Mike Baird shows he can’t be trusted

September 18, 2015

The NSW government owns about 277,400 properties. Their combined commercial worth, according to finance minister Dominic Perrottet is $60 billion.

Most of the property is commercial, built up over many decades by successive Labor and Coalition governments, and financed by NSW taxpayers, on behalf of whom the present NSW government holds them in trust.

But the Mike Baird government doesn’t get this “holding in trust” thing. They believe the assets are theirs to sell; and this is precisely what Perrottet intends to do.

His planned sale of properties for the next three years is worth almost $2 billion — $865 million worth this financial year, $652 million in the following year and $426 million in 2017-18.

Perrottet refuses to specify how many of these properties are in the public housing sector. But they do include the social housing at Millers Point where, so far, 29 properties have been sold for a total of $64 million. About 300 houses in Millers Point are scheduled for sale, as are other social housing properties around the state.

The other thing that we now know, thanks to a Cabinet document leaked to Fairfax Media, is that the government is preparing to sell 27 TAFE properties this financial year.

Included among them are the TAFE sites at Belrose, Chullora, Corowa, Dapto, Epping, Grenfell, Maclean, Murwillumbah, Narrandera and Vincentia.

Partial sales of TAFE campuses will also occur at Albury, Ballina, Bourke, Forbes, Glendale, Goulburn, Granville, Muswellbrook and Wollongong.

TAFE has apparently got into financial trouble thanks to a cost blowout in their $567 million IT administration system called Learning Management and Business Reform. The system managed to crash during the busiest time of the year for TAFE, the January enrolment period.

The sale was also a recommendation from Infrastructure NSW. In November last year, they advised TAFE to prepare an “asset management plan” to fund the expansion of inferior online courses that deprive students of face-to-face contact with lecturers.

The user-pays principle that now applies to TAFE students, together with massive fee increases, has led to a dramatic decline in the number of school-leavers starting apprenticeships. Last year their numbers dropped by 22% nationwide. In NSW, commencements fell by 26%.

From December 2013 to December last year, the number of technical and trade apprenticeships fell by 14% across the country.

As might be expected, this has led to a skills shortage despite the end of the mining boom. In Sydney and Melbourne there is a chronic shortage of building tradespeople, which is pushing up the already inflated price of homes.

Baird is now said to have a “plan” that will ensure that government promises at this year’s election — like the 150,000 jobs he promised to create over four years — are fulfilled.

This stroke of management genius involves the gobbledygook of “tracking performance against goals”. It is an idea he took from Tony Blair, so it is bound to work.

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