APPROPRIATION BILL 2018 Second Reading


Significant bodies of work are being done in literacy, in languages, in a range of fields and vocational education as a result of the government's election policies, and I am so proud to see so many of them in the budget. This is a government that is delivering for the people of South Australia on those election commitments that we took to the election, and we are so proud that this is a government that is delivering on its promises of more jobs, lower costs and better services. Better services is a range of fields that I have responsibility for, and I am looking forward to continuing to do that work in the years ahead as we seek to achieve what we can for the people of South Australia to be their best.

The education portfolio benefits in this budget from increased support. This Liberal government will see schools funding and education funding increase to the point of $515 million more in the budget for the 2021-22 year, compared with the last Labor year of 2017-18. This is a significant investment in education because education is the foundation of our social wellbeing and, of course, our future economic prosperity. That includes a range of programs that I identified before in support for schools.

We are also identifying a significant capital works program, a range of programs for the first time appearing in the forward estimates: schools in Whyalla and in the north and the south of Adelaide, a significant investment because those communities need that investment; new schools in the north and the south; and a school in Whyalla to replace the current outdated junior high and senior high construct in facilities that are not what they once were.

That capital build is backed up by programs announced before the election by the previous government, and the dollars that were committed to by the Liberal Party in opposition will now be delivered to that range of schools through capital works programs across South Australia and, indeed, to the tail end of the STEM Works program, also announced by the previous government, supported by the then opposition. I am very pleased that members on either side of the house have been in the process of unveiling those projects in recent months, and that work will continue. There are a number of other specific projects that have capital in the education space.

I am sure that we will spend a lot of time talking about education during estimates, and there is some terrific work being done. I will not go through all the election promises, as we have spoken about some of them before, and I am hoping at some stage to get my third question from the shadow minister for education for the year, where she might raise some other issues that we might talk about. I note that 172 days into the new government I am yet to get my first question from the shadow minister on TAFE. Given that the opposition has shown no interest in the TAFE SA institution at all in the parliament this year—I note that they have raised some issues in the media in recent days—this seems like a good time to put some of that work into context.

It is worth doing so in the context of the Appropriation Bill because, of course, this Appropriation Bill identifies a $109.8 million rescue package for TAFE. That is money that is in the budget produced by the Liberal government that was not in the budget produced by the Labor government. In fact, in their last Mid-Year Budget Review, a fact that the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition or the former treasurer, who sits alongside them, has yet to identify is that there were $70 million worth of cuts to TAFE SA.

At the same time that they were presiding over the ASQA audit fiasco, which I absolutely assure the house happened on the Deputy Leader of the Opposition's watch as the then minister for education, they then imposed $70 million worth of accumulated cuts and efficiency dividends on TAFE SA—revenue expectations that were completely unrealistic; cuts with no road map of how they were to be achieved.

This morning, the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the shadow minister were at Port Adelaide TAFE bemoaning the decision made by this government to change the service delivery model for the Port Adelaide TAFE offerings. They are the same people who sat in the cabinet and last December announced $70 million in cuts over the forward estimates to TAFE SA. There was no ownership of this, no decisions about how those cuts were to be achieved. No, they just imposed the cuts and left TAFE to do its business. They left TAFE alone, as they had for 16 years; 16 years in which they ran down this once proud institution, which will be proud again. It is on the way.

I want to take this opportunity to once again commend the interim board that has been working so hard, to commend the interim CE, who has been doing an extraordinary body of work over the time since she was appointed, I think in December. In December, the shadow minister claimed credit for having taken bold action. She said that the reports that were tabled on Tuesday take aim at the leadership in TAFE, the senior executives.

She said that she fired them. Well, she fired them after significant prompting from the opposition and the media. She fired the chair of the TAFE board, and that was actually it. The CE of the TAFE institution last year resigned and the minister, who should have resigned at the time, did not, and she still sits as the Labor Party's spokesperson for TAFE SA, which potentially gives some clue as to why the Labor Party has not asked a single question in this chamber of this institution that they now claim to care so much about. This is the basis upon which, of course, this $109.8 million rescue package was so necessary.

Let's talk about the context of why this $109.8 million rescue package is so important. The Labor Party, between November 2012 and the end of its period in office, oversaw a reduction in TAFE SA staff, full-time equivalent, from 2,825 in November 2012, to the end of the financial year just past, 2,201—624 TAFE SA staff fired under the Labor administration within the last six years. That was when Susan Close was the minister for education and those who immediately preceded her—the Leader of the Opposition was in the cabinet, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the shadow minister for education—were in the cabinet. The shadow minister for mining, who was the treasurer, and the shadow treasurer were in the cabinet. They oversaw 600 job losses at TAFE SA.

