Claire Field on the good governance must do


Two important documents had my attention last week – the first was a March 2023 report of an evaluation by the South Australian ICAC into TAFE SA. Before I go any further let me make it VERY clear – this was not an ICAC investigation – it was an anti-corruption body working in a preventative capacity to check that TAFE SA’s policies, procedures and ways of operating show an understanding of the potential risks of corruption.

ICAC SA found “an organisation about which people can be confident and hopeful” but also noted that “a common theme to emerge from the evaluation is that TAFE SA is expected to be everything to everyone, everywhere. It is pulled in many directions. Lack of stability increases corruption risk.”

The lack of stability in the VET sector is an issue I have been raising for years. In doing so I had not considered the corruption risks, but this should be in the minds of policymakers and ministers as they finalise the National Skills Agreement.

We need greater stability in VET.

More specifically VET providers, and particularly other TAFE Institutes, would do well to look at the recommendations the ICAC made – especially about corporate governance which I think is an issue ministers are going to expect a greater focus on from both ASQA and, as a result of the second document I was reading last week, also from TEQSA.

The second document was considerably shorter than the ICAC report, a very strong letter from the Fair Work Ombudsman to the Chair of the Accord Panel, Prof. O’Kane.

After reading it, there can surely be no-one left thinking that wage underpayment is a minor matter which does not require the sector’s full attention – including that of policymakers and TEQSA.

I am not suggesting that TEQSA has not been focussed on this issue, they have – but this letter makes clear that corporate governance is key to properly addressing wage underpayments and it is a key requirement of the Higher Education Standards Framework.

Wage underpayment and the significant cultural shift needed to address it were issues I was pleased to discuss with former NTEU General Secretary Matt McGowan on the podcast. And I am happy to extend an open invitation to any senior university representative wanting to join me on the podcast to share your views on the issue.

Claire Field has been a CMM contributor for four years. Next week will be her last column and she is enormously grateful to Stephen Matchett for the opportunity to make a regular contribution to debates in the sector