AN intense debate over student fees at Gymea and Loftus TAFE colleges followed last week's Leader report on the restructure of vocational training.
In a letter to the editor, Education Minister Adrian Piccoli accused Labor of hypocrisy by not revealing that, while it was in government, TAFE fees increased by more than 200 per cent over all award levels, rising above 500 per cent for certificate IV courses.
Mr Piccoli said a claim by Greg Holland, Labor's Miranda candidate, that the non-apprenticeship fee for a certificate III in hairdressing at Gymea TAFE had increased from $1676 to $9970 was untrue, and the cost had in fact fallen from $14,950 to $9970.
"Our reforms have made 60,000 more training places available this year," he said.
"Labor ought to be ashamed that they are spreading misinformation that is confusing students," he said.
Mr Holland provided a detailed rebuttal, including a list of examples and links to an archived TAFE documents website.
He said, during Labor's last term, annual TAFE fees rose by only 7.7 per cent.
"Under Mr Piccoli, from 2011-2015, TAFE fees have shot up," he said.
"Fee comparisons have become far less transparent as they are now charged per course instead of per annum, but analysis shows very clearly that some courses have increased by literally hundreds of percentage points," he said.
"What's worse is Mr Piccoli's removal of concession fees from diploma courses, so a course that would have cost a concession student $104 in 2011 will now cost thousands of dollars."
Mr Holland said the fee for the non-apprenticeship hairdressing course he quoted was clear on an archived webpage.
Mr Piccoli hit back, saying Mr Holland's figures were for Labor's last four years in office, whereas he (Mr Piccoli) had compared the party's 16 years in government.
He said Mr Holland was wrong about Gymea's non-apprenticeship hairdressing fees.
Mr Holland said he could provide a long, detailed response, but TAFE students supported Labor's stand.