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Wednesday, 21 June 2000
Page: 17805

Dr KEMP (Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) (9:43 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

The Vocational Education and Training Funding Act 1992 appropriates funds to support vocational education and training which are provided to the Australian National Training Authority, ANTA, for distribution to the states and territories and for national projects.

The Vocational Education and Training Funding Amendment Bill 2000 will increase the amount previously appropriated for 2000 by $13.063 million in line with normal price adjustments, giving effect to the government's commitment to maintain funding in real terms for the three-year duration of the Australian National Training Authority agreement 1998-2000.

As a result, total funding for 2000 will be increased to $931.415 million.

The bill also appropriates the same level of funding for 2001.

This reflects the Commonwealth's proposal to the states and territories to maintain funding in real terms for a further three years, subject to finalising a satisfactory amended ANTA agreement.

The current agreement was founded on a recognition by the Commonwealth and state and territory governments that a strong national vocational education and training system is essential to develop the skills necessary to increase the productivity and competitiveness of Australian industry, and to enable individual Australians to optimise their potential.

I have every confidence that the agreement for the next three years will maintain this solid underpinning and will build on the substantial achievements of its predecessor.

In the three years of the current agreement, 1998 to 2000, there has been a significant expansion of the vocational education and training sector.

State and territory ministers have estimated that, by the end of this year, there will be an additional 160,000 training places provided nationally over the planned 1997 level.

In 1999 alone it is estimated that well over 1½ million Australians participated in formal vocational education and training. This is a splendid achievement.

It represents additional opportunities, particularly for young Australians, to undertake training that will help them to gain real jobs.

It also represents an important contribution to the efforts of Australian businesses to develop and maintain the competitive advantage that up-to-date skills provide.

The Commonwealth funding provided to the states and territories through ANTA will continue to provide increased training opportunities. At the same time, it will enable the Commonwealth to continue to work with the states, territories and industry to enhance national consistency, promote higher standards, and encourage greater choice and flexibility in vocational education and training.

It is a key element in the government's support of the sector and, like the recent budget, clearly reflects the Commonwealth's continuing commitment to strengthen Australia's vocational education and training system.

Overall, this year's budget provides a total of $1.7 billion for vocational education and training.

This includes $2 billion over four years to support the popular new apprenticeships system which is currently providing training for more than a quarter of a million Australians.

The unprecedented expansion of new apprenticeships is clear evidence that they are delivering training which responds to the needs of businesses and are opening up opportunities for more Australians in a wider range of occupations than ever before.

This momentum will be maintained with funding to allow emerging issues, such as potential skills shortages, to be addressed and will support innovative approaches to the recruitment of new apprentices in new and challenging markets.

Together with the government's reforms to vocational training, this funding will provide a sound basis to meet the training challenges that the economy and community will face in the years to come.

Mr Speaker, I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Lee) adjourned.