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Wednesday, 17 February 1999
Page: 3005

Mr PROSSER —My question is directed to the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs. Could the minister inform the House what action the government is taking to assist the 70 per cent of young people who are not going on to university? Is the minister aware of any alternative policies to assist these young Australians? What is the minister's assessment of these alternative policies?

Dr KEMP (Education, Training and Youth Affairs; Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the member for his question. He draws attention to a very significant feature of education in Australia, and that is that 70 per cent of school leavers in this country do not go from school direct to university. It is the view of this government that all these young people are entitled to a proper pathway from school to post school employment, education and training. As a result of the commitment of this government, we are now seeing increasing numbers of these young people going into school based apprenticeships and undertaking vocational education programs in schools.

I am aware that there are alternative attitudes to the prospects of these young people. So far as the Labor Party on the other side of the House is concerned, there is no doubt at all that there is a massive blind spot which exists in relation to the 70 per cent not going on to university. This indeed was recognised by Peter Baldwin, the former member for Sydney, who made the point, `Accommodating the needs of those not intending to proceed directly on to university education in the final years of schooling is something that we did not do enough about in government.' All one can say is that looking at the Labor Party at the present time they have no intention of doing anything about it in opposition either. There has not been a single question about apprenticeships from the member for Batman, the shadow minister for training, since December 1977—

Mr Melham —Oh!

Dr KEMP —Well, probably since 1977, but certainly since 1997. I will give him the benefit of the doubt. The member for Melbourne, one of the two thinkers on the other side of the chamber, seems to share the blindness in this regard because in his 250-page book he devoted just one page to young people leaving school.

I have to say that the member for Werriwa, in his 390-page book, managed not a single reference to apprenticeship training, which is of great importance to 70 per cent of young people. Members may well wonder why the Labor Party has this massive blind spot. It has this blind spot because the trade union move ment has shown it is not interested in genuine training opportunities for these young people.

Mr Lee —I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker, on relevance. The minister is not referring to matters that pertain to the question asked by the honourable member.

Mr SPEAKER —The minister has the call and the minister is being relevant to the question.

Dr KEMP —The interest of the member for Dobell in this matter does not seem to extend beyond Norfolk Island. This is the only issue concerning the education of these young people that he has raised in the House since the start of this year. The massive blind spot that the Labor Party suffers in this area is ultimately because every member on the other side of the House owes their preselection to the Australian trade union movement. They are a sectional party representing the interests of organisations which, when they were in government, sought to destroy the apprenticeship system.

Mr Lee —On a point of order, Mr Speaker: how can trade union backgrounds of the opposition be relevant to such a question?

Mr Swan —What about your educational background?

Mr SPEAKER —I warn the member for Lilley. The member for Dobell makes a perfectly valid—

Mr Tanner interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Melbourne is also warned. The member for Dobell makes a perfectly valid point of order and I ask the minister to come back to the question.

Dr KEMP —Mr Speaker, I was referring to the lack of interest in this issue by those opposite—which I was asked about. The reason is that the union movement in Australia took an attitude—

Mr Lee —On a point of order, Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Dobell did not have the call. The minister will resume his seat. I call the member for Dobell.

Mr Lee —The point of order is that the minister is defying your ruling by immediate ly getting back to the statement he was making before you ordered him to return to the question.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Dobell will resume his seat. If the minister were to drift from the Speaker's ruling, I would draw him into line.

Mr Crean interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —I warn the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I am heartily sick of the free advice given by him on an almost minute by minute basis.

Dr KEMP —I was asked about alternative policies to the government's. We remember that in 1995 the number of young people in apprenticeships and traineeships as a proportion of the work force was the lowest for three decades. Small and large businesses in this country want to help train young people in the skills this country needs. They will do so only when they have an apprenticeship system in place which is friendly to small businesses, which gives young people the opportunity to undertake the flexible courses that will allow those businesses to be competitive. The Labor Party and the trade union movement have consistently opposed this. That is because they are a sectional party. Because we represent all Australians and we represent young people, we are putting these constructive policies into effect.