Subject: (SA Training)
LEON BYNER: …I made a private call to the Minister a few weeks ago to try and suss this out and all she would say to me, and it was by text, “This is a matter for TAFE” No Minister, it is a matter for you and if you can’t justify what you’ve done, it is highly unlikely that the people you tell me will be able to can either. Let’s talk with Senator Simon Birmingham. Now Simon, you’re in a position where this is part of your portfolio responsibility, where are we at with this?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well good morning Leon and good morning to your listeners. Yes, as the federal Minister responsible for training it is and particularly I’m responsible for oversight of a national agreement on skills reform that the South Australian Government under Premier Weatherill entered in to with former Prime Minister Gillard in 2012. They agreed to opening up of the training market to provide greater choice for students and employers and these WorkReady reforms of Gail Gago are really backpedalling at an enormous rate on the reforms that had been previously introduced in South Australia. Now, I’m standing as we speak, outside the Civil Contractors Federation in Thebarton where around 60 different training organisations are waiting to have a meeting with me and I’m keen to hear from them the impact of this new policy but, what we know already from survey work that has been done by the training sector is that hundreds of jobs in the private training organisations have already been lost, of course Minister Gago has announced hundreds of jobs to be cut from the TAFE sector and all of this at a time where SA is facing the highest unemployment rate in the nation. It just seems as if the policy levers are all going in all the wrong directions at this point in time.
LEON BYNER: Is TAFE up to this?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, TAFE does a great job in many areas and this is not about a contest between TAFE and the private sector, it’s about frankly giving employers and students the choice to access the highest quality, most cost effective, best value for money and most appropriate training for the jobs that South Australia needs to support in to the future. South Australia had been leading the way in providing greater choice for students and employers but now has reversed on that and Minister Gago has failed to give any clear answers as to why they’ve reversed, how this new approach is compliant with the agreement that her government signed several years ago and I’m still waiting, nearly 3 months later, for answers from Minister Gago to the many questions I have posed to her.
LEON BYNER: Simon, I need to understand something, it is either compliant to what they signed or it is not. That’s got to be tested. Isn’t it about time that was tested first? Are you being lawful? Now they’re saying we are, you’re saying they’re not; got to go to court!
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: This Leon is of course why I’ve asked for a whole bunch of data and analysis from the state government to give them the chance to demonstrate that what they’re proposing to do is compliant. Now, unfortunately, under the national partnership agreement decisions on whether the money flows to the state are made in arrears. So, the actual determination period for me to decide whether the next part of the $65 million available to SA will flow through, doesn’t happen until June next year where I look at whether or not they have complied during the course of this year. I’m trying to give the state government every possible opportunity to right what I think are likely wrongs, to explain what it is they’re doing and to give them the chance to put a better system in place so that this money will flow to SA because as a South Australian Senator I want to see every dollar that can be invested in this state sent here but, as the federal Training Minister, I have to make sure the state government is honouring its agreement.
LEON BYNER: Alright, so you’ve been waiting three months and you still haven’t heard anything?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: That’s right Leon. So, obviously I’ve taken matters in to my own hands today by meeting with a lot of the training providers here at the Civil Contractors Federation, we’ll hear what they have to say and then from that discussion I’ll work out how I get a better response from the state government.
LEON BYNER: Alright, thank you Simon.