Labor has hit out at the federal government’s criticism of a decision to fund the upfront fees for 100,000 Tafe students.
The education minister, Simon Birmingham, has questioned the announcement contained in Bill Shorten’s budget reply speech, saying the promise to give more money to state governments comes with no clarity about which courses will be covered.
He said the last time Labor made changes in vocational education what resulted was a “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”.
Bowen said Labor’s plan would prioritise courses in the national interest, where there are skills shortages.
“To suggest somehow Tafe courses are dodgy is an absolute insult by Simon Birmingham,” he said.
Bowen said the government’s seven-year plan for tax cuts was a “cruel and sick joke” and relief should be implemented sooner.
“[The government has] tried to make this about seven years time instead of what we can all do in the next term,” Bowen told Sky News on Sunday.
He said he was happy for the upcoming byelections and federal election to be fought on tax, with Labor supporting cuts for low- and middle-income earners announced in last week’s budget – although would effectively double them in government.