In a completely unstrategic way, as identified by the Strategic Capability Review—and I am going to tell you a little bit more about what some of those reviewers found over Labor's oversight of the TAFE SA organisation—there were 600 job losses owned by Labor. They have no credibility when they talk about job losses or efficiencies. Indeed, those efficiencies in this budget are by an order of magnitude less than the unstrategic havoc that was wreaked on the organisation when Susan Close was the minister for education and those opposite were in government. Let's talk about campus closures and the Labor Party—

The member for Port Adelaide or Campus Close as I am starting to think of her. The Labor Party, after 172 days in opposition, are yet to ask a question in this house about TAFE SA. Potentially, they have been talking about these campus closures. Seven campuses are in the situation where they have low numbers.

On a number of occasions, the numbers have been run down significantly in recent years. They have underutilised facilities, sometimes inappropriate and outdated facilities, bearing in mind that much training these days is best delivered in a worksite, on a farm or in blended delivery models. They are potentially able to use facilities that are not necessarily owned by TAFE SA; they can be delivered in a hall. A short course on safety can be delivered as well in a hall as it can in an old demountable TAFE SA facility—that was one example that was put to me—or indeed online. This is the direction that training has been heading for some time.

There are also campus consolidations and I point out, particularly in relation to Port Adelaide where a significant majority of the training being delivered is in the range of nursing, that there are excellent facilities at Regency TAFE where those courses are going to be moved to. There are outstanding facilities where those courses are able to be moved to, and the course delivery is capable of being delivered in a greater way because, of course, if we are not spending money on outdated, underutilised or unnecessary infrastructure, that means we can invest more money in training young South Australians or work seekers. We know this is capable of being done because it has been done before.

The Labor Party was responsible for TAFE SA during a period of an extraordinary number of campus closures. The 'shadow minister for education campus closures', as I have started to think of her—the member for Port Adelaide—was in fact the minister in 2016 and 2017 when the Gawler TAFE campus was transitioned to the city of Gawler, Renmark TAFE campus was relinquished to the Department for Industry and Skills, the Waikerie TAFE campus was transferred to Waikerie High School, Morphettville and Kimba leases were terminated, and the Clare TAFE campus was closed and transferred to the Department for Environment and Water. This was all in 2016, by the way, so not that long ago.

The lease at Cleve was terminated in December 2016, Kangaroo Island was transferred to the school in January 2017, Millicent was transferred to the school in February 2017, and Bordertown and Naracoorte were moved to the Department for Industry and Skills in March 2017. On these campuses, as on the campuses that are identified in this year's budget, there were low levels of training activity—training activity that was capable of being delivered in other settings and training activity that was capable of being moved to other TAFE campuses. It is noteworthy that the Labor Party did not raise any concerns because, of course, it was them doing it.

Those opposite closed 11 campuses in that two years. Prior to 2010, they closed Peterborough and Jamestown as well. In 2013, Yorketown TAFE was closed. In 2013, the Marleston, O'Halloran Hill and Panorama TAFEs were closed and in 2011-13, the Croydon TAFE was closed. In 2011-13, the Roseworthy TAFE was closed, and in 2015 English language services at the Rundle Mall TAFE campus were closed.

How many TAFE campuses do those opposite want to have brought to their attention that they in fact closed? Did you hear the outrage in the parliament yesterday? Did you see the outrage in Port Adelaide this morning when the members for Lee, Port Adelaide and the Leader of the Opposition fronted up to the TV cameras and bemoaned the idea that a TAFE campus was able to have its courses offered in a more modern way or in better facilities or more appropriate facilities or in a way that is able to deliver better value to TAFE SA, the students and those businesses and industries who we are seeking to find a skilled workforce for?

The outrage was extraordinary and completely unmatched by even an acknowledgement that they had closed well in excess of a dozen TAFE campuses during their term in office and extraordinarily about a dozen when the member for Port Adelaide was the minister for education. Did they care then? No, they thought that TAFE is offering a way that more training can be delivered in that sense.

The fact that we have this rank utterly pathetic hypocrisy from the Labor Party is very disturbing. The fact that they are unwilling to ask a question in the House of Assembly can only be put down to the fact that they know they are the guilty party when it comes to devastating TAFE SA. They know that the member for Port Adelaide, as minister for education and child development and higher education and skills, had responsibility for TAFE when they were closing campuses.

