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Tuesday, 8 November 2016
Page: 2127

Vocational Education and Training


Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:39): My question is to the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Birmingham. I refer to the minister's response to question on notice 108 given on 14 October, regarding the Apprenticeship Training-alternative delivery pilots program, in which he said: 'I have not met with MBA, NECA or North East Vocational College about the program.' Does the minister stand by his answer?


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:40): Indeed, I stand by that answer. I also went on, as I recall, in that answer to indicate that I had met as then Assistant Minister for Education and Training, with responsibility for vocational education, with all of the entities in question. However, the program in question under which such grants were provided was a program that was not established until after I had ceased to be the Assistant Minister for Education and Training.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on both sides. Senator Farrell.



Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:41): Thank you for that protection, Mr President. I refer to a document obtained under freedom of information which shows the minister met with former Senator Day on 1 June 2015. Can the minister confirm that the meeting was to provide Senator Day an opportunity to present his proposed student builder pilot, later funded under the Apprenticeship Training-alternative delivery pilots program?


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:41): As I confirmed to the Senate in response to Senator Cameron before, then Senator Day certainly was a passionate advocate of policies in relation to apprenticeships. He was known to advocate inside this chamber in relation to apprenticeship and vocational education policies. Indeed, in meeting with me as the then minister responsible for vocational education and training, then Senator Day certainly raised matters of vocational education apprenticeship policies with me and his ideas for how he thought those policies could be improved in the future, as indeed many senators and members did and continue to and, I would expect, always would and should with ministers.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Farrell, a final supplementary question.



Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:42): Given that former Senator Day is a longstanding director of the North East Vocational College and that Senator Day took the minister to the college on or around 4 May 2015, the department's FOI release shows that Senator Day presented to the minister on the program on 1 June 2015 and a grant was made in May 2016 to the college for even more than Senator Day had asked for. When will the minister correct the record? (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Farrell, I will invite the minister to respond in any way he sees to your comments. Minister.



Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:43): There is no record that needs to be corrected. Again, as I emphasised, the alternative delivery pilot program was not established until after I ceased to be the Assistant Minister for Education and Training. So, clearly, no meetings about that program would have been had. That is not to say that people had not presented ideas during that time. And yes, indeed, I visited the North East Vocational College, just as last week Senator Farrell's factional ally, the South Australian Labor Treasurer, Tom Koutsantonis, visited the North East Vocational College. Just last week, Mr Koutsantonis was visiting the North East Vocational College—a reputable, credible training provider that had the South Australian Labor Treasurer there seeing the training opportunities that they are providing to young South Australians—the opportunities for apprenticeships. They will be able to provide greater apprenticeship opportunities.

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Obviously, Senator Wong does not care about apprenticeship opportunities. They will be able to provide greater apprenticeship opportunities to more young South Australians in the future, and I hope they will provide for even more beyond that. (Time expired)