Subject: (SA TAFE Job Cuts)
LEON BYNER: Simon what’s the latest from you? What do you know?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Leon I’m very concerned at what is an incredibly erratic policy from the State Government, that some years back they dramatically increased their training budget, they’ve now dramatically decreased their training budget. Years ago they dramatically increased choice in training, they’ve now dramatically cut it. Now they’re talking about cutting TAFE to at some later point restore choice in training. It’s a very erratic approach they seem to be pulling in opposite direction on the policy levers and that of course ultimately hurts students and employers in terms of being able to access the training provider of their choice and the best, most high quality training to improve employment outcomes.
LEON BYNER: there was a belief by you … expressed it on this program, that the Government would not be able to get funding that you’re in control of, about $61m until a number of criteria or understandings had been reached. Have we gone down that path at all?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The provision of that full funding for this financial year and next financial year remains in doubt; I have written to Minister Gago on numerous occasions and posed a number of detailed questions about what the impacts on the training market are, from State Government [unclear].
LEON BYNER: Did you get a letter back saying it’s an operational matter and not her problem or what?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Leon, pretty close to that in that
LEON BYNER: Really?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: we’ve had a reply that went nowhere near answering the questions, a promise that a subsequent reply would be provided, that subsequent reply is still outstanding.
LEON BYNER: How many weeks have you been asking this?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: It’s many weeks ago if not a month or two ago now.
LEON BYNER: Yeah, six weeks on my count.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: So Leon I’m quite concerned as a South Australian senator, I want to see all of the money flow into SA that’s humanly possible, that the state has the nation’s highest unemployment rate now, we really need to have a fully functioning and effective training market here and it is of great concern to me.
LEON BYNER: So you’re telling me now, you’re telling the people of South Australia that six weeks after the announcement about this and all of the to-ing and fro-ing you’re no further down the track of knowing or getting clarified the questions you want answered than you were when it started.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: That’s correct Leon; we have not had a satisfactory answer; indeed we’ve had no detailed response from Minister Gago to the questions that have been asked.
LEON BYNER: So have you put a time limit on this to, sorry guys, the tap’s turned off? What happens?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Leon the funding is actually improved in retrospect essentially so I only at the end of the last financial year approved the funding for the 2014 / 15 year and consideration of the funding for 2015 / 16 will only be made in sort of May-June period next year, but what I’ve given Minister Gago and the South Australian government is fair warning that I don’t believe what they’re doing in terms of removing student and employer choice is within the boundaries of the national [unclear].
LEON BYNER: Now, they’re saying it is but they haven’t proven it … so how will they?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: They haven’t proven it, [unclear] they haven’t given detailed answers about how this changes the trajectory of training and student choice in South Australia. What they need to do is answer some reasonable questions about the degree of choice in the training market over the previous three years of operation and what they’re now proposing for the next two years of operation of this national agreement. This is the point that we’ve discussed before; it’s a five year agreement, we’re three years into it, my expectation is that the choice and quality of choice for students and employers should improve year on year through that agreement. Not, improve for three years and then go backwards for the last two years.
LEON BYNER: So how long are you giving the Minister before you’re going to say ‘okay, even though the funding is retrospective before you act?’
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Leon we will keep pushing the point with the Minister, ultimately if in the next couple of months I don’t hear anything at all then of course we will have to give, make it very clear, that we will have to consider some alternatives.
LEON BYNER: Alright. Simon thanks for joining us … I’m really surprised to hear this. I know Minister Gago reasonably well, I haven’t seen her for a while, but we get on pretty well and I’ve always found her to be a straight shooter. But, on this I’m sorry I’m totally lost. Totally lost.