Why 70% – TAFE and government funding

First things first.  I am a supporter of a properly funded, efficient and effective public provider system (TAFE) in Vocational Education and Training.  I have always said, as those of you who read my blog regularly will know that TAFE can and does do fantastic things and should be supported to do those things. So that being said let me move on to what I want to talk about today.

For about a week a now I have been trying to get an answer to what I thought would be a fairly simple question.  In fact when I first asked it on social media early last week, I expected to be inundated with responses telling me what the answer was and where to find the information that I sought.  Instead no one said anything, there was no response at all, which I found to be a little surprising.  So I took my question and I asked around a little more privately in case there was something I was missing, what I got was some vague references to the education unions and the AEU. So I thought I will ask the AEU then and I got no response.  So then yesterday, I thought surely someone on LinkedIn will know the answer so again I asked and again the best answer I got seemed to references to the AEU and there stop TAFE cuts campaign, but no actual answer to my question.

So what you may well ask was my question?  Is was simply;


Where did this figure of 70% of Government funding come from?  


To explain what I mean.  There has been quite a lot of publicity lately from the Education unions, some politicians and from people with the TAFE system about TAFE getting 70% of all government funding.  Now depending on the post or the article or speech you listen to the words around the 70% change, need, require, should get, even deserves have been words I have seen associated with it.  The guts of the argument appears to be that TAFE should get 70% of all government funding because it needs to have that much in order to provide the service it needs to provide.  Now if TAFE needs that sum of money, whatever that actual figure is (and I might touch on that later), to operate effectively and efficiently and provide Australians with a good return on money we put into it, then I am not averse to that.  So what may you ask is my problem?

My problem is I want to see the figures.  I simply want to know who came up with it and using what data.  Where are the figures, or the report or the research that sits behind this idea that TAFE should get 70% of government funding.  Now remember I am not saying it shouldn’t.  I am simply saying show me the figures.  I want to see the research.  Why do I want to know this?  Well a couple of reasons really, firstly I (as some of you might have noticed) like to troll through data and see what pops up.  Secondly given the amount of money (across all states and commonwealth) that we are talking about here, I want to know its right.  I want to know if someone figured out how much it cost to run all of the TAFEs in all of the states (I would love to know what that figure was too) and found out it was around 70% of the total VET budget for that year and went well that’s how much they need, or if they looked at unit costs and enrollments and additional services and infrastructure and maintenance costs and ran it through a formula and came up with a figure which turns out to be about 70% of government funding.

The other problem is this.  Surely any kind of formula or calculation would have come up with a dollar figure rather than a percentage figure.  So if it turns out that TAFE requires 70% of the current budget of government funding and a government then decides that it is going to add say $100 million to the amount of funding what should happen to that additional money.  Food for thought I think.

Here is the thing I want to know where this figure came from, so I am formally issuing a challenge to anyone one in any of the Unions, or Sharon Bird MP or Bill Shorten himself, The Greens, or who ever,  to tell me where this figure comes from.  Here is the deal as well, if this is just an ideological position, or a ‘well we can actually say we think we should have all of it because no one will wear that position,’ I don’t actually care.  I really just want someone to tell me what this figure is and what it actually means and I will take an answer from anyone about where this figure comes from.  However,  I am pretty sure that if none responds, and no one can show me where this 70% came from then that is an answer in and of itself.

Anyway that’s just my opinion.


About pauldrasmussen
Paul Rasmussen is one of Australia’s most widely read Vocational Education and Training Commentators. He provides deep, unbiased analysis and insights not only on topical issues, but also on the underlying structure and policy which supports the industry. His writing and analysis has been praised for its uncompromising and thought provoking style and its ability to focus on the issues of real importance to the sector. He has advised various government departments and ministers, training providers, public and private organisations, not for profits and small to medium enterprises on the VET sector and the issues and opportunities facing it. He is one of Australia’s most awarded learning professionals and a regular speaker at a range of conventions and forums. His extensive experience in vocational education, and learning and development coupled with formal qualifications in philosophy, ethics, business and education management allow Paul to provide a unique view of the road ahead and how to navigate it.

9 Responses to Why 709 – TAFE and government funding

  1. Barry Hansen says:

    Paul, In my experience public service departments do not have any idea as to how much money they actually need. They certainly cannot explain where the money goes or why. In my dealings with both federal and state education and foreign aid spending they just simply have no idea. Their usual explanation is that it is too complex to explain. That is, if you can get any response at all.

