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Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Page: 3911

Senator CORMANN (3:51 PM) —I seek leave to make a brief statement.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Leave is granted for two minutes.

Senator CORMANN —As the minister said, the Rudd government has significantly expanded the role and funding for these industry skills councils. They are private companies, and as such they are not directly subject to the scrutiny of the Senate—for example, through Senate estimates. As an example, there has been an $83.2 million funding boost in direct operational funding for industry skills councils as well as funding which may be administered and not totally be for industry skills councils, such as the $40 million funding allocation for the Enterprise Based Productivity Places Program; however, it is industry skills councils as private companies that are administering that funding on behalf of the Commonwealth. That is an allocation that is made outside any open, competitive tender, where all that is available by way of competitive attention is competition by several industry skills councils themselves.

Not wanting to pre-empt the finding of this inquiry, and given the lack of ability of Senate estimates to properly scrutinise the performance of these industry skills councils in the very important area of vocational education and training, we think that it is justified for the Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations References Committee to properly scrutinise the role and effectiveness of these industry skills councils, the accountability mechanisms that are in place and, of course, the corporate governance arrangements of ISCs. There are a lot of union officials on these industry skills councils and a lot of public funding accumulated by some of these industry skills councils. I think there is a need for some proper scrutiny to be applied by a Senate committee to ensure that the taxpayer is indeed getting proper value for money from the limited training dollars that are being invested by this government in those industry skills councils.