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Table Of Contents
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- Start of Business
- PARLIAMENTARY ZONE
- TEXTILES, CLOTHING AND FOOTWEAR INDUSTRIES
- DISSENT FROM RULING
- STUDENT AND YOUTH ASSISTANCE (SEX DISCRIMINATION AMENDMENT) BILL 1997
- TEXTILES, CLOTHING AND FOOTWEAR INDUSTRIES
- VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING FUNDING AMENDMENT BILL 1997
- MINISTERIAL ARRANGEMENTS
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Ms MACKLIN, Mr HOWARD)
Retail Sales Figures
(Mr MUTCH, Mr COSTELLO)
(Ms HANSON, Mr FAHEY)
(Mr BROADBENT, Mr HOWARD)
(Mr ALBANESE, Mr HOWARD)
(Mr SLIPPER, Mr SHARP)
Dental Waiting Lists
(Mr BEAZLEY, Mr HOWARD)
Work for the Dole Scheme
(Mrs GASH, Dr KEMP)
(Mr LATHAM, Dr KEMP)
Rural Doctor Services: Provider Numbers
(Mr VAILE, Dr WOOLDRIDGE)
Nursing Homes Residents
(Mr NEHL, Mrs MOYLAN)
(Mr LATHAM, Dr KEMP)
National Nurses Memorial Trust
(Mrs DRAPER, Mr COSTELLO)
Tariffs: Textiles, Clothing and Footwear Industries
(Mr CREAN, Mr HOWARD, Mr REITH)
Nuclear Reactor at Lucas Heights
(Mrs VALE, Dr WOOLDRIDGE)
- Retirement Income
- Mr TIM FISCHER, Mr SPEAKER
Ruling by Mr Speaker
(Mr CREAN, Mr SPEAKER)
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- Procedural Text
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- Procedural Text
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- Procedural Text
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- BILLS RETURNED FROM THE SENATE
- PARLIAMENTARY ZONE
- NATIVE TITLE AMENDMENT BILL 1997
- HEALTH INSURANCE AMENDMENT BILL (No. 1) 1997
- TAXATION LAWS AMENDMENT (FOREIGN INCOME MEASURES) BILL 1997
- Childs, Senator Bruce: Retirement
- Tariffs: Textiles, Clothing and Footwear Industries
Education: Government Schools
Childs, Senator Bruce: Retirement
- Northern Territory: Speech by the Member for Kalgoorlie
Childs, Senator Bruce: Retirement
- Wynnum Medicare Office
- Main Committee
QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment
(Mr Melham, Mr Williams)
"Stolen Children" Inquiry: Costs
(Mr Eoin Cameron, Mr Williams)
Department of Foreign Affairs: Boards, Councils, Committees and Advisory Bodies
(Mr Stephen Smith, Mr Downer)
Department of Trade: Boards, Councils, Committees and Advisory Bodies
(Mr Stephen Smith, Mr Tim Fischer)
Department of Health and Family Services: Boards, Councils, Committees and Advisory Bodies
(Mr Stephen Smith, Dr Wooldridge)
Department of Science and Technology: Boards, Councils, Committees and Advisory Bodies
(Mr Stephen Smith, Mr McGauran)
Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs: Councils, Committees and Advisory Bodies
(Mr Stephen Smith, Dr Kemp)
Orange Juice Concentrates
(Mr Barry Jones, Mr Tim Fischer)
(Mr McMullan, Dr Kemp)
Child Support Agency Clients: Southern New South Wales
(Ms Ellis, Dr Kemp)
Health Insurance Commission: Staff
(Ms Ellis, Dr Wooldridge)
Macedonia: Embassy in Australia
(Mr Jenkins, Mr Downer)
: Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
(Mr Campbell, Mr Williams)
Department of Communications and the Arts: Building Projects
(Ms Ellis, Mr Warwick Smith)
Department of Social Security: Building Projects
(Ms Ellis, Mr Ruddock)
Department of Health and Family Services: Building Projects
(Ms Ellis, Dr Wooldridge)
Department of Veterans' Affairs: Staff
(Ms Ellis, Mr Bruce Scott)
- Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Thursday, 4 September 1997
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON(12.01 p.m.) —It is a pity that the member for Longman (Mr Brough) is leaving the House, because he might have heard some of the real facts about the fall-off in the growth of traineeships and the decline in apprenticeship opportunities in the first 18 months of the Howard government. That aside, facts are not an issue that has worried those on the other side of the House with respect to their performance on the training front.
