Birmo’s $20M apprentice IT bungle reveals what his ministry should really ditch

Nicholas McCallum

MEDIA RELEASE: Wednesday 23 May, 2018

Simon Birmingham needs to book himself into an accounting course, offered at Australia’s many fine TAFEs, after his ministry quietly abandoned the apprentice IT programme that wasted more than $20 million of taxpayers’ money.

As TAFE Directors Australia CEO Craig Robertson wrote today, our apprentices – the people who will be building, cooking and caring for a future Australia – have been abandoned and they deserve better than the Turnbull Government’s accounting tricks.

We know the Education Minister has a Master of Business Administration, which has made him smug enough to dismiss TAFE students as “subsidised basket weavers”.

But what value is Birmo’s MBA when an IT system that was supposed to help Australia’s apprentices through their training was suddenly mothballed by his department after being massively over budget and overdue, Electrical Trades Union National Secretary Allen Hicks asked.

“The series of failures in our TAFE system that can be directly attributed to the Turnbull Government and Education Minister Simon Birmingham is astounding,” Mr Hicks said.

The Australian Apprenticeships Management System was supposed to replace the Commonwealth IT system in 2012 at a cost of $10 million.

“Instead, the education department under basket-weaving Birmo’s direction has decided to abandon the IT programme with nothing to replace it,” the National Secretary said.

“People with MBAs allegedly know how to find efficiencies, but Birmingham has failed to cut the biggest waste of time and taxpayers dollars in his ministry: himself.” 

In addition to another IT bungle from the Turnbull Government, Mr Hicks said the ditched programme was another failure to add to the list for Education Minister Birmingham.

“The $20 million IT bungle comes as the number of people enrolling TAFE’s top 20 courses has fallen by half and the Skilling Australians Fund sits unused in every state and territory.

“Apprentices numbers have fallen by 38 per cent since the Liberals came to power and an IT system that was supposed to help them through training has been ditched with no plan for a replacement.

“This is what happens when you cut more than $3 billion from the education system Australian apprentices need to get vital skills so they can build their country for tomorrow.

“It’s not good enough that Turnbull is selling apprentices short for votes from older Australians, the very people who will rely on today’s TAFE students to look after them in the future.”

Mr Hicks said the Liberal Party would happily see foreign workers fill Australia’s skills gaps – that’s why they have allowed TAFE course costs to rise and many students have been slapped with 20 per cent interest “loading fees” and cut another $270 million in the budget.

“Birmingham has been in his portfolio for more than three years – longer than some TAFE courses – and the only thing he seems to have learned is contempt for the students he’s responsible for.

“Birmingham must stop blaming others for his failures. He must stop belittling TAFE students and he must stop cutting the funds TAFE colleges need. Otherwise he should cut himself from his job,” Mr Hicks said.


Media enquiries:

ETU National Secretary – Allen Hicks

0419 721 037, [email protected]

ETU National Apprenticeship Officer – Mark Burgess

0438 732 301, [email protected]

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