LOCALS were sure to let the Upper Hunter by-election candidates know they remain unhappy with the Scone TAFE sale at the NSW Farmers community forum on Wednesday night.
Steve Watson asked candidates for their opinion on the sale and how they would rectify it, with nearly all candidates saying they don’t support the sale and Greens candidate Sue Abbott receiving a round of applause for her response.
Here’s what candidates had to say about the future of education and training in the Upper Hunter.
What is your opinion of the candidates regarding that sale of the Scone TAFE. If elected, what would you do to unscramble that egg?
In order of appearance.
Kirsty O’Connell: “I think part of the future of the Upper Hunter will be dependent on our ability to offer appropriate education and training in this area. I am not supportive of any further TAFE sales. My understanding is that the Scone TAFE sale is a done deal and not something that can be unravelled, I keep hearing promising sounds from the buyers about their being a mixed training facility at that campus and about there being a range of job creating opportunities. I believe three DA’s have now been submitted to Council to create jobs out of that campus, so I would really want to look at what the full plan was form the buyers. I would be really pushing to make sure we don’t lose any service offering in the area, I think that’s a really critical aspect of this. If we can’t unravel the sale, making sure that we do not lose the services and course offerings.”
Sue Gilroy: “We don’t agree with the sell-off of the TAFE. I think the other fact is that there was then an announcement that the $3 million was going to come back into the services of the TAFE of Scone, it was sold for $4 million. All of the $4 million should come back into the TAFE. We need to keep these services within our community. We don’t need a Connected Learning Centre, you can’t learn practical skills through a Connected Learning Centre, we need out TAFE’s and our schools and we need them to be funded, so I would be looking at re-opening the TAFE in Scone. We all know that if our children leave our communities for education and training, they very often don’t come back. We need to keep our kids in our communities.”
Steve Reynolds: “I don’t believe in the sale of the TAFE in Scone. We can’t undo it but what we can do is solidify what we do for moving forward for the education of our kids. I don’t want my children to have to travel away for education when they can do it here. It is enabling the agricultural courses like the tractor courses, which have different variations. I believe there should be money spent back here but also ensure it’s not going to happen anywhere else in our electorate.”
Jeff Drayton: “The sale is disgraceful. It is TAFE number 18 since 2014 that this government has sold. For anyone, if they turn up to your town and say they want a Connected Learning Centre, panic because you’re about to get your TAFE sold. I don’t deny the equine industry who purchased that TAFE will do all sorts of great stuff with it but it shouldn’t have been at the expense of public education. That TAFE got sold for $4 million, it cost three and a half million dollars on 40 acres of land in 1998. The accountant is not really good with his dollars if its only made 500,000 bucks. I think it is gone, I’m not sure there’s a lot we can do to reverse the sale but that doesn’t stop the government putting money into TAFE and rebuilding it. It was the only agricultural campus in the electorate and now we’ve lost is, so certainly when we’re all here tonight talking about agriculture, I wouldn’t have thought there would be a more important issues than agricultural TAFE campuses.”
David Layzell: “First and foremost, I think it’s really important that everyone here understands the value of training and teaching the next generation of skills they need to do their job. None of those courses will be lost through the sale of the Scone TAFE. All of those courses will continue to train but added on top of that, Racing NSW are setting up a huge equine training facility. I think the selling of the TAFE was a great deal, it’s a great deal for Scone, it’s a great deal for New South Wales and most importantly, it’s a great deal for the equine industry. It’s a great endorsement of the equine industry in this area and everyone here is basically promoting trying to push Racing NSW out into areas like the Southern Highlands. We don’t want to lose them, we want them here, we want this place here to be the centre of the equine industry, not in NSW, not in Australia, but in the world. It’s only second to Kentucky, so it’s bloody important to our economy.”
Dale McNamara: “I don’t think the TAFE should have been punished for any industry. If the TAFE is there and the TAFE was being used, then it shouldn’t have been sold. One Nation has declared that we will fund a new facility in the Upper Hunter and we have looked at different sites and talked to different Councils. I’m on a farm, on 450 acres and the chap that does my hay making, he’s 73 years of age and the problem I’m going to have is, who’s going to come and mow the hay, who’s going tom come and bale, who’s going to come and do the jobs required on a farm? Let me tell you, everybody that does that sort of work is getting older, so we need to spend the money and the money going to Sydney in coal royalties. Of that $1.1 billion from last year, One Nation will build a multi-purpose facility, we can keep people in the Upper Hunter, and develop people in the industry such as farming, hospitality, engineering, that’s what we’re pledging to do. We cannot stop and changed what’s happened. It shouldn’t have happened, there’s plenty of land out there that people could of used but One Nation will build a purpose facility with coal royalties and we will fight, talk to Councils and find the right location to build a facility to keep the community and people required in the industries we have here.”
Sue Abbott: “How dare the Coalition sell off our public TAFE in Scone, we have been completely duded. It was a building that was built and furnished for about $4.5 million back in the nineties and they sold it for $4million. It would be worth about $20 million. We don’t want $4 million back we want $20 million back here in Scone. This is public education, this is training. We’re looking at transition, we’re looking at retraining and education to go into the next renewable jobs, whatever they may be. How dare they remove that public facility. It just shows you with them diminishing the opportunities that they do not care about us here in the Upper Hunter, it is very apparent. We don’t want a $3 million shed at the back of a suburban shed opposite from Woolies, we want our TAFE back and if we can’t have that back we want $20 million here in Scone.”
Archie Lea: “As someone who went to TAFE, I believe the TAFE should stay. I’m a firm believer Australian men and women should go to TAFE for trades. Yes, I believe in TAFE, when they build another TAFE here, the two can compete and competition is good for Scone and other areas.”
Tracy Norman: “I’m not sure why everyone’s surprised that the government’s sold the TAFE, it’s just another example of them selling the farm. We need more educational facilities and opportunities in the Upper Hunter and we need public education facilities. We need a transition academy so we can upskill and train our current staff and workers and prepare the next generation and generation after that for the new economy that needs to come about in the Upper Hunter. Obviously with our established industries such as the equine, the viticulture and the agriculture. Instead of selling off a perfectly good TAFE, why don’t we increase our educational offers? I actually agree with One Nation, funnily enough, let’s build more.”
For more information on where candidates stand: Voting 101: Upper Hunter by-election.