02/05/2017 - 12:55

Four-year freeze on Tafe fees

02/05/2017 - 12:55

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The state government has frozen Tafe fees for all courses over the next four years in the hopes of giving more people an opportunity to have an affordable education.

Four-year freeze on Tafe fees
Premier Mark McGowan with Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The state government has frozen Tafe fees for all courses over the next four years in the hopes of giving more people an opportunity to have an affordable education, but has attracted criticism for introducing a property surcharge to fund the move.

The cost of the freeze is estimated at $11.8 million over the four years, and will be paid for by the new Foreign Buyers Surcharge, premier Mark McGowan said today.

He said under the previous state government, Tafe fees increased by up to 510 per cent, which led to a drop in enrolments, but students now had certainty there would be no more increases in his first term of government. 

"The freeze on Tafe fees was an important election commitment that I'm pleased we have delivered," Mr McGowan said.

"We recognise the importance of Tafe in preparing young Western Australians for the best possible start to their working lives.  

"Today's announcement will encourage Western Australians into training to create more opportunities in important industries."

Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery said the government should be encouraging people into the training sector at a time of economic stress and a soft labour market.

"The previous government's Tafe fee increases put Tafe out of reach for many Western Australians," she said.

"The McGowan government's Tafe fee freeze will encourage Western Australians back into the training sector and create more jobs."

The Foreign Buyers Surcharge, another election commitment made by the state government, is a 4 per cent surcharge on property taxes for foreign buyers of residential property in WA.

Urban Development Institute of Australia WA boss Allison Hailes said the organisation strongly opposed the new foreign buyer's surcharge, labelling it a critical mistake in terms of the health of the property market in Perth and WA.

"The residential property market in WA will play a major role in supporting our struggling state economy over the next few years,” Ms Hailes said. 

“To take a further blow on the small amount of foreign investment we have now would be detrimental to any potential property market recovery and its ability to provide a much needed stimulus to the broader WA economy. 

“We should be encouraging more overseas investment in the market, not turning it away.
 
“The fact is, WA’s current lack of a tax surcharge on foreign investment provides WA with a competitive advantage over other states in Australia and to take that away now, will only further hinder much needed foreign investment into this state.” 

Ms Hailes said with market conditions as they are, UDIA believed it was imperative that the state government rethink this "flawed" surcharge and instead work with industry to "ensure that the urban development sector is supported in its role of building a prosperous future for WA". 

“Without a strong development sector we will see further job cuts and less money flowing into the state’s economy from the land development, building and construction sectors,” Ms Hailes said. 

Opposition leader Mike Nahan was also critical, saying the surcharge would further suppress the WA property market.

“For most West Australian’s, the equity they have in their home is their biggest asset and this new tax by the McGowan Government directly threatens that asset,” Dr Nahan said.

The State School Teachers' Union welcomed the Tafe freeze, but said more action was necessary to "restore the system".

President Pat Byrne said the move was a step in the right direction.

“The four-year freeze on fees is a positive step to make Tafe more affordable and accessible at a time when the state’s economy needs trained and skilled staff in a diverse range of jobs,” she said.

“The former Barnett government effectively gutted the Tafe system, with fees in some courses increasing by more than 600 per cent over two years and huge funding cuts to the training budget.

“This led to enrolments plummeting by over 11,000 between 2013 and 2016.

“We are pleased the McGowan government has taken a first step to address this situation, but more needs to be done."

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