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Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 6391


Senator FIFIELD (2:26 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Employment Participation and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Government Service Delivery, Senator Arbib. Can the minister confirm that, of the 94,000 job seekers referred to the Productivity Places Program between April 2008 and June 2009, fewer than 6½ per cent actually obtained jobs?


Senator ARBIB (Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Government Service Delivery) —I thank Senator Fifield for this opportunity to talk about the government’s training programs, in particular the Productivity Places Program. I say from the outset that the government makes no absolutely apologies for matching skills and training with the jobs that are actually there. That is especially the case with Productivity Places. We are trying to line them up with children’s services, aged care and construction—the jobs that are there right now in the community. As Senator Fifield knows, it is only early days for the PPP. From April 2008 until 10 September 2009, there have been 111,897 commencements in PPP—that is 111,897 Australians that now or in the very near future will have new skills and be ready to assist industry in building our economic recovery. Of these, 42,504 were referred by employment service providers and are already completing their training. From these completions, almost 7½ thousand have achieved an employment outcome already. PPP is only one facet of what the government is doing in training, and it is only a small facet. A week and a half ago, I announced round 1 of the Jobs Fund—6,000 jobs. Nothing is more important to training than actually having the jobs in the sector, jobs in industry, and that is what the Jobs Fund is about. (Time expired)


Senator FIFIELD —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I do note that the minister declined to answer as to the percentage of those under the PPP who were actually placed in jobs. This supplementary question might provide the minister with the opportunity to address that. Is the Chief Executive of TAFE Directors Australia, Mr Martin Riordan, right when he says, ‘Two years into the education revolution and we haven’t really made any progress on skills shortages at all’? Will the minister undertake to release a detailed performance review on the employment outcomes of the Productivity Places Program so that taxpayers can judge for themselves whether they are indeed getting value for money?


Senator ARBIB (Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Government Service Delivery) —We all know the Liberal Party’s record. We all know their record in terms of skill development and training—

Opposition senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! Order!

Opposition senators interjecting—


Senator ARBIB —We know what the Reserve Bank said—

Opposition senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! The minister will resume his seat. Order! I draw your attention to the question, Senator Arbib. You have got 47 seconds left to answer the question. Senator Arbib.


Senator ARBIB —I am very happy to answer the question. We all know their record: 20 Reserve Bank warnings on capacity constraints that led to 10 increases in interest rates. The Liberal Party could not give a damn about training, could not give a damn about—


Senator Brandis interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! The minister will resume his seat. When we have silence, we will proceed.


Senator Bernardi interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! Proceed, Senator Arbib.


Senator ARBIB —Can I tell Senator Fifield: the best thing we can do for training comes straight out of the stimulus package. I am talking about apprenticeships and traineeships. The federal government is working with the state and territory governments to ensure that 10 per cent of contract labour hours in the stimulus are for apprentices and trainees. There is no greater step that any government can take than to ensure that apprentices are being trained through the stimulus package. If you left it to the Liberal Party, there would be no stimulus package; there would be no training. Their policy on jobs? One year in, they have no policy on jobs—no policy. (Time expired)


Senator FIFIELD —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the minister satisfied with a 6.5 per cent success rate, and does he believe the program is providing good value for money? Hasn’t the Productivity Places Program developed into yet another poorly thought through Labor shambles, where the real outcomes show totally inadequate returns for the vast amounts of taxpayer funds invested in them?


Senator ARBIB (Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Government Service Delivery) —Absolutely not. We have been travelling the country actually talking to small business—something that probably the Liberal Party have forgotten to do—about what they need in terms of training—


Senator Joyce interjecting—


Senator ARBIB —what they need in terms of job creation, and they are saying exactly what the PPP is about: ensuring there are positions, certificate IIs, certificate IIIs.


Senator Joyce interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —The minister will resume his seat. Senator Joyce, constant interjecting is completely disorderly; I draw that to your attention. Senator Bob Brown is trying to listen to the answers. Senator Arbib.


Senator ARBIB —So the PPP is working well. If you left it to the Liberal Party, there would be no funds going into training, because that is their record. And what is their plan for jobs? One year in, they have no policy. They have no plan whatsoever, not one job.

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! Order! On both sides, I need order.


Senator Fifield —Mr President, I rise on a point of order on relevance. The minister was asked a very specific question: is he satisfied with the 6.5 per cent success rate for the PPP?


The PRESIDENT —The minister has addressed the question. I draw the minister’s attention to the fact that there are three seconds remaining. I cannot instruct the minister to give a specific answer but I ask him to address the question in the remaining three seconds.


Senator ARBIB —As I said, the opposition have no jobs plan except Work Choices.

Opposition senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order!

Government senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! I am waiting to call Senator Bob Brown, who is entitled to be heard in silence on both sides.