Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, is it still your intention for the new TasTAFE act to commence on the 1 July this year and can you step us through the transition process?
Mr JAENSCH - Yes, it is and I can. The TasTAFE Skills and Training Business Act 2021 received royal ascent on the 16 December and it commences on the 1 July. The legislation establishes the business model, which you know about. The new model effective from the 1 July includes the following elements, TasTAFE's functions have been streamlined to better reflect its key roles within the community. Its powers have been extended to include borrowing capacity from the Tasmanian Public Finance Corporation, giving it greater autonomy and reflexibility and managing its infrastructure to meet training requirements.
Ministerial oversight has been improved through issuing of a statement of expectations that is required to be tabled in parliament improving transparency ansd we have talked about today. TasTAFE will continue to be scrutinised by both Houses of parliament each year during Budget Estimates. The board arrangements for TasTAFE have been modernised and flexibility increased to allow for changing environments.
TasTAFE has its own employment powers to provide it with autonomy and flexibility required to address training needs and overlapping regulatory and constraining requirements have been removed with appropriate safeguards. TasTAFE and the Department of State Growth are supporting work to transition TasTAFE to the new model by the 1 July this year. A TasTAFE transition oversight committee has been established to oversee the transition. The committee is focused on implementation of the Government's commitments, including ensuring the existing TasTAFE employees are no worse off. This work will also inform development of a new industry engagement framework for the broader vocational educational and training system.
Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, what proportion of skills funding goes to private registered training organisations compared to TasTAFE? How has that changed since 2014?
Mr JAENSCH - We have guaranteed that TasTAFE will receive 80 per cent of our investment though they are able to compete for the contestable component as well that we have out in the market.
Dr WOODRUFF - You mean it could be 80-plus?
Mr JAENSCH - Could be.
Dr WOODRUFF - So a minimum of 80 per cent.
Mr JAENSCH - Yes.
Dr WOODRUFF - So how has it changed since 2014? Is there no change since 2014 in that proportion of what’s contestable?
Mr JAENSCH - I will ask for some advice on that. We can return to that.
Dr WOODRUFF – Will the Government guarantee that no TasTAFE course fee or employer cost will increase above CPI in the forward Estimates period?
Mr JAENSCH – We want TasTAFE to be affordable for Tasmanians. That is very important for us. TasTAFE itself has made statements to that effect as well in the past. Approximately 20 per cent of TasTAFE students receive concessions. In 2020, students paid no more than $370 per annum for their course.
The TasTAFE board is empowered to set prices, but it has also made statements committing to ensuring the affordability of TasTAFE's offerings for all Tasmanians. I invite the CEO if he wanted to make any additional comments.
Mr DREHER – My comments support yours; we have committed that prices won't go up this calendar year beyond the CPI.
Dr WOODRUFF – You have? Thank you. That is not over the forward Estimates for this year. Minister, I am just reminding you that it's something you can set in the statement of expectations to the board, like you do on these sorts of things, direct bodies to do things. TasTAFE has had a funding cut of around $8 million by the fourth year in the forward Estimates, in 2025-26, an $8 044 000 cut. How do you explain the cut you have made in the budget? The total deficit over the period will be $11.7 million and that's going to impact tremendously in the sorts of courses and numbers of students who are able to take up vocational training in Tasmania; how can you justify that?
It's in budget paper 2, volume 2, table 28.2.
Mr JAENSCH – There is clearly an additional $15.5 million funding this year for TAFE, and, the Government has now committed $114 million in new funding for TasTAFE since the 2021 state election for staffing and for infrastructure. I am advised that maybe the change that you are reflecting in 2025-26 relates to the ending of the Facilities Upgrade and Transition Fund commitment that the Government has made for TasTAFE to fund this transition period and re establish it in its new guise. Do you have any other comment on that?
Dr WOODRUFF - So you're saying this is all capital expenditure.
Mr JAENSCH - Capital expenditure and transition.
Dr WOODRUFF - What do you mean 'transition'?
Mr JAENSCH - I will ask the CEO to make a comment on that.
Mr DREHER - There was $2.5 million per annum for transition funding as well as capital grants for specific projects. As those reduced in the out-years, that is why it is reduced. The actual share of the training funding, which is different, stays the same.
Dr WOODRUFF - It is $2.5 million per year over the forward Estimates.
Mr DREHER - That was for the non capital money. The other money that reduces is for things like campus upgrades, virtual campus, those election commitments that were made.
