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Wednesday, 20 October 1999
Page: 10015

Senator CARR (11:38 AM) —Minister, you would be well aware that there is a growing body of evidence that, for persons aged between 15 and 20, access to a formal structure of training opportunities is actually declining. You would be well aware that the number of students involved in TAFE colleges in that age group is declining. Actual enrolments are declining, as I understand it. You would also be aware that it has been revealed in this Dusseldorp study that 35,000 students will not complete their secondary schooling and will—and I emphasise this—subsequently obtain no further formal education or training qualifications. The response that these students are being transferred to new apprenticeships is quite clearly not the case. The empirical evidence shows this is not the case.

Furthermore, I take the opportunity to draw to the minister's attention—since he has already indicated to me that this a schools bill and not a VET bill—that the number of non-completions, or the failure rate for new apprenticeships, is actually increasing quite dramatically. In some of the estimates I have seen there is as much as a 40 per cent increase in the failure rate. So there are a number of problems for young people in terms of the services being made available by government. The real opportunities, the evidence would suggest to me, are declining.

I come back to this proposition, Minister: what responsibilities do governments have for this? What responsibility does this federal government have? I note, in an answer to a question during estimates which was drawn to my attention, that the forward estimates for the year 2003 involve a reduction of 5.4 per cent in the government school share of total recurrent funding. It stands now at 31.6 per cent of overall recurrent expenditure. Government schools stand to receive just 29.9 per cent of recurrent funding in 2003 as opposed to 31.6 per cent in 1999. Can you confirm those figures, Minister?

Can you also confirm that non-government schools share the growth as estimated at 58.4 per cent to 62 per cent? Is it not the case that those figures are accurate? Is it not the case that your answer No. E3 on a chart that was attached to that on page 7 demonstrates that the level of Commonwealth support to government schools is actually declining and the level of support to non-government schools is growing and that, as a consequence, the level of opportunities for young people is falling in this country as a direct result of this government's negligence?