WorkReady - Grievance Debate
June 2nd, 2015 Mr KNOLL (Schubert) (15:17): I rise to grieve today about the government's disastrous decision in regard to WorkReady replacing Skills for All. Can I say that this has to be in my time in this place, which is just over 12 months, the worst decision that I have seen this government make.
I have heard today in the media some softening from the Premier, and I understand that he needs to clean up the mess that minister Gago from the other place made, but it does not seem to go far enough. In fact, the statements in the house in question time today reiterate that that does not go far enough.
I have been contacted by local training providers in my electorate and they are absolutely appalled at this decision because it threatens their very existence, and the idea that there is somehow some other way that these private providers can continue to exist on 5,000 training places is an absolute joke and it will mean nothing short of the complete decimation of the entire industry.
In the same way that the government said in question time today that TAFE needs a critical mass in order to survive, surely those same conditions apply to private providers, maybe on a lower scale but certainly critical mass does still need to apply, and 5,000 places spread across the entire private RTO system does not carry, it does not wash.
Comments were today made by Senator Birmingham, the federal minister. He talked about his issue and his being underwhelmed with the reply to the minister in response to the heart of the agreement that has been put in place. He stated that the heart of the minister's arguments seem to be that we will have it fixed by 2019, but the truth is that the agreement they signed with the Gillard government was an agreement that runs from 2012 to 2017.
The reality is that the theory behind the agreement is that the operation between the market and the choice for students and employers is meant to be better in 2016 than it was in 2015 or 2014, whereas the WorkReady model is taking it backwards and removing a lot of that choice.
He goes on to say that 74 per cent of places were contestable under the old scheme but now we go back to 90 per cent being uncontested and given over to TAFE. What private providers tell me is that Skills for All was the program that was supposed to put TAFE on an equal footing with the private system. Skills for All, which has been running for three years now, was supposed to give TAFE the opportunity to be able to compete with the private sector. Clearly that has not happened, because here we are three years down the track and the government announces after one week's notice to private providers that they are going to change the entire system under the guise of helping to prop up TAFE to make it competitive.
If Skills for All was supposed to do this and if TAFE has had three years to do this, I do not understand why the private sector should be punished for providing a more efficient service. This government talks about wanting to be the friends of business and about creating jobs. In other areas of public policy it talks about competition in the market. In fact, the Treasurer has stood up and bullied us quite often about the sale of the MAC and about why we would hold on to a public institution when private operators are able to do a better job. The hypocrisy of the government on this matter is outrageous. This is, to quote another minister, hypocrisy at its greatest.
I really struggle to understand how the government can keep a straight face on this. When we go back to National Competition Policy and a review that was done in 2005 by the federal government, where the original National Competition Policy study was actually signed off by the then Premier Lynn Arnold on behalf of the then Labor government in the dying days of the State Bank disaster, the report said that it had delivered substantial benefits to the Australian community which far outweighed the costs, and that benefits from National Competition Policy had flowed to high and low income earners, and to country as well as city Australia.
I think the most damning assessment of this decision comes from the group of people who have come together to oppose it: from Business SA to the Mental Health Coalition, Regional Skills Training, Ross Womersley from SACOSS, the Construction Industry Training Board, the RDNS, the Civil Contractors Federation, the Master Builders Association, independent retailers, workplace advocate Gary Collis, employment psychologists, the CEO of Sport SA (Jan Sutherland), and the Road Transport Association. The fact that all of these groups have come together to damn this disgusting decision says what it is, and I implore the government to reverse its decision.