Question - TAFE SA - 24/10/2018


The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER (Morialta—Minister for Education) (14:32): I thank the member for MacKillop for the question. I am pleased to advise that I can give him some information on this. It is, of course, a matter very close to the member for MacKillop's heart as a former apprentice and someone who is very concerned about how TAFE SA has had to deal with some challenges. We spoke about some of them yesterday, but I regret to inform the house that what I presented yesterday was but the tip of the iceberg. We just started scratching the surface.

It is reasonable to start with a question of how TAFE SA was going last year. Advice was given to the house by the member for Port Adelaide, who was the relevant minister at the time, in July last year:

TAFE has undertaken an extraordinary effort in modernising its service operations. It has made significant savings in the process and is operating extremely professionally, so I have no reason not to believe that they are well on their way to the contestability anticipated by the end of 2018-19.

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Order!

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: So, after 15½ years of Labor, the member for Port Adelaide, the shadow minister for education, was able to report to the house in July last year that everything was going terribly well at TAFE SA. That was the assessment of the shadow minister under the close oversight that she had applied to it as the minister. Of course, a little later in the year, she undertook a review led by Terry Moran and Kim Bannikoff, the Strategic Capability Review. They had a look at whether the minister, as she was then, was right in that. They said:

TAFE SA's emphasis on cost-cutting and centralisation has overwhelmed and distorted its strategic focus. The business model does not enable educators to respond to business and industry requirements. Nor does it empower staff to take initiative and innovate within an accountable organisational culture.

They went on to say of the TAFE SA organisation after 15½ years of Labor rule, eventually 16:

Ageing infrastructure, obsolete equipment, unreliable technology and inflexible online platforms have severely limited organisational capacity and innovation.

The member for Port Adelaide, the former minister for education, also commissioned the Nous Group to report into the quality issues that led to some challenges that TAFE faced at the end of last year. Nous described it thus:

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

That is the summary of some of the challenges that TAFE SA faced after 16 years of Labor's wrecking ball through its organisation. But the good news is that there is a new government—

Dr Close interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Acting leader!

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: —and TAFE SA has a fresh start and a very bright future. TAFE SA is being revived. TAFE SA is being transformed. TAFE SA will, under the Marshall Liberal government, once again be known as the benchmark for quality, as a byword for quality, recognised by its peers, by industry, by students, by the community, and indeed by businesses and industry, for reliability and high professional standards. That is the road that it is on. The government has put in a $110 million rescue package. By contrast, the former government, the member for West Torrens as treasurer, the member for Port Adelaide as the education minister—

Dr Close interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Acting leader!

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: —imposed $70 million of slash-and-burn cuts in their last Mid-Year Budget Review. Staff are now respected and valued. Quality is now the byword for training. Meeting employer and student needs is what TAFE SA is all about. This complements the government's $200 million investment in traineeships and apprenticeships being led by the Minister for Industry and Skills. TAFE SA has a fresh start. It has a bright future. Thanks to this government; no thanks to those opposite.

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: The member for Hammond is called to order. The Minister for Primary Industries is warned. I also warn the member for Lee. I warn the acting leader, and she has the call.