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VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING FUNDING AMENDMENT BILL 1996
- Parl No.
- Question No.
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- Start of Business
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Senator SHERRY, Senator KEMP)
Budget 1996-97: Interest Rates
(Senator TIERNEY, Senator KEMP)
(Senator SCHACHT, Senator HILL)
(Senator PATTERSON, Senator ALSTON)
(Senator BOB COLLINS, Senator PARER)
(Senator KERNOT, Senator NEWMAN)
(Senator FORSHAW, Senator ALSTON)
(Senator MARGETTS, Senator NEWMAN)
(Senator MACKAY, Senator VANSTONE)
Women: Representation in Parliament
(Senator FERGUSON, Senator NEWMAN)
(Senator O'BRIEN, Senator VANSTONE)
Research and Development: Ship Bounty
(Senator MURRAY, Senator PARER)
Gun Control Campaign
(Senator BOLKUS, Senator VANSTONE)
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
NOTICES OF MOTION
- Consideration of Legislation
- Child Care
- Consideration of Legislation
- National Crime Authority Committee
- David Campese
- Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee
- Disabled Persons
- ORDER OF BUSINESS
- DROUGHT RECOVERY ASSISTANCE
- ASSENT TO LAWS
- ASEAN INTER-PARLIAMENTARY ORGANISATION
- PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION TO INDIA AND PAKISTAN
VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING FUNDING AMENDMENT BILL 1996
- Second Reading
- In Committee
- Third Reading
HIGHER EDUCATION FUNDING AMENDMENT BILL (No. 1) 1996
- Second Reading
- In Committee
- HIGHER EDUCATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 1996
- QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
Monday, 2 December 1996
Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs)(5.34 p.m.) —Senator Margetts, you did rightly ask about the contribution that you thought the states were going to make and whether there were any guarantees. Forgive me, I took that as a rhetorical question that was a bit of polemic on your part. I simply respond to you by saying that I do not have a view that there are states looking to make adverse funding decisions in the vocational education and training area more than they would be in any other.
The bottom line is a matter that Senator Carr probably well understands, Senator Stott Despoja seeks to avoid and on which I have yet to hear you, Senator Margetts, make much comment, although you may have when I have not been tuned into these debates. The bottom line is this: if we want to generate more real jobs, we have to be fiscally responsible. We have to demonstrate that we can actually run the nation's books as efficiently as any business is expected to do.
When members opposite were in government, they chose to keep running a deficit. They chose to tell the Australian people prior to the last election that everything was okay, that the budget would be in the black—by diminishing amounts, I admit. During the election campaign we said, `Let's open the books. Let's have a good look. Let everybody see the basis on which there will or will not be a change of government.' And the then government refused.
We can argue at the edges about the size of the deficit but I do not think anybody disagrees that it is enormous. That needs to be repaired. If you want to generate real jobs, you have to be a fiscally responsibly government. I made the point in a debate last week, Senator Margetts—and I do not think you were here—that it is no politician's dream to come into government and have to put a budget back into the black. There is no joy whatsoever in telling people, whether they are states, training authorities or whatever that they will now get less from the Common wealth. There is no joy, no fun and no short-term political gain in telling people that they will have to pay more for things that they otherwise would have paid less for.
These are the difficult decisions that this government is prepared to take. This is one of the reasons that we were elected. There was a sense in the community that the previous government was not prepared to take the difficult decisions; that it was not prepared to make decisions that people would criticise by saying, `People don't want to get less' or `People don't want to pay more'—the easy, short-term catchcries that we hear from people with short-term political vision.
People realised that it was about time we again had a government that was prepared to make the hard decisions. If you walk away from these hard decisions, you walk from those people who are already without jobs, those who are in jobs but the least skilled. Unskilled and semi-skilled workers are the ones that are the most at risk when you have a further economic downturn.
You can all sit and pretend on the other side of this chamber, if you like, that everything else was okay and that we do not have to worry about a deficit reduction strategy, that that is not a problem, that somehow somewhere else this matter will be addressed by other people. The bad news for members opposite is that the matter has to be addressed by the federal parliament; it is our responsibility to fix this; it is our responsibility to put the budget back into black. You cannot walk away from it and just come in here when there are good decisions to make—easy decisions, decisions that give out money, that ask people to pay less. That is not what our jobs are about, either in government or in opposition.
Consequently, across portfolios there has been a requirement to contribute to the deficit reduction. As I say, it is not an easy task and not one in which any politician in a pick-a-box contest would say, `Oh, that is for me. Why don't I have the job of putting the budget back into black? That sounds like fun.' Nobody is going to say that. These are the difficult decisions that have to be made.
I make these points because there were comments by Senator Stott Despoja, by you, Senator Margetts, and, I think, by you, Senator Carr, as to the fact that, against forward estimates, there is going to be a reduction. That is right: there is to be a reduction in the growth. And that is a function of having to contribute to the deficit reduction strategy. As each bill comes through, we can say, `But not in this area,' but sooner or later you have to find out where the reduction is to come from.
