The Abbott Government s budget will force South Australia s young adults into debt to pay for their training and education, with an estimated $400 million reduction over four years in funding across existing South Australian programs. Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills Gail Gago warned that the reductions in vocational education programs would mean fewer places for those seeking training and more economic pressure on families and individuals.
This is exactly what we warned the public about in the State election earlier this year: the Liberal Party has turned its back on those who can least afford it, with radical cuts to basic public services. The Abbott Government has obviously forgotten that apprenticeship and training programs are the keys to opening opportunities and job prospects for many of Australia s youth. Those young South Australians whose education options are limited to vocational programs, and our retrenched workers wanting to up skill, will find themselves scrambling for 20,000 fewer places a year under this budget.
That will be a shocking blow to our regions, where roughly 5,000 vocational training positions may be lost due to the funding cuts. New apprentices and trainees across South Australia will be forced to take out loans to pay for their tools and training fees, creating a financial burden for themselves and their families. And what will happen to those young people who cannot afford the training? Will this budget mean they are sitting home on their couches, on the dole? Will they move interstate or overseas in order to seek opportunities they no longer have at home in South Australia? This budget may well result in an environment where the only people who can receive an education are those who can personally afford it, Ms Gago said.
These cuts come at a time when it is clear that training that leads to jobs significantly benefits both individuals and the economy. This budget also seeks to Americanise our universities and higher education centres at the expense of the young people of Australia, who will be forced to dig into their pockets for higher fees and then pay their education debts before they can afford to. Ms Gago said Australians should be able to count on a Government dedicated to helping them with self-improvement and education to keep the country competitive rather than shifting the economic burden back to the states. This budget recalls the painful higher education cuts of the Howard era, when universities hiked fees, HECS payments rose and the repayment salary was drastically reduced. Similarly, the Abbott Government is ignoring equal opportunity for all Australians, just as Stephen Marshall would have done as Premier of South Australia.