Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (14:13): Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Minister for Education. Can the minister update the house on measures being undertaken to better support TAFE SA and advise what challenges the organisation is dealing with?
The SPEAKER: The Minister for Education:
The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER (Morialta—Minister for Education) (14:13): Thank you very much, sir, and I am very pleased to have this important question from the member for Hammond, who understands how important TAFE SA is not just for the students studying but also for the needs of South Australian businesses that have workforce needs and for the South Australian economy as a whole.
TAFE SA has a proud history of delivering quality vocational education and training to help South Australians gain the skills they need to undertake their careers. It is important for the economy. It is important for business as well. But there are a range of challenges that TAFE has found, and the Strategic Capability Review undertaken by the former government described it as 'the last four years have been a lost opportunity for TAFE SA and for South Australia as a whole'. After 16 years of Labor, TAFE SA was left in a challenged state, I can tell you. The Strategic Capability Review went on to say:
The corporate structure, operational business development strategies and focus on cost savings and external revenue targets have diminished TAFE SA's emphasis on education.
That emphasis on education is critically important, but the decisions made by those opposite, the appointments made by those opposite and the budget measures taken by those opposite emaciated, wrecked and ran the wrecking ball through TAFE SA over a series of years.
Even in December last year, in the last Mid-Year Budget Review, a $70 million savings task was left on TAFE SA by the treasurer (member for West Torrens) and by the member for Port Adelaide, who was then the education minister. The Liberal Party has a new approach to TAFE SA. We want it to have a fresh chance so that it can be strong. In this year's budget, we have provided a $110 billion rescue package for TAFE SA.
We have undertaken reforms already to improve its quality educational offering by establishing an academic board, as per our election commitment, and the appointment, which has already been underway, of an executive director of quality teaching and learning, who is ramping up the internal processes and strengthening the quality processes there. Courses must be responsive to industry, and they must of course align and be compliant with national training packages.
The Nous report into quality at TAFE SA, undertaken by the previous government, reported that the internal auditors of TAFE actually reported TAFE SA's noncompliance up the line, but these internal audit findings revealed that a high degree of exposure was not given proper consideration at either the executive or the board level. That is under the former Labor government. Alex Reid, the interim CE of TAFE, her team and the interim board have done an enormous body of work to improve this.
Nous also reported that TAFE SA's board membership was unbalanced. The wrong structures were in place to effectively monitor risk to regulatory compliance and reputation, and performance metrics for executives were skewed—so much for the oversight of those opposite and the former minister and the acting leader today. The government has, in recent weeks, made first appointments to the ongoing board membership.
Jacqui McGill, Sam Scammell and Craig Fowler are outstanding appointments, who will lend credibility, weight, integrity and capacity to the board going forward. They enjoin with members of the interim board—largely senior public servants of relevant expertise—whom I thank for the work they have done this year. I single out Jo Denley, who continues from the former board and whose work has been acknowledged by the reports, by the shadow minister and by the government. Further long-term appointments to the board will be made in the coming weeks and months. They will be made on merit, and that is very important going forward.
I finish by reminding members that we also benefit from the commitment of staff, who have largely been extremely positive in their response to the fresh start for TAFE SA provided by the government. As the Nous report said:
There is a large contingent of highly-motivated and loyal staff who want to help restore confidence in the institution of which they are very proud, but who have felt alienated from and unclear about the overarching strategy and role of TAFE SA in the wider system.
That is what was left by those opposite: a wrecking ball through TAFE SA. This government is restoring TAFE SA to the proud place which it had before and which it will have again.
The SPEAKER: The minister's time has expired. The acting leader.