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Monday, 18 February 2008
Page: 528

Mr ANTHONY SMITH (3:25 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to his pledge to the Australian people in this House on 10 May last year where he promised ‘to build new trades training centres and upgrade existing facilities and equipment in all of Australia’s 2,650 secondary schools’. Can the Prime Minister guarantee that every single secondary school will have its own trades training centre at the school as he pledged?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I thank the honourable member for his question. Building on the answer which has just been given by my honourable colleague concerning vocational education and training: this is core business for the new Australian government. It was marginal business for the government we replaced. You see that in the pattern of expenditure; you see that also in the inflation challenges that are before the Australian economy. We have had warning after warning from the Reserve Bank about skills shortages in the Australian economy, going back years and years, about which the previous government did nothing, as a consequence of which we have inflationary pressures unleashed in the Australian economy—

Mr Anthony Smith —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order going to relevance. Could the Prime Minister simply answer yes or no to whether his pledge still stands?

The SPEAKER —I call the Prime Minister.

Mr RUDD —Part and parcel of dealing with the skills shortages is what we do with voc ed and training. And a core part of that is what we do with voc ed and training in schools. I remember visiting schools during the election campaign, including the school that the Treasurer and I attended as kids. It is an absolute disgrace that, at this stage in the country’s history, trades training centres such as that have barely changed an inch since we attended that school back in the early to mid-1970s. And you see this pattern right across the country, with mums and dads across Australia saying, ‘I want my kids to have decent access to voc ed at school’—

Mr Anthony Smith —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance again. The Prime Minister needs to answer a simple question. He promised 2,650 secondary schools would have their own trades training centre. Will they or won’t they?

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Casey will resume his seat. I call the Prime Minister.

Mr RUDD —Therefore the challenge lies in making sure that kids from working families have decent opportunities for trades training in schools. The previous government just waved goodbye to that and for 11½ years did fundamentally nothing for hundreds and thousands of young Australian kids wanting to pursue a trade. Kids wanted to pursue a career in the motor trades, a career in carpentry or other careers in industrial design, but there were no real opportunities available to them. They had to wait for an alternative government to stand up here—and I recall doing so—at the dispatch box in the budget reply and say, ‘Enough is enough is enough: this government, were it to be elected, would be committed to delivering trades training centres to each of Australia’s 2,650 secondary schools.’ We have committed funding for doing that into the years ahead. It will be delivered, as we undertook at the last election, because we are a government committed to honouring our undertakings to the Australian people, unlike those who preceded us, who categorised their promises into that which was core and that which was non-core, because they did not believe in the promises they gave in the first place.