The thing is that those campus closures were capable of being delivered in a way that those students were able to be supported, but what else happened when the member for Port Adelaide was the minister responsible for TAFE SA? We saw extraordinary devastation not only for TAFE SA but for the entire training market across South Australia.

This is again amongst the purposes for which we have this $109 million rescue package and a $200 million Skilling South Australia package that this government is delivering to support more than 20,000 new trainees and apprentices across South Australia. Why is that so necessary? Because between 31 March 2013 and 31 March 2018 there was a 58 per cent decrease in the number of apprentices and trainees training in South Australia—a drop from 36,000 to 15,000. There was a 58 per cent decrease in the last five years of the former rotten, hopeless Labor government. The number of commencements for the same period decreased by even more—by 63.8 per cent, from 22,990 to 8,325 apprentices and trainees. That is what the South Australian Labor Party did to the training and apprenticeship market in South Australia.

What did they do to TAFE in that same time? What was the student headcount, I wonder, in 2013. In semester 1 of 2013 there was a 51,314 student headcount in accredited courses, 59,372 students at TAFE in their total TAFE SA activity. That was semester 1, 2013. Five years later, the Liberal Party comes to government after seeing the member for Port Adelaide, the shadow minister for education, as the minister responsible for TAFE. What had happened to TAFE in the meantime? Well, when I arrived, semester 1, 2018, as at the end of March—bearing in mind that we had 51,300 students enrolled in accredited courses in 2013—it had gone from 51,000 to 23,612 as at 2 April, so the week after I got in as Minister for Education.

I found that such devastation had been wrought on TAFE SA by those opposite that we were down to 23,000 students. So much work is going on at TAFE SA by the CE, by the board, by the educators at TAFE SA, by the people working at TAFE SA, that that is turning around, that is getting fixed. There have been steps taken, with the support of this government, to improve the support for TAFE SA. It is not just this $109 million rescue package, by the way: there are a series of other measures that are addressing some of the extraordinary challenges that TAFE SA has faced.

Already TAFE SA has recruited an Executive Director of Quality Teaching and Learning. They have improved their internal audit quality processes and ramped them up, and they are, indeed, introducing a new academic board, as per the Liberal Party's election promise and the recommendations of the Strategic Capability Review.

This $70 million cut, that turned around to a $109 million rescue package, comes on the back of the work that needed to be done. I remind all members of some of the challenges facing TAFE SA, as identified by the Nous review, and as identified by the Strategic Capability Review that went into TAFE SA. The Strategic Capability Review opens with the words:

The reviewers are dismayed by the depth of the problems at TAFE SA. The significant challenge now facing TAFE SA stems from an absence of strategy, poor leadership, and the centralisation of decision-making and resources. The last four years have been a lost opportunity for TAFE SA specifically and for South Australia as a whole.

That is on Labor; that is on the shadow minister for education, the Leader of the Opposition and everybody who was in that Labor cabinet. The Nous Group, that looked into what happened that led to the ASQA debacle last year, reported:

Despite the fact that it is clear that, as a public corporation, TAFE SA is subject to control and direction by the minister—

that is, it's your guys' fault, on the Labor Party, for what happened—they identified:

Cabinet-approved time-limited funding to assist TAFE SA meet its transition costs (primarily funding TVSPs) on the basis that investment TAFE SA's downsizing would significantly ease budget pressure over the medium to long term. However, the focus on cost cutting became an obsession one, meaning that leaders and managers paid much more attention to cost inputs rather than the quantity or quality of outputs.

The Labor Party in government did not care about quantity or quality of outputs of traineeships, apprenticeships or other vocational education at TAFE SA. That is what the review, commissioned by the member for Port Adelaide, found. They found that it was unsophisticated cost cutting, with no strategic purpose at all. Greg Black, a former head of DFEEST, defined it during the election as basically that they cared so little about who went that a lot of the best people, the people who could get other jobs, were the first to offer their hands for a TVSP.

We have some terrific educators at TAFE, and the Strategic Capability Review and the Nous review said that that was the case: lots of good educators, but ageing infrastructure, obsolete equipment, unreliable technology and inflexible online platforms severely limited organisational capacity and information. That is the Strategic Capability Review. The Labor Party is responsible for this problem; the Liberal Party is fixing it.