Grievance Debate: New DECD Spin Doctor

Mr GARDNER ( Morialta ) ( 15:08 ): I am very pleased in particular to see the member for Florey is still with us in the parliament. I was very saddened that The Advertiser has reported today her political demise, as they have identified internal Labor Party documents that have presupposed the outcome of a preselection we are told is still to happen. Apparently, female candidates whom the Labor Party internal head honchos, the factions, have determined are going to get a run, do not include the member for Florey. But all is not lost, because the government has come to the rescue and there is indeed a new job that may well suit the member for Florey's needs. 

I was interested to see today advertised an Executive Director for Strategic Policy and External Relations in the Department for Education and Child Development. It might be right up the member for Florey's alley. I know that she enjoys taking the school tours. There are some job descriptions in this role that might well fit in with the ambassador for the Muriel Matters Society. It has a princely salary of $367,270 a year for another spin doctor for the Labor government. Let me tell you about the job, Deputy Speaker, and I am so pleased that you are here to hear about it: it could be useful. The role includes: 

Reporting to the Chief Executive, the new Executive Director Strategic Policy and External Relations will join a recently re-aligned senior executive team and play a vital role in facilitating the development of strategic policy and effective engagement with key partners of the Department. This is an outstanding opportunity to provide proactive and collaborative leadership— 

And get this— 

in the identification of strategic policy priorities and the development of insightful, innovative and practical policy solutions which are focused on achieving improved educatio n outcomes for South Australia n children and young people. 

Who would not want to do that? I cannot help but notice the irony. This is a job that is apparently to 'assume leadership for internal and external communications'. Clearly, that is needed in the education department because what I have just described could benefit from some internal and external communications advice. 

This $367,000 role—another spinner for the Weatherill Labor government—comes on top of a $4 million education department communication budget—$4 million. Think of the empire you would command, Deputy Speaker. It would be like having the member for Frome's portfolio, except it would have a few more staff to be in charge of. 

This is a contract or term vacancy of up to 60 months. We used to say five years, but apparently 60 months is the vernacular now. The successful applicant will be determined after they have applied to Jo Fisher Executive. Jo Fisher is, I am sure, a very successful employment HR agency based in Victoria, of course, with offices around the place—not in Adelaide—but why would the Weatherill Labor government be expected to possibly support South Australian industries? 

This is a new spin doctor for $360,000 a year managing a $4 million communications department budget within the education department. Why are we not spending this money on supporting our schoolchildren? Why are we not spending this money on delivering outcomes in the classroom, improving literacy and numeracy standards? There were 5,000 truant students reported to the department in the last three years—5,000. 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Name them. 

Mr GARDNER: 'Name them,' the Deputy Speaker says. There is a level of frivolity, but this is a very serious matter, Deputy Speaker. There were 5,000 truant students, and the opposition has announced a package of measures that will deal with the truancy crisis in our schools because we know that if a student is a truant for a day, a week, or for the entire year, they will end up losing years of their school performance. How can they possibly catch that up? 

We should be focusing our resources on teachers in the classroom. There are more than 1,000 bureaucrats in the education head office and hundreds of school staff—principals and school leaders—on secondment to the education department head office. This government has failed our children when it does not put the resources of the education department—every possible resource of government—into giving our students the best start possible. 

We need literacy outcomes and we need numeracy outcomes. We have come last or second last in 18 out of the 20 categories in the NAPLAN results. We have failed our students. They are performing less well than their interstate and international colleagues, when we used to lead the nation and the world in education. The sum of $360,000 for a new spinner is not give good enough. We need to be putting that sort of resource into giving our students a better start in the classroom. 

Watch John's speech here: