Government Axes Skills Advisory Board By Stealth

It was confirmed this week that the Government has secretly axed the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA).

“There has been no announcement by the Minister, no media release from the Minister, no formal confirmation by the Minister that our peak strategic policy and research body on skills has been axed. The Minister needs to start answering some questions and confirm whether AWPA staff will lose their jobs and whether the independent research and policy work that AWPA provided will continue and be released to the public,” Sharon Bird said.

“We are starting to see a regular pattern of action by stealth by Minister Macfarlane.  We saw the VET Reform Taskforce and consultation process start in secret and now we have had confirmation in a Senate Inquiry that AWPA has been axed.”

“Apparently the AWPA Chair has been left to put out a media statement two days ago and no announcement has been made by the Minister, including an expression of appreciation for the work of the organisation,” Sharon Bird said.

The Chair’s statement was provided on the same day that AWPA’s Chief Executive Officer, Robin Shreeve, gave evidence to the Senate Education and Employment References Committee Inquiry into Technical and Further Education in Australia in Sydney.  confirming that AWPA had been axed:

CHAIR: Finally, can you tell us what is happening to your board?

Mr Shreeve: We anticipate that from 1 July the functions of AWPA will be folded into the Department of Industry.

CHAIR: So you will not exist?

Mr Shreeve: As a board, no.

Senator O'Sullivan: What is the thinking there? Has the board model proved not to be successful enough?

Mr Shreeve: I think the minister is of the view that this is part of the simplification process—rather than having lots of boards and committees have the advice come just from the department.

AWPA was established in 2012 by the former Labor Government, replacing Skills Australia, to provide expert, independent advice to government on current, emerging and future skills and workforce development needs.

“As I have said before, AWPA brings together the peak national bodies such as ACCI, AiGroup and the ACTU to achieve industry leadership.  Disbanding the key national policy and research body on skills while we have jobs being lost across the country is nonsensical,” Sharon Bird said.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the AWPA Board and their staff, and those of their predecessor, Skills Australia, for their hard work and commitment to providing quality research and strategic policy advice to Government.”