Amid the controversies swirling around the citizenship status and personal lives of our politicians, more important but less newsworthy developments pass unnoticed. And even they sometimes have an element of farce.
When a series of disturbing failures in the South Australian TAFE system came to light recently, education minister Simon Birmingham saw an opportunity to embarrass a Labor government in the leadup to a state election. He referred the mess — which had prompted the Australian Skills Quality Authority to suspend qualifications registrations by ten TAFE courses — to a Senate committee.
As a political stunt, Birmingham’s move turned out to be a lamentable failure. The committee, with a Labor–Green majority, had no difficulty in shifting the focus from local failures to the nationwide problems of the vocational education system. It was aided by the fact that nearly all the submissions (including mine, on which this article is based) pointed to systemic failures caused not by individual wrongdoing but by underfunding and a blind faith in market forces.