Dr WOODRUFF - Sure, but that is a $10 million reduction in funding over the forward Estimates. Minister, the CEO has just said that it is towards transitional costs. I still don't understand what the transitional costs are that have been -
Mr JAENSCH - It's not a cut, it's an additional parcel of money that has been provided for a period of time to help the new organisation adjust itself to its operating system.
Dr WOODRUFF - Doesn't that involve employing people? Will they be unemployed, then, at the end of four years?
Mr DREHER - No. It may or may not involve employing people. There are a lot of systems and process issues that need to be sorted through as we transition out of the State Service. It is quite a complex piece of work. We have been getting advice. We have been upgrading systems along the way, and that will need to continue over the next two to three years as we set the place up to be a more autonomous organisation and not part of the systems that support the State Service.
Dr WOODRUFF - So will that all be spent by TasTAFE? Is that money going to TasTAFE or will it all end up going to private consultants to do work that TasTAFE will be passing out to other people to do? Is this money going into TasTAFE for working on the transition process, or will money be going into the state Government?
Mr JAENSCH - We expect they will spend it a range of matters such as capital purchases, but also engaging people to do work for them.
Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, does the Government accept that, despite expelling every TasTAFE teacher and staff member from their public service jobs, the wages and conditions of TasTAFE teachers and employees will continue to be determined, effectively, by Government wages policy and funding?
Is it reasonable for employees to negotiate with an entity over wages and conditions that has no control over their wages policy and overall staffing budget?
Mr JAENSCH - This is very much your way of asking questions where you ask me a 'yes' or 'no' question. There are couple of options, neither of which are entirely reasonable for me to answer on.
Ms O'CONNOR - Thanks for your feedback.
Mr JAENSCH - Our firm commitment has been that no TasTAFE employee will be worse off and that they are a key part of delivering our new, more nimble and better TasTAFE. We're excited about that future and we thank TasTAFE staff for their work.
It's difficult to change and move, particularly when you've been a long-serving employee in these systems. They're not being sacked or driven out of their old roles. The TasTAFE staff are making a transition with TasTAFE into its new format and operations, and their pay and conditions, as I understand, are protected in that change. I'm just looking for a little detail that I had a note on. We certainly don't want to lose them because they've been the backbone of TAFE.
No existing TasTAFE employee will be worse off and, as far as possible, we will replicate their conditions of employment under the new Fair Work structure that they're moving to. Can I ask the CEO to comment further on other elements of your question?
Ms O'CONNOR - Which particular elements?
Mr JAENSCH - Which ones do you want more information on?
Ms O'CONNOR - It's actually a political question. Do you think it's reasonable for employees to have to negotiate with their employer over wages and conditions when there's no control over wages policy and the overall staffing budget?
Mr JAENSCH - I think that was the reason why their wages and conditions, to the greatest extent possible, were guaranteed to be preserved through this transition.
Ms O'CONNOR - And that's a good thing. I don't think I need any more information, with respect.
Minister, what was the full time equivalent number of TasTAFE teachers in May 2021, compared to the full time equivalent number of TasTAFE teachers in May 2022?
Mr JAENSCH - I will ask the CEO to provide those numbers.
Mr DREHER - These figures are from March because I don't have May in front of me.
Ms O'CONNOR - March to March?
Mr DREHER - Yes. Permanent teaching FTEs in March 2021 was 404.5; and in March 2022 it was 408.71.
Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you for that. Minister, it seems that the promised 100 new TasTAFE teachers have not yet been employed at the organisation.
Mr JAENSCH - There was an answer just recently in relation to the phasing of that over a series of years.
Mr DREHER - We've employed approximately 15 new teachers under the new 'Be a Life changer - Be a TasTAFE Teacher' initiative for 100 new teachers - 25 a year over four years.
Unfortunately, workforce issues for industry are workforce issues for us as well, and people come and go on a regular basis, which is why the jump hasn't been by that 15 extra people. We are in the market continually, looking for new teachers. But as I said, there's a workforce issue for the workforce to train the workforce.
Ms O'CONNOR - Could I ask finally, how many TasTAFE teacher vacancies are currently unfilled? Do you have that information?
Mr DREHER - I don't have that information in front of me.
Ms O'CONNOR - Positions? Can I put that on notice, minister? I don't think it's a contentious one.
Mr JAENSCH - I'd be happy to take that on notice if you are, Grant?
Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you.