I rise today to support the second reading amendment moved by my colleague the member for Werriwa (Mr Latham). In doing so, I support the condemnation of the Vocational Education and Training Funding Amendment Bill expressed in the second reading amendment. This bill is about further cutting the funds needed to help train young Australians for jobs at a time when this government is responsible not only for the growth in the number of young people coming from overseas under the working holiday makers program and taking jobs and training opportunities that ought to be available to young Australians but also for a 50 per cent growth in the independent skill category of migration. So much for this government's support of training and apprenticeship opportunities for young people in Australia. This government would prefer to give training and job opportunities to people from overseas rather than concentrate on the needs of young people in Australia. That is the crux of the problem. This government has made no commitment at all to job and training opportunities for young people. It is about time this government faced up to the fact that unemployment is the biggest problem confronting Australia, in association with a lack of opportunity and a lack of a sense of security in people's lives.
The bill is to implement the 1997 budget decisions—to do what? It is to cut $14.3 million from vocational and industry training and another $72 million from education and training grants to the states. That is what it is about. It is not about increasing opportunities but reducing opportunities through cutting the very programs that are supposedly aimed at helping young people in Australia to get decent skills on the basis of which they can be attractive to employers.
This is not the first time in the last 18 months in this House that we have had to deal with cuts to training opportunities for young people. The cuts I refer to are in addition to the $183 million cut from vocational education and training in the 1996 budget, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs (Mr Abbott) is well aware.
It is not about increasing opportunities; it is about reducing expenditure in the first two Howard budgets on training for young people in Australia and ripping away their opportunity to gain the skills that are so necessary in order for an employer to be willing to say, `Yes, I am prepared to give a chance to that young man or that young woman for the purposes of training and for getting a job with me.'
This bill is about taking us further down the road of high youth unemployment at a time when severe skills shortages exist in Australia. That is what it is about. In Western Australia and Queensland at the moment, where there is potential growth in the need for people with skills, there are huge skills shortages.
What are we doing about that as a nation? We are making it harder for the states to provide opportunities to overcome those skills shortages. What will we have in the very near future? We will have employers knocking on the door yet again and saying, `Don't blame us for the fact that we did not train people, but open the doors again—bring them in from overseas.'
The simple answer, the old answer is: `We are not going to do the training. The federal government is not going to provide the opportunities for states to assist. We are not about overcoming unemployment in Australia. Open the doors. Bring them in from overseas.' That is going to be the end result of these cuts in expenditure with respect to vocational education and training.
This bill will mean, as I have said, that more skilled vacancies are filled by ad hoc decisions to have intakes of skilled immigrants instead of using young unemployed Australians trained in this country—using people from overseas as an alternative to young unemployed Australians getting a decent opportunity in life.
Last night the Prime Minister (Mr Howard), in the inaugural Prime Minister's lecture, suggested that Australia is safer and fairer than it was 18 months ago. If cuts in vocational education and training mean that Australia is safer and fairer, then I do not know what young unemployed Australians must think about the performance of the Prime Minister in the last 18 months.
I suggest that the Prime Minister has been letting his Minister for Schools, Vocational Education and Training (Dr Kemp) run around wasting money on publicity while our TAFE colleges and apprenticeship system fall into neglect. In an extraordinary outburst last week, the minister's Liberal Party colleague, the Victorian Minister for Tertiary Education and Training, Mr Honeywood—a person well known to you, Mr Deputy Speaker—said that the Minister for Schools, Vocational Education and Training was more concerned about his personal publicity than he was with putting young people into jobs.
We all know what that is about; it is about Dr Kemp stabbing his senior minister in the back so that he can obtain her post at the cabinet table at the expense of young people, purely on the basis of his own self-promotion and publicity. Last week, the minister put out this very expensive glossy kit, which includes a colour photograph of himself. We all know about publicity—and we will deal with that in due course—but surely this money would have been better spent on helping some young people get training opportunities, rather than on colour photographs of the minister.
The minister is also well known for doctoring the figures to give the opposite impression of the truth. Recently he has been exposed in the House on a number of occasions in question time with respect to those activities. He was known as misrepresenting statistics in his academic days, as throwing figures around without proper caution to justify his claims. He is continuing that approach as a minister of the Crown.
