Australia

Federal government 'insulting' TAFE: Labor

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen has hit out at the federal education minister's criticism of a decision to scrap the upfront fees for 100,000 TAFE students.

Labor has hit out at the federal government's criticism of a decision to fund the upfront fees for 100,000 TAFE students.

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".

But shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said Senator Birmingham's remarks were insulting to TAFE and its teachers.

"What he's talking about last time was a relationship with private sector providers, not all of whom were entirely reputable with all due respect with those who are reputable," Mr Bowen told Sky News on Sunday.

"Guess what, TAFE is reputable."

Mr Bowen said Labor's plan will 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, calling on him to reflect on his criticism.

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