31 October 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:42): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector on the topic of public school teachers.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Last week, the Australian Education Union indicated that it would be considering striking again on 9 November if no acceptable offer has been made by the government by the deadline of 6 November. On 1 September this year, thousands of educators went on strike, calling for better pay conditions, more school services officers and more time face to face with students.
AEU SA Branch President, Andrew Gohl, has told The Advertiser that he believes it is becoming increasingly clear that the Premier doesn't see public education as a priority for his government. My question to the minister therefore is: does the minister see public education as a priority for the government, and what action is he taking to meet the needs of teachers by the deadline of 6 November?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:43): I thank the honourable member for his question. This is an area we have traversed previously in this chamber. In relation to the first part of the question, the Premier, the Minister for Education in another place, myself and in fact the entire Labor team see public education as critically important, and certainly support for public education has been a hallmark of this government. I won't go into laborious detail, but many, many initiatives, many, many millions of dollars, have been put towards improving public education outcomes in South Australia.
In relation to the enterprise bargaining that is currently underway with the Australian Education Union, there have been numerous meetings; I have attended a number of those personally with representatives from the Australian Education Union. As I have said previously, we are negotiating in good faith and we will continue to do that. As the member has indicated, the union has publicly said that they are considering further strike action.
I think it is the government's view that that would be unfortunate, particularly as the proposed strike action falls during year 12 exams, which is often a stressful time for students and parents and a critical time for those educators who teach those students. We will, as we have in the past, continue to negotiate in good faith. If we can meet the deadlines that the union imposes, we certainly will, but we want to make sure we are doing everything we can to meet the needs of students.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:44): Supplementary: if public education is really that critical to the government, why won't they pay teachers what they are worth?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:45): I thank the honourable member for his question. Certainly, that is exactly what we are looking to do during that bargaining process. I just don't have the figures in front of me, but so far what the government has indicated they would be willing to agree to as part of this enterprise bargaining round, if I am remembering correctly but I will check these figures, equates to something like $130 million worth of things that aren't just in terms of pay but that will help public education, like a reduction in face-to-face teaching time. We will continue to work with the Education Union to, as I say, bargain in good faith and resolve the current negotiation period that is occurring with teachers.