I have the articles here to prove it if he wants to have a debate about it. He doctored the figures on the success rate of Working Nation programs, for example, to justify abandoning the election promise to maintain labour market program expenditure in real terms—again not a core promise, despite the promises before the last election. Nearly $2 billion was taken out of jobs programs in John Howard's first budget. Clearly, the real losers as a result of those cuts—for example, with respect to LEAP, which is a highly successful green program that assisted young people—were young people, their families and their local communities.
The Minister for Schools, Vocational Education and Training had to find an excuse to justify this massive betrayal—that is what it is—of a promise to maintain spending and to do something positive to reduce unemployment. But, as usual, the minister could not rely on the real facts. The real facts were that the number of long-term unemployed had fallen by 35 per cent since the Working Nation labour market programs came in. The number of long-term unemployed had fallen in trend terms every month for the last 32 months of the Labor government.
So the minister, the honourable member for Goldstein, set about twisting the facts to justify cutting these effective and compassionate programs for the long-term unemployed. He even manufactured figures to discredit the programs, and the department itself knows this. For instance, he baldly stated in the House—and the Prime Minister repeated the claim—that the cost per job obtained through new work opportunities was $143,000.
It later became clear that these figures related not to the cost per person assisted, as the statement implied, but the so-called cost per net impact of the programs. It also became clear—as the parliamentary secretary is well aware—that the so-called cost per net impact was a very artificial concept which served only one real purpose, and that purpose was to mislead the Australian people into thinking more was being spent on these programs than there actually was.
The member for Goldstein's own senior minister, Senator Vanstone—the person whose job he is after—has admitted under questioning in Senate estimates that assessing labour market programs according to the cost per net impact is a limited measure of their effectiveness. She has specifically said that suggesting that the figure for jobs under the new work opportunities program is $143,000 is not the cost per person. Department officials made clear that this figure is in fact 14 times—yes, 14 times—the actual cost per person assisted. But that does not worry the minister, the member for Goldstein, because it is just a little twist of the figures. He did it during his academic days, and he is continuing it whilst he is a minister of the Crown.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Andrews) —Order! The member for Batman knows that the forms of the House are that, if he wishes to make that sort of allegation against another member of this House, he should move a substantive motion.
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —Mr Deputy Speaker, with all due respect, I am repeating to the House what the senior minister, Senator Vanstone, stated in Senate estimates as to the actual cost per program. These are facts put on the table in estimates by a representative of this government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Batman is quite entitled to state facts. It is the inferences that he might draw from those facts which are leading him close to the mark.
Mr Abbott —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The suggestion made by the shadow minister was that the minister, the member for Goldstein, had been fiddling the figures in a former life. That is a very serious thing to say, and I think it would assist the House if he did not say things like that.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Batman is aware of the line which I have made clear to him, and I hope that he will assist the House.
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —Not only will I assist the House but I will make available to the parliamentary secretary, for his own edification, the articles which set out the suggestions that I have made in the House. I am sure that he will find those articles of as much interest as I did.
So the Minister for Schools, Vocational Education and Training is in direct conflict with his senior minister and department. The truth is that those programs should not have been abolished. Since the government began to remove them, the number of long-term unemployed has risen by almost 32,000 to a 27-month high, reversing the steep decline in the number under Labor. Unfortunately for the parliamentary secretary, that is a fact, and I know that he does not like to deal with facts such as that.
The youth unemployment rate—John Howard said reducing that in his first term as Prime Minister would be his highest priority—has in fact risen. Well might the parliamentary secretary hang his head in shame. It has risen by one full percentage point since he took office. And it is no wonder, given funding cuts to vocational training of the order enacted in this bill.
The Minister for Schools, Vocational Education and Training has been doctoring the figures again recently in relation to the number of apprenticeships in Australia, and we will deal with the facts again to prove the point that I have just suggested. At the time of the 1997 August budget, his media release titled `Funding for new apprenticeships' portrayed the government as providing $265 million for 100,000 new apprenticeships and traineeships in 1997-98. This is grossly misleading. As this bill makes clear, funds for vocational education and training are in fact being reduced, not increased. The facts speak for themselves.
The so-called new apprenticeships and traineeships are just the continuation of annual commencements, and their rate of growth has slowed drastically since the Howard government took office. The number of traditional four-year trade apprenticeships has in fact fallen, not risen, since the Howard government took office.
Independent officers of the department confirmed at Senate estimates hearings a fortnight ago—and I hope the parliamentary secretary is listening because these are the facts—that the number of apprenticeships in 1996-97 will be as many as 2,000 down on the 1995-96 figures; that is, around 46,000 compared with 48,000. They are Senate estimates facts, not my figures.
