VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING - REGIONAL

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:18 :30 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills a question about regional training places.

Leave granted.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: The government's decision to move subsidised training places from the regions to TAFE means that approximately 20 training places will be available for Certificate III in Agriculture, all at Mount Gambier. I am reliably informed that the diploma and advanced diploma will not be available at all, other than as fee-for-service. Students will not be able to access the VET FEE-HELP unless the RTO is registered through the commonwealth, and sometimes it is taking up to 12 months to get that registration.

What this means is that, unless farmers leave the farm to get training, they will not be upskilled. I spoke today with Mrs Caroline Graham, who I think the minister spoke with and, incidentally, Mr President and members, she is sitting in the gallery today joining us for question time. She says that her operation, Regional Skills Training, has trained some 1,500 young farmers over the past 14 years. Of those farmers, some of them are now coming back with their own children, who are participating in schools-based training.

It is interesting that one of the biggest cohorts in the diploma and advanced diploma has been young women who have come from the city. Often they have married a young farmer and come to the region from the city, and they want to make a contribution to the farming family business they are involved with. Sadly, with the government's changes, these opportunities will be taken away. I understand also that when the cuts and changes were announced, some 300 farmers enrolled almost immediately at Regional Skills Training. My questions to the minister are:

1.Does the minister concede that the 300 farmers immediately applying at RST when funding cuts were announced is a clear indication that the city TAFE-based training is not viable in this regional-based industry?

2.Does the minister appreciate that we currently have high calibre, skilled and qualified young farmers and that, in 10 to 15 years with the lack of training and access to lower quality TAFE training, the calibre will be significantly diminished?

3.Given the reduction in the number of training places for agriculture and the number of providers able to deliver this training and the geographical location of the training opportunities, how can this decision by the government support what is one of their seven strategic initiatives, which is food from a clean, green environment?

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) ( 14:20 :51 ): I thank the honourable member for his important questions. I acknowledge Ms Caroline Graham and also Mr Colin Cook in the gallery today. We had a very productive meeting today with them and other private providers as well, where we are continuing a dialogue with the private training providers to identify the specific impacts of WorkReady on their business cases and to try to ameliorate adverse impacts on their businesses.

Our private training providers are very important to us, and that is why with WorkReady we have designed a training program that transitions or will be phased in over the next four years. This is a training program that will be more efficient, more targeted to real industry needs and real job outcomes with improved completion rates in an improved competitive marketplace.

In terms of the regions, I have indicated in this place previously and on various media programs that in fact, overall, the regions gain a number of benefits from the increased proportion of new subsidised enrolments being placed in the TAFE sector because, generally speaking, overall, our regions rely far more heavily on training coming from TAFE than private providers. As I said, that's overall. I remind honourable members in this place that we have not cut training; we don't plan to cut training next year. In 2015-16 we are providing subsidised funding for 81,000 training places—81,000 training places—around about, and that was 80,000—

Members interjecting:

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: You just don't understand your figures. You lot have got no idea! The Finance and Budget Committee—what a little Mickey Mouse committee that is; they haven't got a clue. They have confused themselves; they don't understand their figures—

The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: It comes from your list; I can't believe it!

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: You don't. You just don't understand your own figures. It's hilarious! A former failed treasurer. No wonder! No wonder he doesn't understand his own figures.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I won't be distracted, Mr President. I'll get back to regions; it's very important.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! The minister has the call. The Hon. Mr Maher—quiet.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: The Hon. Terry Stephens made an unparliamentary comment; he said that the leader is a fool. That is unparliamentary, and I am asking him to withdraw it and apologise.

The Hon. T.J. Stephens: How do you know I was saying it to you?

The PRESIDENT: It doesn't matter. The Hon. Mr Stephens, it is unparliamentary. It would be much desired if you would withdraw that comment.

The Hon. T.J. Stephens: I am happy to withdraw it, and I'm not apologising.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: Thank you, Mr President.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I know that in his heart of hearts he is apologetic, and I do accept his apology. In terms of the specific agriculture places that the Hon. David Ridgway refers to, we have not stopped training in those areas. However, we have moved a lot of that across to TAFE. TAFE is saying that it has the capacity to deliver that training, and it is working through the details of how and where it will provide that. In terms of any further details about where those courses might be provided, which locations, etc., I would refer the honourable member to TAFE SA.

The other area that provides some assistance to private providers (and I know I went through this with Ms Caroline Graham and Mr Colin Cook today) in terms of the Jobs First employment program, there is a $7.5 million allocation of funds to that program. There are no limits on the types of courses that would be eligible to be subsidised under that training bucket, and the sorts of courses that Ms Graham and Mr Cook raised today would no doubt be eligible for application and would be the sorts of courses that would be quite suitable for that program. Jobs First is a training component that partners training outcomes with training providers, local industries and businesses that can deliver real employment outcomes, real jobs. I have encouraged Ms Graham, Mr Cook, and others I have met with today and yesterday, to consider applying for those funds.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:27 :00 ): By way of supplementary question, can the minister confirm that there are only 20 places for Certificate III in Agriculture based with TAFE in Mount Gambier? Instead of referring it as an operational matter, will she make a representation to TAFE to make sure those courses are available to all regional centres in South Australia, given that one of the government's seven strategic priorities is food and wine from a clean environment?

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) ( 14:27 :25 ): I do not have the details of the number of courses and their locations. There are 700 different qualifications on our subsidised training list, 700 of them. I am not able to bring that level of detail. That information is publicly available and we know how lazy the opposition leader is. We know that he is too lazy to get online and look for himself. He likes to come along here and politically grandstand and shoot off his mouth. We know how lazy and ill prepared they are. We know how they regularly come into this place, distorting figures, confused with figures. They are too lazy to even work out what figures they are bringing in here and what they mean. They shoot off at the mouth and they are wrong most of the time.

 

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