    I agree with you that TAFE has a place in our society but, as with most public service operations, it has become simply a cash cow for the employees and their unions. Salaries, on costs and waste have far exceeded what is necessary for any business to operate in the 21st century.

    However, the unions, particularly the AEU, have such total control over the governments that they will continue to bleed the system until the well runs dry. That time has come and gone and we are now borrowing money to keep them in the lifestyles they have become accustomed to.

    The 70% figure is, in my opinion, purely fictitious to make a point. Will someone prove me wrong? I think not. Keep digging though.

    It is about time taxpayers’ funds were fully accounted for. Most people would be shocked if they were made aware of what these public owned authorities do with their hard earned cash.

    God help you though if you speak up about it while employed by a public service authority because you will become a “targeted troublemaker” and subjected to the most horrific bullying, harassment and indignity.

    Any investigation will find that the activities are “satisfactory” and no action taken. Your money is theirs to spend as freely as they wish no matter how wasteful the spending. There is no accountability because of tenure.

    It will require a huge effort fully backed by all political parties as well as the people to fix what is in my opinion a totally unworkable, dysfunctional, public service system with its base in the British feudal system combined with a mix of socialist idealism.

    Well, that’s my rant for the day but let someone attempt to prove me wrong.

    I had a friend once whose saying was “you can’t make strawberry jam out of pigshit”. He worked for TAFE.

  2. rivnat zaya says:

    Dear Paul TAFE should not automatically get the 70% or whatever.  This is what the past problems at TAFE were.  TAFE as an Institution could have been great and it was great at one time. The educational senior staff at TAFE became more interested in the funding to keep their jobs, instead of offering the students real learning anything to increase their prospects and real skills to prepare for knowledgeable work practices, as well as getting into the job.  Employer had students from TAFE who knew very little, all shallow knowledge, lack of application. At TAFE, it was a throughput system (how many students could be retained in the first 3-4 weeks), tick and flick for Assessment, despite Valid Assessments, which could be manipulated to pass the students. TAFE needs to earn whatever % it wants on its successful accomplishments, like any other private Institution and compete, and not how many students it puts through the courses with the sole aim of funding, whether they (students) want to learn or just collect the dole on the way.  Control at TAFE was handed to students and teh students knew how to manipulate as it also serves teh seat warming staff on big pension from past era arrangements, which the country cannot afford without taxing heavily. No money is free for anyone, it has to be earned and taken from teh pockets of tax payers to suit a few at TAFE. CheersTony

    From: Vocational Education and training – An Australian Perspective To: hotchukki@yahoo.com Sent: Wednesday, 27 April 2016, 9:46 Subject: [New post] Why 70% – TAFE and government funding #yiv5726046850 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv5726046850 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv5726046850 a.yiv5726046850primaryactionlink:link, #yiv5726046850 a.yiv5726046850primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv5726046850 a.yiv5726046850primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv5726046850 a.yiv5726046850primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv5726046850 WordPress.com | pauldrasmussen posted: “First things first.  I am a supporter of a properly funded, efficient and effective public provider system (TAFE) in Vocational Education and Training.  I have always said, as those of you who read my blog regularly will know that TAFE can and does do fan” | |

  3. Tom Carpenter says:

    Hi Paul. I could be wrong, but the 2016 Productivity Commission Report on Government Services shows in Table 5A.1 that Government real recurrent expenditure for VET in 2014 (most recent data available) was $5.221 billion of which $1.497 billion (Table 5A.9) was for payments to non-TAFE providers. % allocation to TAFE was therefore 71%. The proportion to TAFE in previous years was larger.

  4. Bill gammon says:

    In SA the government directed over 95% of government funding in 2015. Propping up the inevitable. Wrote Jay a letter and he wrote back to say it will end in 2017! We’ll see. Make all the funding contestable, and make TAFE pay rent for their Publicly Funded Facilities, like we do as an RTO. Might level the playing field.

  5. Tony Kennedy says:

    Hi Paul. Happy to be corrected, but my understanding of of the allocation in Tasmania is that 80% goes to the Public Provider, of which 90% of that is wages.

    • pauldrasmussen says:


      You are right, the figure in QLD is higher than 70% as well, same in NSW, and SA. Vic seems to be the only state where the figure is lower than 70

  6. Mark Jones says:

    Great question Paul…as you know here in QLD it is very cyclic. It appears every five years or so we go through this morphis of reinventing TAFE…then it fails to deliver and then we go back to private providers and then it goes around in circles again five years later. MJ

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