Then we go to the rate of growth in traineeships, which has also dramatically slowed since the Howard government took office. It has gone from 117 per cent in Labor's last year of office to around 33 per cent in the last year, with virtually no growth expected for next year. The reason for this is that the Howard government has cut rather than expanded vocational and industry training in its first two budgets by nearly $270 million—and again we are talking about facts that have been twisted and distorted to suit the minister's own best interests.
Most of those cuts have been to grants to state governments. It is no wonder that the Victorian Minister for Tertiary Education and Training, Mr Honeywood, has had some harsh words to say about the performance of this government in recent weeks. When you look at the 1997 budget papers, as distinct from the minister's PR material, you see very clearly in the savings measures table—table No. 7 of budget paper No. 1—that another $72 million will be cut through benchmarking efficiencies in vocational education and training grants to the states.
The labour and employment affairs outlays table, which is on page 4-94 of budget paper No. 1—I suppose it is a bit hard dealing with the budget papers, when things have been twisted and distorted to suit people's own best interests—shows a cut of $14.3 million for vocational and industry training, including a cut of $16.8 million for entry level training in 1997-98. I suggest this bill is a further instalment in a series of cuts. As a result, there has been understandable outcry from the states.
On 10 August the minister made another very misleading statement. He said on the Face to face program on Channel 7 that the government would be committing new funds to enable an additional 18,000 young people to take up apprenticeships and traineeships at school. I think `18,000 new apprenticeships for secondary students' sounds like a good headline—it was, after the program. But at the Senate estimates hearings a fortnight ago, the department when questioned about the fine print was forced to admit that only 900 young people would start apprenticeships and traineeships in schools as a result of this program—not 18,000. At Senate estimates, a parliamentary process of this nation, we were told there would be only 900 places. Using the figure of 18,000 was again grossly misleading.
Then last week the minister put on another glossy public relations charade. What did we get? A new program called `Apprenticeships can work for you'. I think apprenticeships and traineeships are fairly important, but I cannot see why, when I picked up that kit—made at considerable expense to the Australian taxpayer—the first thing I came to was a glossy photo of none other than the minister, the member for Goldstein. I can understand that the minister wants to promote himself, but I would have thought the expenditure on the production of that glossy photo and on all those kits would have been better spent on trying to train young Australians rather than again opening the gates and reverting to increased immigration from overseas. That will be the end result of cuts to these programs by this government.
The state governments are correctly aggrieved by the fact that there have been no consultations with them before last week's media announcements of the so-called new apprenticeships. Indeed, some are so annoyed that they are going to raise it at the next Council of Australian Governments meeting.
Labor does not believe in letting the nation's skills base run down. We believe in actually tackling Australia's high and rising youth unemployment. We must have an adequately resourced national training program. We must be about securing an environment conducive to companies planning ahead to meet future skills needs. It is about identifying the skills shortages and creating the opportunities through the Commonwealth government adequately resourcing state governments and creating adequate incentives to encourage employers to take on young people in apprenticeships and traineeships. I do not care whether it is an apprenticeship or a traineeship, provided it is decent training that ensures that a young person is made job ready.
To this end, Labor supports the further development of closer consultations on the training front between the Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs and the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs so that we do not again resort to not only cutting expenditure on our skills needs and training opportunities but also falling back on the easy option of increased skill immigration.
It is about time the Prime Minister faced up to the fact that he does have an obligation to do something about unemployment—not just youth unemployment but also mature age unemployment, one of the major problems confronting Australia. The textile, clothing and footwear decision that is about to be made is central to the debate about the future of mature age unemployed in Australia.
The Prime Minister has taken no action whatsoever to expand this initiative and to prevent continuing severe skills shortages. A recent report handed down in Western Australia shows, for example, that some 7,000 skilled tradespeople, managers and engineers will need to be imported to meet expected shortages in Western Australian development projects between now and the turn of the century.
I say that these shortages should be filled not by cutting expenditure on training in Australia but by increasing the number and going out of our way to get our unemployed young Australians, who desperately want work, into those training opportunities. However, the problem is that this bill and the associated cuts to TAFE colleges are going to make this impossible.
I commend the second reading amendment to the House. I also ask the parliamentary secretary to examine the facts that I have referred to in the debate today. Figures have been twisted and distorted by the minister to try to suggest that he is doing something other than what he is doing in the bill before the House—that is, drastically cut expenditure on vocational education and training. The facts speak for themselves. You cannot hide from the facts. The minister is condemned. (Time expired)