ALP delays federal parliamentary inquiry into TAFE SA stuff up

FEDERAL Labor has been accused of delaying a high-level parliamentary inquiry into the TAFE SA crisis to protect the Weatherill Government from added embarrassment.

Labor is using its control of the Senate committee to hold back the first inquiry meeting until February 7, when the final report is due just three weeks later.

Committee deputy chair Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds argued it was not enough time to do a comprehensive inquiry and a report that does “justice to the seriousness of the issue”.

The report is due just two weeks before the state election.

The Liberal committee members had been pushing to hold the first meeting, which determines when hearings would be held and who should be invited to appear as a witness, prior to Christmas.

Unsuccessful in their bid, sources told The Advertiser that committee chair Labor Senator Gavin Marshall, who is on a study tour to the United Nations, is against the meeting being scheduled until resumption of parliament in February.

Federal Labor has been accused of trying to protect the SA Government by delaying a parliamentary inquiry into the TAFE SA crisis. Picture: Cathy Davis

Senator Reynolds said the first meeting “could and should” have been held as soon as the Senate approved the inquiry and the delay was simply a “blatant attempt to block it”.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham accused Labor of “running a protection racket” for its state Labor colleagues.

“Jay Weatherill and Susan Close should stop hiding behind their federal Labor mates and give South Australians a full explanation of how they allowed this debacle to happen,” he said.

The Senate voted to set up a parliamentary inquiry on December 6 after SA Liberal Senator David Fawcett called for one to be established. Labor opposed the move, but the Greens and the Nick Xenophon Team supported it. Greens education spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young, who was also on the committee, said the SA Government cuts to TAFE had real consequences that needed to be examined.

“The fact Labor is deliberately wasting the time and money of taxpayers by frustrating the process of shining a light on its failures just shows how much of an embarrassment this has become for a party that says it supports the vocational sector but fails to fund it,” she said.

Senator Marshall did not respond to attempts to contact him or his office.

A Labor spokesman, who did not refute the claims, said the Liberals “don’t give a stuff about TAFE or vocational education”.

“More than 140,000 apprentices and trainees have been lost on their watch,” the spokesman said.

He accused the Liberals of an “appalling record on education” and “cut hundreds of millions of dollars from SA schools, unis, and TAFEs.”

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