The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:33 :20 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills a question relating to Skills for All.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: The opposition have obtained copies of emails between senior staff of TAFE under FOI, and I quote from a couple of those emails:
Attached is the document that we originally prepared for the House of Representatives Inquiry into TAFE (the one that says edited 06052014). Following discussion with the Minister and the Board, the text highlighted in yellow was considered 'too sensitive' and removed from the final copy that went to DFEEST. DFEEST then prepared the 'whole of South Australian Government' response, which I'm waiting for a final version of and will forward as soon as I get it. The latter, DFEEST-prepared response, is the Minister-endorsed version of the response to the Inquiry and therefore represents the 'TAFE message'. Feel free to give me a call if you have any questions.
Another email that we have a copy of between the chief executive of DFEEST, Mr Ray Garrand, and I think the former chief executive, Mr Jeff Gunningham, states:
Thanks for letting us know, what a fiasco, I am sure you agree. I assume from this that no-one from TAFE South Australia will be fronting the hearing? I will leave it to you to advise the Minister as I know she had a keen interest. DFEEST will not be making a presentation.
My question to the minister is: can the minister advise the chamber what role she and her office played in the preparation of the TAFE SA submission to the House of Assembly inquiry into TAFE, and when did her office become involved in any way with the submission to that inquiry?
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) ( 14:35 :09 ): I thank the honourable member for his question. This was a submission to the House of Representatives. This is old news. It is unbelievable.
The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I'm happy to give an answer. All of this is on the record already, and it is old and out of date. Obviously the opposition, because they are so lazy, instead of going out and generating new and fresh questions about stuff happening every day politically, what do they do? They are so tired they go back and dust off old questions as fresh questions.
The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I have answered this question before and I'm on record.
The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: You have not.
The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I'm clearly on the record before and I think it was an issue that came up in estimates or somewhere as well, and I'm on the record there. This is just a nonsense. I have made it very clear in the past, and this is on the record, but the opposition is just too lazy to even go and check thoroughly. The government made a decision to make a whole-of-government submission to that commonwealth inquiry. It was our right to do that. We believed that it was better to have a coordinated across-government approach to that inquiry.
TAFE made a submission and most of that was incorporated in one way or another into the final submission. However, it was never our intention to simply insert the TAFE contribution. We had never intended just to insert that into a whole-of-government submission. The final copy was an edited version of a range of inputs from across government to that inquiry. We have always been very clear about that: very clear, very open and very transparent.
In terms of ability, TAFE made its own decision as to whether it wanted to make a verbal submission to that inquiry. In no way (and this is on the record as well) did I direct them or seek to influence them in making their decision about whether they would attend to give a verbal submission or not. TAFE informed me that it was not going to make a submission. They never engaged me in any conversation about my view about whether they should or they shouldn't, to the best of my knowledge; they simply informed me of the board's decision not to proceed.
It's reasonable to interpret that because they were happy and satisfied with the whole‑of‑government response reflecting their concerns they made a decision that they did not need to give a verbal presentation and submission to the inquiry. However, they were completely at liberty to be able to do that and, as I have put on the record before, in no way did I direct them or seek that they not attend. They made their own decision—and so they did. Ask Peter Vaughan, the chairperson of the board; simply ask Peter Vaughan. He will tell you in a full and frank way what went down.
I know there are a number of mischief-makers out there and I know there are a number of people who hold grudges—and that is life. However, I have stood by those comments that I made many months ago now. I've stood by those comments and I continue to stand by those comments. It's an old story. It's old information. Those questions have already been asked. I have already given a clear and concise answer on these things and I continue to stand by my answers.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:39 :59 ): Can the minister explain then, and I quote again from the passage from the email that I used earlier:
Following discussion with the Minister and the Board, the text highlighted in yellow was considered 'too sensitive' and removed from the final copy that went to DFEEST.
Can the minister tell us what was it that was too sensitive and had to be removed from the final copy, given it was discussed with the minister and the board?
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) ( 14:40 :22 ): Mr President, I've got no idea what he's referring to. I've got no idea of which part of any text—they just come in here and make things up, they simply come in here and make things up. I'm not aware—read my lips: I'm not aware—of any component of TAFE's submission that was too sensitive. I'm not aware, and the honourable member has not provided me with any information to indicate otherwise, but I'm not aware of any component that my office or I saw or considered that was to be too sensitive, so to speak.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:41 :09 ): Why then would Mr Ray Garrand, the chief executive of the department of further education, employment, science and technology, say in this email to Mr Jeff Gunningham:
Thanks for letting us know, what a fiasco, I am sure you agree!
What was the fiasco that he was talking to?
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) ( 14:41 :23 ): Why don't you ask the author, for goodness sake. You're so lazy.
The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: It's in relation to what you've been doing.
The Hon. G.E. GAGO: It's in relation to nothing that I have said or done. I've got no idea, Mr President. This is in relation to nothing that has come from me or my office, to the best of my knowledge. Mind you, I haven't got the details of this, but to the best of my knowledge—go ask the author. I've got no idea what he meant by whatever has been read out here.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:41 :52 ): Further in that particular email it says:
I assume…that no one from TAFE SA will be fronting the hearing?
Then he says:
I will leave it to you to advise the Minister as I know she had a keen interest.
So, were you advised by Mr Jeff Gunningham about the fiasco and that the final report had been amended?
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 :10 ): I've just answered that question. I've made it very clear that, to the best of my knowledge, I have no idea of the information that the honourable member is referring to. I've already answered this quite categorically. To the best of my knowledge, there was no information that came to me that I considered to be too sensitive to go into any said report. So, the honourable member would need to ask the author in terms of what they meant in relation to any particular matter that he is referring to.