes social media storm

Simon Birmingham’s attempt to be smugly dismissive of Labor’s budget-reply commitment to TAFE funding has set off a social media storm, with thousands of TAFE graduates showing their support for TAFE and the positive effect their qualifications have had on their lives and careers.

In the budget reply speech, Federal opposition leader Bill Shorten announced that if elected to Government the Federal ALP will guarantee that $2 of every $3 of Vocational Education funding goes to TAFE.

The ALP has stated they will increase Vocational Education funding by $470 million, whilst the Federal Coalition Government will cut funding by $270 million.

In a doorstop interview on 11 May, Minister Birmingham attempted to play down Labor’s funding commitment, saying:

“the last time the Labor Party played in the vocational education space all we got was the disastrous VET FEE-HELP program that subsidised everything from energy healing to basket weaving and saw billions of taxpayer dollars rorted and tipped down the sink”

What Minister Birmingham did not acknowledge was that while the VET-FEE HELP program began in 2009, it was not until the coalition took power in 2013 and further deregulated the scheme that loans jumped from less than $900million to nearly $6billion by 2015.

The Guardian article quoted Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen, “Birmingham’s remarks were insulting to TAFE and its teachers.”

The comment by Minister Birmingham equating TAFE qualifications with “basket weaving” saw hundreds of TAFE graduates, teachers and supporters angrily respond on social media. Many people saw the comments by the Minister as a criticism of their own TAFE qualifications that had given them employment. Many people on twitter illustrated how TAFE courses had turned their lives around.

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