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Wednesday, 14 May 2003
Page: 14407

Mr ALBANESE (2:43 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. Is the minister aware that the government is spending $9.5 million on refurbishing luxury government apartments in Paris? Is it not also the case that this budget cuts $10 million from the New Apprenticeship Work Force Development program, which is designed to help young Australians get jobs? Minister, how can you justify this appalling double standard: removing the opportunity for young Australians to get a chance in life in order to fund luxury accommodation with a view of the Eiffel Tower for you and your ministers when they visit Paris?

Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —I thank the member for Grayndler for his question—his first and, in fact, the Labor Party's first question of me in question time that is related to anything to do with training or apprenticeships. In relation to Paris, the simple answer to that is no; but I understand indirectly that these facilities are more than 25 years old and are in need of refurbishment.

As for the New Apprenticeship Skills Development program—again, I can give you the full budget pack—once the member for Grayndler has had a look at the detail, he will appreciate that the funding for this particular program has actually increased from last year. In other words, we are spending more this year than we were last year. Given that I have had a question about apprenticeships and training from the Australian Labor Party—which is refreshing—it gives me the opportunity to say that what we are doing this year is budgeting for a 16 per cent increase, to $689 million, for new apprenticeships and new apprenticeship centres in support of them. Last night I wrote to all of the premiers and I have put our offer on the table for the Australian National Training Authority agreement for the next three years. We are committing a total of $3.6 billion, which will mean that there will be $325 million extra from the Commonwealth which is available for growth funding for training throughout Australia. We expect the states to match that.

We have also got $220 million extra in the training agreement. In particular, we want to see a focus on user choice. We want to see innovation in training and much more emphasis on school based training. We also want to see a much greater emphasis on mature-age students who want to go into training. Anything that the Australian Labor Party can do to support the Commonwealth government's initiatives to have an ANTA agreement signed up with the states will be appreciated. I am still waiting to hear from the Australian Labor Party about the alleged problems in apprenticeships and training from their national phone-in. I understand that 81 people rang in; I am still waiting to hear a word from them.