Question: TAFE SA courses at risk of being decertified


Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (14:37): My question is to the Minister for Higher Education and Skills. Did the minister make inquiries with TAFE SA yesterday after she informed the house that she was not aware of TAFE receiving notice from the national Skills Quality Authority that 16 courses are at risk of being decertified?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (14:37): Yes, of course I did; I said I would and I did. In fact, the matter is now public. It's available on Adelaidenow if anyone wants to click on the internet. As I had said to Leon Byner, actually, a week ago or maybe two weeks ago, and I mentioned again yesterday, I am aware that there had been an audit. As I mentioned yesterday, I was aware that ASQA had done some work. I had not been informed that the report had reached the chief executive, but indeed it did reach the chief executive sometime Monday afternoon.

TAFE has been given some time to respond, somewhere around late October, and is working through that at present. I, of course, am deeply concerned about any suggestion that may lose the confidence of the public of South Australia in the training quality—

Members interjecting:

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: —and therefore I will be paying very close attention now that the report has arrived not only to understanding what the report says but also to ensuring that I understand the way in which TAFE will respond. I expect to be in a position to make a public announcement about that in due course, at the appropriate time.

The SPEAKER: The deputy leader and the member for Unley are called to order, and the member for Schubert is warned. The member for Morialta.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (14:38): A supplementary: the minister has just said that she is going to make a public statement in due course, at some time. Why hasn't she come into the house and given a ministerial statement when she found out the information she has just provided?

Mr Knoll: Just hoping we didn't ask questions.

The SPEAKER: The member for Schubert is warned for the second and final time.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (14:39): Not in the least. I am delighted by your questions. The matter is now a matter of public record. Although occasionally ministerial statements are used to repeat information that is already on the public record, it's not always necessary in the sense that as long as the public is aware that's what this institution is for.

This is moving reasonably quickly, so the advice was provided to the chief executive on Monday afternoon. I have been given a very preliminary briefing on the content of it. I have provided a comment to the media. What is really important is that we focus on the comments by ASQA itself, the authority that has undertaken this audit, that it is not unusual for an organisation the size of TAFE SA to have some noncompliance questions and that they are waiting for TAFE to respond in the allotted time.

Without wanting to create any sense of panic, what we need to do is pay serious attention to it and make sure that TAFE is responding in an appropriate way. I will be undertaking that. At a time when there is a need for a public statement, I will be making that statement.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (14:40): Supplementary: can the minister advise the house how many students are undertaking the automotive meat processing, commercial cookery, health, hairdressing, visual merchandising, building, plumbing and electrotechnology courses that have been called into question?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (14:40): The level of briefing, as I mentioned, has been very preliminary and did not include the number of students undertaking those courses.

Mr Knoll interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Does the member for Schubert want to be the first member ejected under sessional orders since the TV system was introduced?

Mr GARDNER: I fear you are buttressing the audience again, and that is against standing orders.

Mr Knoll: Existentially, there is nothing about the audience in the standing orders.

Mr GARDNER: The Speaker has ruled otherwise. Sir, I have a supplementary.

The SPEAKER: The member for Morialta.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (14:41): Can the minister confirm if we are talking about 80 students, as in the CASA case, or hundreds or thousands of students?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (14:41): I can't confirm because, as I say, I have not had the number of students associated with each of the courses under question provided to me as yet.