Barilaro turns down public meeting on TAFE - Won't be shouted down, he says

THE Member for Monaro John Barilaro has declined an invitation to attend a public meeting to discuss state government cuts to TAFE, citing a previous rowdy meeting in Cooma as the reason.

Mr Barilaro said he was shouted down and interrupted while trying to address questions in a previous meeting.

In his letter to Allan Barkley, the secretary of the Cooma TAFE Teachers Association, Mr Barilaro said he was not interested in a repeat of the meeting.

"Simply inviting me to be shouted at will not bring about a change in the government's policy, nor will it allow me to outline the rationale behind the policy," Mr Barilaro said.

However, Mr Barilaro has agreed to meet with representatives of the teachers association.

Cooma TAFE teacher Ros Phillips who was at the public meeting with Mr Barilaro said she had no recollection of him being "shouted down".

"On this occasion [Mr Barilaro] had a difficult job defending a clearly unpopular policy decision. People let him know in unmistakable terms how they felt about taking effectively a wage cut, in times of ever increasing workloads and sky rocketing electricity and grocery prices.

"Who could blame them? If comments did get a bit heated Allan [Barkley - chair] reminded everybody that John was our guest and should be treated accordingly."

Mr Barilaro justified the state government's decision to slash TAFE and education funding saying "tough times call for tough decisions".

"That is why I am supporting the NSW government's efforts to act responsibly now to avoid having to take future austerity measures of the level seen in Europe."

One of the courses that will be affected by the funding cuts to TAFE is the Visual Arts course.

Teacher Tanja Riese is concerned for the future of the art courses she currently teaches with the state government's announcement of fee increases and subsidies only going to vocational courses where there is an identified skill shortage.

Mr Barilaro said he was a strong supporter of TAFE and had written to the minister for Education Adrian Piccoli outlining his concerns to protect regional areas from the cost cutting measures.

Cooma TAFE Teachers Association president Rita Brademann said the TAFE Teachers Association was disappointed that Mr Barilaro declined their invitation to attend a meeting with the wider TAFE community.

However, she welcomed the opportunity to meet with him in a private meeting.

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