NSW Labor is demanding Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen explain why he refuses to stand up to Sydney politicians who are selling Scone TAFE out from under his community.
Labor used the powers of Parliament to access Government documents regarding Scone TAFE. They reveal that instead of fighting the sale, Johnsen asked for talking points to help spin the story to local media.
The documents also show that the Government is planning to privatise the facility for only $3 million, which is less than what it cost to build decades ago.
It comes amid stunning revelations during yesterday’s Budget Estimates at NSW Parliament that secret negotiations with Racing NSW have been underway since the middle of last year, raising questions about when Mr Johnsen knew about plans for the sale.
In 2016, Mr Johnsen explicitly said that Scone TAFE would not be closing, but the online real estate listing was discovered in January, with expressions of interest sought by the end of last month. Parts of the property will be leased back to TAFE, but only briefly, and within a couple of years TAFE NSW will have no presence on the site and the campus will be fully privatised.
The NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay visited the site for the second time since January to call on the Government to stop the sale of the Scone campus.
“This Government has run TAFE into the ground. They’ve sold campuses, cut courses and are sacking more staff. They’ve already gutted our TAFE system and now they want to sell off what’s left for less than it cost to build,” Ms McKay said.
“Right now Scone and other country towns all over NSW need TAFE more than ever. Michael Johnsen is showing he cares more about his career in Sydney than his community. He has broken this promise and sold out the people of the Upper Hunter.”
Labor Spokesperson for the Upper Hunter John Graham said: “The local member is letting down his community. He should be fighting for public TAFE education in his electorate not asking for help to spin a story. It’s disgraceful.”
The Shadow Minister for the Hunter Clayton Barr said: “This is a terrible deal for Scone. Almost one in five young people are unemployed in the Hunter. TAFE should be a Government priority to boost job security for young people and address skills gaps.”
The Shadow Minister for Skills and TAFE Jihad Dib added: “This latest sell-off is a warning to the rest of the State. The only thing we don’t know is which campus is next. This is another example of an out-of-touch Government that thinks closing and selling TAFE campuses is a good idea in the middle of a skills crisis and massive youth unemployment figures.”