Vocational Education and Training

My question is to the Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:42 :13 ):What does the minister say to up to 1,000 staff in non-government training who will lose their jobs because of the Weatherill Labor government's changes to job training programs?

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) ( 14:42 :29 ): I say what absolute hypocrisy coming from the members opposite. What absolute hypocrisy! We see the federal Liberal government refuse to subsidise the private sector here in South Australia—Holden's—to the tune of 1,700 direct jobs being got rid of; 6,000—and this was a direct decision of your mates in Canberra, your Liberal mates in Canberra, so it is okay for your—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! Minister, sit down. The minister is answering the question. You might not like the answer, but unfortunately you have to listen to the answer and let it continue. Minister. The Hon. G.E. GAGO: Yes, Mr President. It is one rule—

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Point of order, Mr President: the minister is responding directly to the Liberal opposition and not directing her answer through yourself.

The PRESIDENT: Respond through the Chair, minister.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: As I always do, sir. It is one rule for the Liberals opposite me and another for us, so the Liberal opposition condone their own federal mates for not assisting the private sector here in South Australia, again, to the tune of 1,700 direct jobs—gone or going—and 6,000 jobs in the supply chain, most of which will be gone or affected in a really negative way, and somewhere between—

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: Point of order, Mr President: the minister is entirely irrelevant to the question that was asked, and I would ask you to direct her to answer the question rather than something that she wishes to talk about.
The PRESIDENT: It is very hard to hear what she is talking about with the Hon. Mr Stephens going on the way he is. The minister is answering the question the way she sees fit. She is talking about jobs or loss of jobs in South Australia, so there may be some relevance.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: There is relevance, Mr President, and I will draw attention to that relevance. The question that the Hon. Michelle Lensink asked really went to the point of accusing the South Australian government of not being prepared to subsidise private businesses with public money; that was the essence of her question. My response to that is what absolute hypocrisy. The Liberal opposition condones its federal Liberal mates not assisting the private industry here in South Australia. They would not assist Holden to the tune—

The Hon. T.J. Stephens interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Stephens is out of order.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: —of 1,700 jobs directly either gone or to go. That is 1,700 jobs, and 6,000 jobs in the supply chain and somewhere between 13,000 and 23,000 jobs indirectly impacted. What absolute hypocrisy.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:46 :00 ): I have a supplementary. Does the minister have such contempt for the staff who work for private and non-government service providers that she is refusing to answer the question and is, in fact, yet again deflecting to Canberra an issue that has nothing to do with my question?

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 :21 ): It has everything to do with the question. I have already outlined the relevance, and they are squirming with embarrassment, absolutely squirming with embarrassment.

Underpinning the question is the innuendo that the South Australian government is refusing to support or use public money to subsidise private training providers. At the same time there is the absolute hypocrisy of the federal Liberal government abandoning South Australia's Holden private sector. Thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of jobs are being impacted on. However, in relation to the further answer to the question I have already put that on the record. In answering the Hon. David Ridgway I have already outlined that there were— 

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: No, you have not.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I will go through it again then, Mr President; if the honourable member cannot be bothered listening to the answer that I gave previously, which included the answer to her question, I will go through it again for her benefit. I hope she is awake this time to listen to the answer. As I indicated, significant additional money was made available over the past number of years to enable us to achieve our target of 100,000 additional training positions. We achieved that target ahead of time, and those funds have been fully expended.

We have a private sector and a TAFE sector that stepped in at the time and took full advantage of the additional once-off money.

They were aware that it was once-off additional money, but nevertheless took advantage of it at the time. Some grew their businesses, some new businesses came into the market. That money has been fully expended, and we have achieved our target of 100,000 additional training positions well ahead of time, which is a very good thing. It is not surprising that we now have a private sector that is contracting as those funds, as I said, have been fully expended.

I have previously indicated, but will say it again for the benefit of the Hon. Michelle Lensink who obviously did not hear it the first time, that we continue to engage with the private sector and we will continue a dialogue with them. I indicated at the outset that we would continue to work to get this right, that we would continue to try to minimise any negative impacts on them.

However, change is on its way. As I said, we have shifted significantly in terms of funding. Nevertheless, even in these difficult times, we are still able to fund 81,000 training places for next year; that is slightly more than this year. I have indicated that those reports saying that we were cutting training are quite wrong: we are in fact going to be able to increase training. I have already indicated in this place why we made a policy decision to support TAFE for the short term, in terms of an additional proportion of subsidised funding for new enrolments going to them for 2015-16.

I have talked about this very large pipeline impact that is consuming funds that ordinarily would have been spent on new enrolments. That is going to be particularly challenging for us in 2015/16. Nevertheless, there will be relief after that, as completions occur. Those funds from those places will be able to be directed towards subsidising for new enrolments and will be available in a contestable way.