Subject: (The impacts of the SA Labor Government’s WorkReady training scheme on students, employers and jobs)
LEON BYNER: I’m with the Assistant Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham. Now Simon, you’ve been letter writing to and fro with Minister Gago, where is it now and what’s the situation with the $65 million?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning Leon and listeners. Yesterday I received a response from Minister Gago, it was woefully inadequate and terribly political and partisan which is unfortunate. What’s really concerning me is not an argument backwards and forwards about federal funding versus state funding, the money is there for South Australia, I want to make that crystal clear that $65 million for South Australia to invest in training systems over the next two years is there for SA. My concern is that the State Government is burying its head in the sand and just completely refusing to acknowledge that there is a problem with the Work Ready scheme they’ve set up and it’s a problem because it is affecting stakeholders, like Caroline you heard before, people who are offering quality training in areas that relate to real jobs out in the community who will just be shut out of this new model for the next one or two years.
LEON BYNER: Have we got a decision about whether or not the government have…Now the last time we spoke, you suggested strongly that the State Government had breached an agreement that was signed by a former Prime Minister that had five years to run and I think there was at least two left, where are we there?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well Leon, that is still my view, I’m still awaiting information back from the State Government and Minister Gago. The letter yesterday was purely one of political barbs with a promise at the end that more information will be forthcoming. So, I await the further information, but in the meantime I continue to appeal to her and Jay Weatherill to sit down with the training providers, to sit down with the employers and the students in SA and hear their concerns. I’ll happily join them at the table for those discussions, I just want to see the training sector, employers and students in SA get a better go and get the choice of accessing the best quality training at the best available price that everybody deserves.
LEON BYNER: So you’re perceiving at the moment, let me get this right, that the State Government are not prepared to negotiate on any of this, that their position is what it is and that’s it?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well the response I got from Gail Gago yesterday seems to flatly refuse that there’s even a problem with the new policy. Now, you’ve got everybody from the South Australian Council of Social Services right through to Business SA lining up and criticising it, identifying significant problems with it affecting everybody from nursing, to fishing, to building, to farming, a whole raft of different career paths that are negatively impacted here. They’re all lining up and complaining about it and saying there are fundamental problems, but the State Government seems to have its head buried in the sand. The first thing they need to do is acknowledge the model is flawed and be willing to sit down and negotiate a way out of this and I’m more than happy to cooperate with those discussions.
LEON BYNER: The other thing you’re going to need to do is to weed out the poor performing training organisations because the government will no doubt say that some of this money has been wasted because people have been doing courses which were basically useless for them. So, I think we need to do that in all this, don’t we?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: And look, credit where it is due. The State Government in some areas is doing work to try to reduce the areas in terms of subsidy to make sure that it is more focussed on jobs that do exist in terms of the types of courses that are being subsidised, but to then say that they’ll only put 90% of new places through TAFE this year and next year is of course locking out all of the other providers who do such a great job connecting directly with employers and industry right around SA.
LEON BYNER: When do you decide whether you’re going to let that $65 million be spent or you’re holding on to it?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well at present, I still hold on to that funding and I am waiting for the SA Government to give us information that clearly details how this new programme will operate, but in the meantime, as I said, I don’t want this to be an argument about state or federal funding, I want it to be an intent to fix a problem that the State Government is making and find a solution that gives students and employers the choice of quality training providers in SA.
LEON BYNER: Alright, thanks Simon Birmingham.