Government abolishes commissioner roles as part of ASQA restructure

By Shannon Jenkins

November 27, 2020

CPSU points the finger at Services Australia’s insecure workforce for contributing to the government’s unlawful robodebt scheme.
CPSU points the finger at Services Australia’s insecure workforce arrangements for contributing to the government’s unlawful robodebt scheme. (Image: Adobe/Rafael Ben-Ari)

Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) chief commissioner Saxon Rice has been appointed chief executive officer as part of governance changes to the regulator.

Rice has served as chief commissioner since December 2019. Her new appointment will begin in January 2021 for a five-year term.

Over the past year, Rice has been focused on the implementation of internal reforms, “making significant progress to improve engagement with training providers to help improve the quality of VET”, skills minister Michaelia Cash said on Thursday.

“In addition, her work has ensured ASQA provided responsive and balanced support to training providers throughout the COVID-19. I congratulate Ms Rice on her appointment and I’m confident ASQA is well-placed to continue implementing the government’s priorities which will ensure there is fair, transparent and effective regulation of the VET sector,” Cash said.

The Rapid Review of ASQA’s Regulatory Practices and Processes recommended internal structural changes to ASQA to support implementation of reform to the organisation’s regulatory approach and modernise its governance arrangements.

“If ASQA is to embark on a significant program of reform, it requires a governance structure that can support the extent of the change,” the review report said.

“Changes to leadership teams, organisational structure and focus will strengthen oversight and managerial capacity, and support implementation of reforms relating to engagement and education, performance assessment, and proportionate action in response to non-compliance.”

The review called for upper management to be restructured by removing the two commissioners and redefining the role of the CEO.

The new governance changes to ASQA create the single statutory office of the National VET Regulator and abolish all previous commissioner roles. As a result, Dr Irene Ioannakis’ appointment as deputy chief commissioner of ASQA will cease on December 31.

VET assistant minister Steve Irons said Ioannakis has made a positive contribution to ASQA since joining the agency in 2017, supporting government priorities for regulation of the VET sector.

“I thank her for her service, which has included addressing the challenges of COVID-19, and more recently, in the reform process of ASQA,” he said.

The restructure of ASQA has been welcomed by the peak body representing independent providers in the higher education, vocational education, training and skills sectors, the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA).

ITECA chief executive Troy Williams said the reforms would help position ASQA as a regulator trusted by students, their employers and independent training providers.

“ITECA and ASQA have a shared commitment to ensuring that the regulator is viewed by students, [registered training organisations] RTOs and business as trusted and responsive to changing circumstances, such as COVID-19. We look forward to continuing to work with Ms Rice on this task,” he said.

Read more: New ASQA boss wants ‘productive’ relationship with VET sector


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