The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:30 :21 ): My question is to the Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills. Will the government now suspend the changes made to the WorkReady funding allocations made last Friday, given the response highlighting the growing job loss impact of that policy?
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) ( 14:30 :38 ): I thank the honourable member for his most important question. It's important to put on the record that significant additional once-off funding was made available to fund our training target of an additional 100,000 training positions. We achieved that within the first three years and those funds have been fully expended.
We announced WorkReady back in April. That was a training model that we had spent a lot of time consulting with the industry on. It was embraced by the industry and well supported by the industry, so we know that we got the principles of the system right. However, where there has been concern is over how the positions are translating to the number of new enrolments for 2015-16. In 2015-16, we plan to fund 81,000 training positions, which is actually slightly more than this year, so those reports saying that we are reducing training are absolutely incorrect. We are actually funding more training positions next year than this year.
However, because of the current pipeline load in our training system, because of the additional training activity that has occurred over the last couple years in response to that additional money, we have an almost unprecedented enrolment load in the system, so just under 40 per cent of subsidised positions will go to fulfil the training commitments of those people already in the system. The government is committed to doing that. We have agreed to honour that ongoing commitment, so all of those people in the system will be subsidised at the level at which they enrolled.
That, however, does put some restrictions on the number of subsidised places for new enrolments. That pressure will be relieved, however, in 2016-17 because, as students complete their qualifications and move out of training, those funds will be able to be made available to subsidised new enrolled positions. So, really, 2015-16 is the year that is particularly difficult for us.
We have made a policy decision that we are committed to support TAFE through a period of transition to move to more flexible and more innovative training systems and models and be able to transition into becoming more sustainable and more competitive in the marketplace. I have given them until 2018-19 to reach dollar for dollar parity with the private sector in relation to commercial training activity. WorkReady will be phased in over three phases and, at the end of this, we will have a highly competitive and contestable training marketplace.
Yes, we did overachieve when it came to reaching our target ahead of time. We did overachieve: we achieved our 100,000 additional training places ahead of time. It is also worth knowing that when once-off additional funds were made available, the private sector, as well as TAFE took full advantage of that additional money in the system. They grew their businesses, new businesses moved into the marketplace, and they enjoyed that additional once-off money.
We made it very clear at the time that those additional funds were to achieve our 100,000 additional training places, and so the sector was well aware that it was new and additional money, that it was there for a specific purpose and it was not going to be ongoing. It's not surprising now that we see, as the sector expanded when the additional money was made available, it now contracting.
I have given a commitment to this sector. We have said from the outset, when we negotiated extensively with our subsidised training list—1,500 submissions we had from the sector, so they were fully engaged—we said at the time that we may not have got it quite right, that we would continue a dialogue with the sector and that we will continue to make those changes that we need to get it right. However, change is on its way. The principles underpinning WorkReady are sound, and we have indicated that we will continue a dialogue with the sector and make those changes where we can to try to minimise the impact, a negative impact, on the sector wherever we can.
The objective at the end of this is to have a sustainable, efficient, contestable training system that will lead the nation. It will be highly focused on placing government money; taxpayers' money will be focused on achieving real job outcomes in current jobs and emerging industry in line with government priorities.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:37 :53 ): A supplementary question: can the minister explain why she announced the WorkReady subsidised training list just hours before she boarded a plane to China?
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) ( 14:38 :03 ): Those announcements were made as soon as I possibly could to give the industry as much time as possible to consider this. I was here for at least a couple of days, and dealt with media at the time, and I was available whilst I was away, wherever possible.
I conducted media interviews with Byner on FIVEaa, and also a media interview with Henschke, and I offered Matt and Dave I think it was two different time spots for a prerecord. I wasn't available at the times they nominated, but I did nominate two other alternate times. I was available whenever I could, given the extremely busy itinerary I had while I was away. I don't really believe that the Hon. David Ridgway is saying that I should have delayed publishing the list for another week or for another 10 days—
The Hon. G.E. GAGO: It wasn't available then. We had an extensive process involving the industry—extensive involvement of the industry to land on that list—
The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: That's not what the industry says.
The Hon. G.E. GAGO: Well, they are saying that. When it comes to consultation with the subsidised training list, they were involved. We received 1,500 submissions from the sector in relation to that training list, so it is nonsense to suggest that we did not consult. We have given the industry a particular time to enable that comprehensive consultation to occur, and then the publication of that list was made after that. It would have been irresponsible of me to delay that a further 10 days, putting the industry at a disadvantage, and I am sure the Hon. David Ridgway is not suggesting that.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:40 :19 ): My question is to the Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills. Can the minister confirm that under the 2014 budget the number of full-time employees of TAFE was reduced by more than 500 by the 2016‑17 financial year?
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 :39 ): The Hon. David Ridgway full knows that staffing matters are a matter for TAFE—an independent statutory organisation. Those staffing decisions are made by their own board. Their figures are available in their reports that are tabled here in parliament.
The PRESIDENT: Order! There are five of you trying to speak over the minister. The minister has the floor. She is answering your question. Give her the respect to be able to do that.
The Hon. G.E. GAGO: Thank you, Mr President. As the honourable member knows, he is welcome to refer those detailed questions to TAFE themselves.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:41 :22 ): Supplementary question: is the minister saying of the budget, which we will see here in a fortnight's time, that she is not responsible for one line under her portfolios?
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 :30 ): I have spoken about the issue of the caps in the budget on FTEs in relation to TAFE. I have already indicated in this place that those figures are an administrative figure, that they do not reflect the full value of revenue raised, fee for service, international students, so TAFE in turn makes adjustments to their staffing numbers throughout the year in line with their revenue. It is not just subsidised revenue—
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. G.E. GAGO: —involved in their budget.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:51 :45 ): Supplementary: minister, clearly you are not ruling out the fact that there will be a 500-job reduction in TAFE. Are you also confirming there will be 1,000 private sector trainers losing their positions as well?
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) ( 14:51 :57 ): No, I am not confirming that at all.
The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Wade, a supplementary.