12 April 2016
by Chris Johnson
Minister Scott Ryan embarrassed after giving speech with parts lifted from obsolete 2014 articleMinister for Vocational Education Scott Ryan
Vocational Education Minister Scott Ryan has been left red faced for giving a speech to a national training organisation that not only lifted – without attribution – quotes directly from the association's own journal, but also praised the "current" work of an entity that no longer exists.
Last Thursday Senator Ryan delivered the keynote address to Group Training Australia's national conference in Adelaide.
GTA is the body representing Australia's largest employer network of apprentices and trainees.
In his address the minister lauded the work of a Charters Towers based trainer Rural Industry and Extension, or RITE, for providing training right across northern Australia.
He spoke of RITE being both a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) and an official Group Training Organisation (GTO) "responsible for one of the largest regions in the world, extending across Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia".
By this point, eyebrows were already being raised in the audience.
"This is an area roughly the same size as Western Europe," the Minister said.
"It's not uncommon for field staff to be away for months at a time delivering agricultural training to clients, many in Indigenous communities."
Senator Ryan continued: "Six trainers traverse the country in mobile training units comprising a truck and trailer and everything the trainer needs including horses and motorbikes and can cover up to 80,000 kilometres in a year.
"Instead of training at a campus or having the participants go off-site, RITE goes on-site and looks for something of value to do in the community, everything from building market gardens, sheds, and barbecues for the community, as well as bore maintenance on the lands' tribal areas."
If conference attendees thought the comments sounded familiar, they were right.
Those words included in Senator Ryan's speech appear to have been lifted almost word for word from a March 2014 edition of the GTA's own journal Network.
The minister made no reference to the article or even the quotes he seemed to have appropriated.
But perhaps even more embarrassing for Senator Ryan was the fact that the training company he praised so enthusiastically, folded early last year.
A registry search showed RITE's status as an RTO to be cancelled and that its GTO registration expired in April 2015.
A spokesman for GTA confirmed that RITE no longer existed.
The spokesman also said Network magazine was produced internally by GTA staff. But he did not consider Senator Ryan's un-referenced use of the work to be plagiarism.
"It's public information," he said.
"We really welcome everything the minister had to say. He was very positive."
But others in attendance were not as understanding.
"This is a well-informed network and we had a government minister trying to tell us something that just isn't the case," one said.
"People from the region know the story, so you can imagine there was some murmuring going on."
When contacted by Fairfax Media, Senator Ryan acknowledged the mistakes and apologised.
"I was provided with a speech by staff in the Department of Education and Training to deliver at the Group Training Australia conference," he said.
"That speech was read and edited prior to my delivery of it by both staff in my office and myself. I have subsequently been alerted to sections of it allegedly being inappropriately copied and unacknowledged from another publication.
"Issues regarding the conduct of one of the examples I referred to have also subsequently been brought to my attention.
"Neither of these events should have occurred. I apologise for their occurrence and procedures have been put in place to ensure they do not occur again."