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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 2145


Ms RISHWORTH (Kingston) (22:07): I am very pleased to rise today, because it has been this Labor government that has really taken up the challenge on skills. Our workforce needs to be upskilled if we are going to meet the productivity challenges of the future. That is why I was very proud to be on this side of the House during the presentation of the budget for 2011-12, which announced the Building Australia's Future Workforce package. That package was very critical. It was worth $3 billion, because this side of the House knows that we need to make sure that we are investing in skills so that people in our communities can meet the workforce challenges of the future.

It has often been said that being upskilled and having the right skills is a passport to a secure job, and I certainly agree with that. As part of the Building Australia's Future Workforce package, there were a number of different features. One was that it placed industry at the centre of Australia's training system. The second was that the government was pleased to invest in foundation skills like language, literacy, numeracy and skills to support increased participation in the workforce. It also focused on reform to Australia's apprenticeship system to provide extra support for apprentices. Also, the government said in the budget that it will work with states and territories to reform the National Training System.

I am very pleased that on Friday the South Australian government was the first government to sign up with the Commonwealth to ensure that we really put skills at the front and centre of our agenda. I was very pleased that an agreement that was signed between Jay Weatherill, the current Premier, and Senator Chris Evans, the minister, was committed to reforms that will guarantee students over the age of 16 a government funded training place and provide support for disadvantaged students. For the first time—and I am so pleased about this—the Gillard government will provide government subsidies for diploma and advanced diploma students and give them the opportunity to defer their payment of up-front fees through study now, pay later loans. This is critical, because this side of the House knows that there are many people who find the up-front cost of getting further skills a barrier to actually skilling up. For many years we have locked them out of training. I am so pleased that it has taken the commitment of this government to ensure that we will remove that barrier.

Just one of the people that this will benefit is in my electorate: Maxine. Maxine had done a certificate IV in leisure and lifestyle but was not able to further her qualifications to a diploma level due to the cost of pursuing that. The up-front cost was a real barrier to her going back and improving her skills through study. Maxine is just one of the many people who were delighted to hear about the federal government's recent agreement with the South Australian state government to implement a HECS style system for vocational education and training. Whether it is about university or training, this government has really shown a commitment to not just allow—as the previous government did—those who can pay to get up-skilled when those who cannot pay are left behind. Whether it is about university or training, we want to ensure that people right around Australia get the opportunity to do this.

It is a very important agreement. It includes an entitlement to subsidies for training for eligible students, linked to designated skill sets and qualifications; a shift to a student centred funding model with a focus on student support and outcomes for learners; a partnership with industry, education providers, unions and communities, with a focus on skills demand; a commitment to increase the number of apprentices and training commencements and completions, including support for employers and employees; and also an improved partnership between universities and TAFE SA to ensure a more effective credit transfer arrangement. These are critical parts of how we would like to move forward.

I am very proud to be a member for South Australia. This is the first state that has seen the real benefits of this and has committed and signed up. I believe that this will certainly take our state into the future. Not only will we empower many people, perhaps in disadvantaged communities, who have had cost as a barrier but also it will ensure that our state can meet the workforce demands of the future.