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Thursday, 7 June 2001
Page: 27505


Dr KEMP (Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) (9:40 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

The Vocational Education and Training Funding Amendment Bill 2001 will amend the Australian National Training Authority Act 1992 to give effect to the proposed new ANTA agreement which sets out the planning, accountability and funding arrangements for vocational education and training for the three years 2001 to 2003.

It will also amend the Vocational Education and Training Funding Act 1992, which appropriates the funding provided to the Australian National Training Authority, ANTA, for distribution to the states and territories and for national projects.

This bill will increase the amount previously appropriated for 2001 by $21.330 million in line with normal price adjustments. The bill will also provide up to $50 million additional growth funding in 2001 for those states and territories that have endorsed the new ANTA agreement and satisfy the provisions set out in that agreement, taking total funding for 2001 to $1,002,745,000. This will be the first time that funding under the ANTA agreement will exceed $1 billion.

The appropriation for 2002 includes up to $75 million in growth funding under the new ANTA agreement. It also includes some $3.412 million funded as part of the Australians Working Together—Helping People Move Forward package. These funds will go towards providing vocational education and training places for people with disabilities and to support increased participation by unemployed people receiving income support.

The new ANTA agreement embodied in the proposed amendments is a generous one.

It provides for up to an extra $230 million in growth funding, subject to final indexation, over three years to ensure that Australia's world-class vocational education and training system continues its vital role in supporting innovation and growth in Australian business and industry. By 2003 total Commonwealth funding in support of the ANTA agreement is expected to be over $160 million more than in the year 2000.

It will ensure that Australian ideas and inventiveness are nourished and supported through providing opportunities for more Australians to update their knowledge and skills through vocational education and training.

Of course, all governments share the responsibility for building a highly skilled work force and for ensuring that expansion of vocational education and training, including New Apprenticeships, will play an important part in developing the broad skills base needed to keep Australia competitive in the global economy of the 21st century.

Accordingly, I have asked my state and territory colleagues to show their commitment to building the nation's skill base by matching the Commonwealth's growth funding on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

It is only fair in a system where the states and territories have primary responsibility for funding training that they contribute their share of growth and not shift that burden to the Commonwealth.

Access to the extra funding will be tied to the states' and territories' agreement to expand New Apprenticeships places and to pursue strategies to support innovation. This could include measures to support emerging industries, promoting the take-up of Training Packages in Information Technology and other new technologies, and the development of new links between the vocational education sector and industry in cutting-edge industry areas.

The Commonwealth's offer to the states and territories for the 2001 to 2003 agreement also includes more flexibility (up to $30 million a year) for the states and territories to use previously earmarked capital funds for recurrent purposes and maintenance in real terms of the base level of funding, worth $21.33 million in 2001 and estimated to involve similar increases in the subsequent years.

South Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory had given in-principle agreement to the Commonwealth's previous ANTA agreement offer. These states will not be disadvantaged and will be able to take up the extra funding if they choose to do so.

On the other hand, the other five states have so far not settled the ANTA agreement and, in some cases, have refused to acknowledge that they have responsibility for contributing funding for future growth in the training system. I will be meeting with state and territory ministers tomorrow, 8 June, to settle the new ANTA agreement.

The bill is being introduced now to ensure that there is as little delay as possible in making available the extra funds under the agreement following that meeting. The bill would enable the current agreement to continue for any state or territory that does not endorse the new agreement. They would continue to have their funding maintained in real terms. The benefits of additional growth funding will flow to those states and territories that endorse the new agreement.

A key element of the new agreement will be continued growth in New Apprenticeships.

Over 300,000 Australians are now new apprentices. Data published by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research showed that there were an estimated 303,390 new apprentices in training as at 31 March 2001. This is a record number and more than twice as many as there were in 1995.

It is vital that this momentum is not lost. The focus on New Apprenticeships under the new agreement will ensure that it is not.

New Apprenticeships are not the only segment of the vocational education sector that is experiencing growth.

In 1999 alone it is estimated that well over 1½ million Australians participated in formal vocational education and training. That represents an increase of almost 30 per cent since 1995.

This is a splendid achievement. It is an achievement that has delivered value for money for the taxpayers of Australia. It is estimated that the ANTA agreement for 1998 to 2000 provided some 268,000 extra places through the very successful `growth through efficiencies' requirement of that agreement.

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 enterprises 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 improve quality, to enhance national consistency and to encourage greater choice and flexibility in vocational education and training.

We have achieved outstanding success in the vocational education and training sector in the last five years. With the amendments before the House today, and the new ANTA agreement they embody, we can look forward to an even brighter future in the years to come.

I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Swan) adjourned.