We have made what we think are the best decisions possible about how to spread this burden to pay off the Beazley bankcard. Members opposite may have different views about how they would go about doing it, but it would be a pleasure to hear what those views are, on some occasion perhaps other than today, about the difficult decisions they would be prepared to make—not the easy ones, not the ones in which you say, `We'll stop you having to pay more' or `We'll stop this cut here', the easy short-term stuff, but some of the difficult decisions that would actually address this problem. It would be a pleasure to hear some of that.
Senator Margetts, you indicated that you still did not know the 1998 funding, I think, but that is in the bill and it is a total of $893.7 million. You referred to a real cut in 1997. As I have indicated to you, no-one is denying that it is a reduction in forward estimates, but it is still an increase next year over this year. I do not think that is an inappropriate way to phrase that at all. You look at a reduction in student places, whereas in fact these reductions in funding are basically being sought from capital projects and we are looking to maintain places.
It is probably appropriate at this point to mention just a couple of other matters. There has been some reference made by all speakers to the two extra members it is sought to have on the board. Senator Carr seeks to make much of the fact that the Taylor review recommendations are not being accepted. Of course, I do not believe that Senator Carr would put a proposition that any government is bound to follow the recommendations of any review, because the government then would simply be a rubber stamp.
I think it is a perfectly appropriate question to ask. What it is not appropriate to do is to suggest that, because a review has been held and some recommendations have been made, a government should simply say,`Oh, good. Thanks.' That would mean that people would sit here in government and opposition and simply pass off the work to other people by way of review. The notion that the government would agree to accept all recommendations of a review on any particular matter or the notion that an opposition would agree to accept all recommendations on a particular matter is frankly laughable. One only has to look, for example, at the National Commission of Audit and ask whether Senator Carr would be happy to shift university funding to basically a scholarship basis, which might otherwise be described as vouchers. He would have lots of reasons why that was a bad idea—I am sure he would. He would not for one minute give up not so much his right but his obligation to offer an alternative view, if he had one.
In relation to this matter, the government is seeking to put two extra members on the board. I hear from people opposite that the Taylor review ought to be followed. With respect to the secretary of DEETYA, members opposite may not know that there is an ANTA—Australian National Training Authority—CEOs meeting, which the secretary attends with the other CEOs. You could easily argue the case that, to put the head of DEETYA, that is, a Commonwealth senior administrator, with one state administrator is dead set to cause further trouble in other ways by virtue of the fact that not all the states get represented. This is a difficult area. It is part of our federal system—where the Commonwealth has to work with the states and not all states get represented.
The states are sensitive about the numbers that they have. By increasing the numbers by one Commonwealth and one state member, you may well have a number of states saying, `Hold on. There are a lot more of us. We should have more space.' From mechanisms such as the fact that we have the National Training Authority chief executive officers meeting at the same time as the ANTA board—and as a consequence of the change of government, those people now get to meet much more fully with ANTA Minco as well, that is, the ministers meeting—we can improve the cooperation that is required when the Commonwealth is putting in some money, the states are putting in the rest and there is no unanimous agreement across the states as to how to proceed with any reforms. This is not ever going to be an easy area to administrate. The previous government clearly discovered that.
Why two extra members? I think there is general agreement that the board could be larger and more usefully structured, but there is disagreement between the government and the Taylor review—and, presumably, from what I hear, from members opposite—about how we ought to go about that. I hear pretty well all speakers saying, `Isn't this a shocking thing! This government wants industry training to be industry led, wants business to have a say.'
The sharp reality for everyone ought to be that one of the problems with any form of training if you want to get people jobs is: if you do not consult with industry, if you do not understand clearly what industry wants, if you do not develop mechanisms that industry not only can work with but wants to work with and is prepared to work with, and if you do not bring industry into the tent, then you can have the best laid plans but you will not get the cooperation or the implementation. So, far from being put off or embarrassed in any way at the prospect of putting on more business representatives—representatives who may well provide an adequate link into the broader business community—I think it is a very good thing.
Yes, people said in the beginning that they did not want the board to be a representative board. We could all point to boards like that where there are problems because of it. But this is not a suggestion to turn the ANTA board into that at all. It is a suggestion to quite wisely link the existing board members, such as Bill Mansfield from the ACTU, who is a recognised leader in the training area, with people who have been selected because of their own business contribution, like Stella Axarlis and others—to mix in those people who have this coalface industry experience themselves with others who may be an appropriate link into the broader business organisations.
Why is that? Is it any fun for people to come along and give time from their job to another board? No, it is not. That is not the reason. Why would you do it for that reason? It is because you want to provide industry led training that will be accepted by industry and will lead to people being taken on into real jobs. To suggest for one minute that you can do that in isolation from the broader business community is crazy. I really do not understand the criticism of this.
It is basically taking what was initially started: `Yes, there needs to be a broader scope.' But let us ensure that that scope further links the ANTA board with the broader business community, with the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Business Council of Australia. These are people we want involved in the training process. We want to bring them in; we want them to feel some ownership of the new training systems. Industry needs to recognise that training is an investment on which they will recoup. You cannot do that by shutting these people out. That is the reason. It is a very good reason. I am amazed that some people have indicated they will not be supporting it.