TAFE senate inquiry outrage: hearing cancelled

A Greens-backed Senate inquiry into the TAFE system, planned for Tuesday in Wollongong, has been cancelled after Labor and Liberal members indicated they would not attend.

The hearing was to be held at City Beach Function Centre.

Committee chair Western Australia Labor senator Sue Lines said she and two other Labor senators would not attend after the Coalition could not find members for the hearing.

Senate quorum rules require at least one Labor and one Coalition member in attendance for a hearing to proceed. 

“It’s not any coincidence we have savage TAFE cuts being made by the NSW government, then the Coalition fail to turn up at the committee,” Ms Lines said. 

“The Liberals failed to find a senator to come.”

She claimed she only discovered the Coalition could not supply a senator after she had made the flight to Sydney on Monday.

The Wollongong hearings Greens representative Senator Lee Rhiannon said it was “quite disappointing and quite insulting to Wollongong” that Labor and Coalition senators cancelled their appearances at the hearing at the last minute.

“I’ve been in the Senate since 2011 and have never seen this happen,” Senator Rhiannon said.

“My colleagues have never known this to happen, so close to an inquiry.”

Coalition senators including deputy committee chair Chris Back (WA) and Bridget McKenzie (Victoria), and Labor senators Anne Urquhart (Tasmania) and Mehmet Tillem (Victoria) were also supposed to attend.

Senator Back cited an “overload” of senate hearings as the reason no Coalition senator could be found to attend the hearing.

“What people don’t understand is we have been bombarded with senate hearings, especially this inquiry,” he said.

“TAFE is a state funding issue. The Commonwealth government put funds in, but to have so many hearings on a matter that is a state funding issue is very generous.”

Ms Rhiannon said she would still travel to Wollongong to meet with concerned locals.

Despite the hearing not taking place she said she would collect evidence from Wollongong residents to table at a Sydney hearing set to take place on Wednesday.

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