Teachers Dispute


Teachers Dispute

Ms LUETHEN (King) (14:26): My question is to the Minister for Education. Can the minister update the house on the impact on schools and preschools today due to the strike actions?

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER (Morialta—Minister for Education) (14:26): I am very pleased to be able to provide some information to the member for King, who I know is most concerned about the best interests of students and children in her electorate and around South Australia, as indeed are all members on this side.

Whilst there are a couple of sites in the King electorate that have been impacted today, I know the member for King is very pleased that the majority of sites in her electorate, as around the state, stayed open this morning when strike action took place. This is in stark contrast to 10 years ago when there was a significantly different outcome, and there was a significantly different set of circumstances surrounding AEU industrial action, when at that time about half the sites around South Australia closed.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: I am not sure what the members opposite are rattling on about. This is important information, I would have thought, given that it pertains to the best interests of students in our schools and families in our communities.

The advice that I received this morning is that just over 20 per cent, under 21 per cent, of our schools, preschools and children's centres did close down, 20 per cent were open with modified programs and 59.9 per cent of school and preschool services operated as normal. In addition to that, two sites, classified as being closed, remained open inasmuch as their disability units remained open and at one site rural care operated as normal.

I particularly want to give credit and gratitude to the workforce at those sites, despite the fact their sites closed, for being able to turn up today and deliver that service to students and young people in our state. Particularly going on to all the other sites around South Australia, the overwhelming majority of sites around South Australia stayed open because they, like the government, decided that children's needs were at the centre of everything we should be doing and that the best interest of every child in every classroom in every school and preschool in this state should be driving our interest.

Can I advise that this morning I was very interested to learn some more information about what the union wanted out of this strike action. Of course, they have said that it is not about pay, although they have put a pay claim on the table that is about double inflation. They have said that it is about resourcing, even though this government is putting $500 million a year more into education and our public schools at the end of the forward estimates than we had when we arrived—significant—hundreds of millions of dollars extra into the budget over and above those in the budget left by our predecessors.

The head of the union, Mr Howard Spreadbury, this morning identified that Mr Lucas, the Treasurer, said that the government's negotiators would be available at 2 o'clock this afternoon, as we have been ready to every Thursday since May when the discussion began, to continue the negotiations. On every single other occasion on a Thursday, other than the school holidays when the union had indicated it didn't wish to meet, the government has been there ready to negotiate, ready to talk about how best we spend this bounty that is going towards our public schools to deliver best outcomes for our students.

When the Treasurer said that our negotiators would be there, Mr Spreadbury seemed to claim vindication for the rally, vindication for the strike. He said, 'Well, I think we've just heard an undertaking from the Treasurer that there will be an undertaking to come back to the bargaining table and talk seriously about how all these extra resources are going to be allocated to schools and preschools.'

The point I make is that we were always at the bargaining table. We were always happy to negotiate respectfully and in good faith. We have been there every week. We were there at 2 o'clock today. When Mr Spreadbury walked into the negotiations half an hour ago, what I hope he did was reflect on the fact that we were there; we were always willing to be there. He did not need to put South Australian families through such extraordinary inconvenience, students through disruption, and where is the Labor Party? Do they stand with the union bosses, or do they stand with South Australian students and families? They need to decide that.

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: The minister's time has expired. Before I call the member for Giles, I have to deal with this first. I call to order the member for Light. The member for Reynell is warned. The member for Wright is warned. The member for Lee is warned for a first time. The member for Enfield is warned for a first time. The deputy leader is called to order.

Mr Malinauskas: And the government are behaving perfectly?

The SPEAKER: No, they are not, and I am getting to them. I am baking them up. Member for Giles.