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Monday, 29 June 1998
Page: 4307

Senator TIERNEY —My question is to the Minister for Schools, Vocational Education and Training. Under the Howard government, the number of apprenticeships and traineeships at the end of 1997 had risen to 182,000, compared with only 138,000 under the ALP in 1995. Will the minister outline the significant achievements by the Howard government in this critical area, particularly for rural and regional Australia? How does this record compare with the previous government's?

Senator ELLISON (Schools, Vocational Education and Training) —I acknowledge Senator Tierney's longstanding interest in this matter and also in matters pertaining to New South Wales. What we had in March this year was a record number of people in training. We had over 183,000 Australians in training, which is an increase of 14.9 per cent on the figures at the end of March in the previous year.

As I stated earlier, this government is concerned about the 70 per cent of students that we have who do not go on to university—the 70 per cent of students who will benefit from vocational education. That is why this government has allocated towards vocational education amounts of $1.4 billion in the financial year 1998-99, compared with Labor's outlay of $1.2 billion back in 1995-96. As I mentioned earlier, we have committed over $550 million to bring about 220,000 new apprenticeship places. This will benefit young Australians, particularly people in regional Australia.

When you compare the government's approach with Labor's record, you see that we have had an increase of 59 per cent over Labor. You can see that more than 63,000 new apprenticeships commenced in the July 1997 to March 1998 period. When you compare that with the last nine months of Labor when it was in government, that is a 59 per cent increase. That only spells good news for Australians and particularly young Australians.

On 1 May this year, we introduced the new apprenticeship centres—some 200 sites which offered a streamlined opportunity to employers and would-be trainees and apprentices. As a result of that, we now have an opportunity to provide people in regional Australia with a streamlined approach to training. These sites are located across Australia in places such as Tamworth and Bathurst in New South Wales; Esperance, Kalgoorlie and Karratha in my home state of Western Australia; and Burnie and Devonport in Tasmania.

In relation to New South Wales, new apprenticeship centres have been allocated 4,450 new apprenticeship opportunities—just under 4½ thousand new apprenticeship opportunities—in regional New South Wales. In northern Tasmania, where it is much needed, new apprenticeship centres have been allocated—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT —Order! The level of noise on my left is absolutely unacceptable. It makes it difficult for even me to hear what is being said. I would ask senators to abide by the standing orders. You know what they are.

Senator ELLISON —As I stated, in northern Tasmania, new apprenticeship centres have been allocated over 2½ thousand new apprenticeship opportunities. Based on the number of commencements for the region, over $6 million in overall government support will be injected into the region, taking in towns such as Devonport, Launceston and Burnie, over the 19-month period May through to November next year.

Over 50 per cent of apprentices of group training companies, an essential part of delivering training in Australia, are employed in regional Australia. This spells good news for regional Australia. This shows that this government is taking on the issues in regional Australia, which Labor never did. This shows that we have increased training by 59 per cent in the last nine-month period, July through to March, compared to Labor's last nine months in government.