I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills relating to Skills for All and the lack of appearance before the federal inquiry last year.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: As honourable members would be aware by now, the opposition has received a number of emails via FOI between senior staff of TAFE, and I will quote this one dated 30 May 2015 between the former CEO of TAFE and the board chair, Mr Peter Vaughan. It says:
I assume by now that Jo has brought you up to date with the debacle that took place re our submission to the House of Representative's inquiry into TAFE.
Further on it says:
…we need to decide what line to take at the Public Hearing. Do I follow the script outlined in the DFEEST written submission (lots of spin) or do I answer the questions truthfully as outlined in our original Board approved submission?
Needless to say, I would not wish to embarrass the Board or the Minister by publicly criticising the State Government on its policy positions but it's going to be very challenging for me to say anything positive about DFEEST and how they have managed Skills for All.
I guess one option is to simply withdraw from appearing but that might attract more attention.
Then further on, in an email between Mr Ray Garrand, the CEO of DFEEST, and the former CEO of TAFE, dated 3 June 2014:
Just to let you know that I will not be making a presentation to the HoR's public hearing at Regency on 12 June.
I have withdrawn after discussing the matter with Peter Vaughan this evening.
Etc., and so on, 'Regards, Jeff'. My question to the minister is: can she confirm that the reason why TAFE decided not to appear before the federal inquiry was that they thought it would be far too embarrassing for the state government?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) ( 14:44 :49 ): I thank the member for her question. I have already answered this question. As I said, it is old news. It is a lazy opposition that cannot find more contemporary information. It is just lazy. This is all old news. As I said, I have been on the record before and I stand by all of those responses. I have answered the question again here today with the first question but, if the opposition want to waste their second question on old news, then go right ahead. I have made it very clear that I did not request or direct TAFE in the matter of—
The PRESIDENT: Order! The minister has the floor.
The Hon. G.E. GAGO: —whether to appear or not to appear at that hearing. I have made that very clear already. The honourable member simply needs to ask the chair, Mr Peter Vaughan, but as I said many months ago and continue to say, I in no way directed or even sought to influence the board's decision as to whether or not it appeared before that inquiry. It was their decision. TAFE informed me of their decision and I had no discussion, to the best of my knowledge, with TAFE. They gave no reason as to why or why not; they simply informed me that they had made the decision not to attend. As I said, my assumption was that they were satisfied that the final whole-of-government response to the inquiry satisfied the issue that they wished to present to the committee.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:46 :36 ): Supplementary question. Minister, did you actually ask TAFE why they decided not to make a submission?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) ( 14:46 :43 ): As I said, listen to my answer. I have answered quite categorically that TAFE gave me no reason as to why they did or did not and I had no discussion with them about why they did or did not. They simply gave me information. A reasonable person would assume that, given that a comprehensive whole-of-government response was made to the inquiry, TAFE was satisfied with that. That is a reasonable conclusion for an intelligent person to come to.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:47 :22 ): Further supplementary: is the minister aware of whether the TAFE submission had any adverse commentary about the state government and/or the Skills for All program?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) ( 14:47 :43 ): To the best of my knowledge, I am only aware of the final whole-of-government response and drafts associated with that.