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Wednesday, 20 June 2001
Page: 28066

Mr HARDGRAVE (12:36 PM) —I am certain that no-one on this side of the chamber will be supporting the amendment moved by the member for Dobell, seconded by the member for Dickson and written and authorised by the Australian Education Union to the Vocational Education and Training Funding Amendment Bill 2001. Of course, it is always interesting in these debates to hear contributions from those opposite, because they generally seem to have their heart and soul very much buried in whatever the particular union in question has to say.

In fact, the Australian Education Union came to see me the other week about their national TAFE campaign. I was quite pleased to speak to a representative from one of the local TAFE colleges in my electorate. I am a great believer in the TAFE system and a great believer in the whole concept of further training and the technical and educative advances that people seek for themselves. Some opt in and some do it as a result of an apprenticeship but, either way, there is no doubt that the concept of training and schooling people up to give them skills in the old and new economy is vital. That is why this government has in fact funded this sector at record levels. This is the first time ever that the budget allocation from the Commonwealth to this sector has been over $1 billion. This just goes to show that this government is getting on with the job of providing real opportunities for even more Australians to gain the skills so that they can advance themselves and indeed find a job in the area of professional interest that they may happen to have.

It is always sad in the extreme to hear contributions from those opposite which completely miss the point of what is occurring in the real world and completely satisfy some within the TAFE system, generally those who are active within the union behind the TAFE lecturers, but, of course, miss completely the concept of freedom for employers and indeed employees—those who use the service—to make a choice. It completely misses the fact that there are some superb private and indeed community based providers that are offering real training, giving those who participate in training at those places the sorts of skills that are needed to reach the levels of qualifications that are required. TAFE is facing this competitive regime.

In my area I have a great deal of faith in the way that TAFE is rising to the occasion. While it is just outside the electorate of Moreton, the namesake TAFE, Moreton Institute of TAFE, has a joint agreement with PARTEC, an education and training institute established by the plastics and rubber technology industry. This particular organisation has gone into Moreton TAFE and said, `Look, we are not satisfied with what you have been churning out. As far as people for our industry are concerned, we want to get the real-life examples to you. We want to provide machinery to you. We will help finance the sort of operation we think you should be undertaking and we will let the professional teaching staff adapt what they were offering to train people suitable for our industry.' There is a perfect example of industry meeting some of the challenges that are always upon organisations like TAFE to keep up-to-date and to keep moving forward.

The Australian Education Union's response to Schofield was reported in the Australian TAFE Teacher in August 2000. They were concerned that the historical TAFE monopoly on apprenticeship training had been broken and that recognised training was now being offered by multiple training providers of variable capability and multiple sites of variable quality. The great problem with that particular point is that, in order to get a certificate, you have to reach a `quality', you actually have to reach a standard. Anybody who is walking around with accreditation in a particular area—whether or not they have been trained at TAFE—all have to meet the same standard. If those opposite want to represent the view that what was and what always used to be must always be in the future, it really is, as I said in my opening remarks, brought about by the organised labour representatives of this whole argument, and that is the Australian Education Union.

This government, I believe, has a tremendous commitment because of the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs himself. David Kemp recently visited my electorate to speak with high school students in particular. I remember very much the fishbowl roundtable—quite an amazing experience—at Clairvaux McKillop College at Upper Mount Gravatt, where the 180-strong senior body surrounded the minister, school principal and me. There were eight representatives of the student body who directly asked questions of, and made statements in a vignette sort of way to, the minister, providing examples of how they were planning their future from a school based apprenticeship basis and sharing their aspirations. We found students who are doing—which they can do in Queensland, thankfully—their senior two years over three years, which allows them the opportunity to go and get work experience. We found a student who had a school based apprenticeship; in other words, they were doing TAFE lessons one day of the week, school lessons in another part of the week and practical work in another part of the week. They were, of course, growing as young people into the profession of their choice. They were learning about life and gaining the skills that they needed.

That is the sort of flexibility that this government has encouraged in the training system. Let's face it, the parlous circumstance of apprenticeships that we found when we came to office had to be addressed—and it has been addressed, in great numbers, by this government in the five and a bit years that we have been in office. We in fact now have 300,000 Australians in new apprenticeships. National Centre for Vocational Educational Research data showed that there was an estimated 303,390 new apprentices in training as at 31 March 2001. That is a record number and more than twice the number of apprenticeships in 1995. That figure alone absolutely underscores the hypocrisy of the opposition—that is the most polite way I can put it after observing the comments made earlier by the member for Dobell—because a record number, more than twice what the Australian Labor Party achieved when they were last in office, shows that there are many more young Australians gaining the opportunity to become the welder at Port Kembla, the process worker somewhere else or the production line worker at the Ford factory at Geelong. For all those examples that the member for Dobell gave, there are in fact twice as many people actively involved in gaining those opportunities. Let's face it, I come across too many examples where, in what I think were pretty standard areas in years past such as toolmaking, there is a recognised shortage of qualified toolmakers in this country. My father was a toolmaker and did his apprenticeship a few years ago now but he was very well qualified. It is frustrating to know that the sorts of things that my father learned when he was in his teens and into his early 20s and the apprenticeship that he had all those years ago have not been afforded to as many Australians as they should have been. Under this government, more and more are gaining that.

Mr Entsch —I am a fitter-welder.

Mr HARDGRAVE —The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Science and Resources at the table is a fitter-welder. It is obvious always on this side of the chamber that the workers, the people who have actually gone and done things—have actually been on the factory floor or involved in productive activities—are always on this side of the chamber. We find the academics and the union professionals all too often opposite—all too often. It is that kind of influence from this side of politics in government decision making that is ensuring that the tradition of the apprentice and the fact that more young Australians are given opportunities—in fact, that is part and parcel of what this government is doing—will continue in the overall area of education and training.

The minister was finally able to get agreement with the states just last week, having suggested to the states that there was a cut-off point if they did not reach agreement—they were in fact going to lose some of the opportunity for growth funds. Yes, it was a real carrot and stick approach, and it worked. It is tremendous to see that for 2001 the total sum going into my state of Queensland is $162.65 million, which is a lot of money. The Queensland government have been forced to match the $9.34 million growth. I am pleased that they have been, because the Queensland government are an equal partner in any of the TAFE activities—in fact, they are more responsible because they set so many of the programs that are made available to students through the various TAFE colleges in my area.

There are so many good people who work in the TAFE colleges at Yeronga and Moreton who understand clearly the sorts of things that they would like to be able to do but are greatly frustrated by the lethargic nature of the people at head office who run training and further education in Queensland—the lethargic nature of keeping the curriculum up to date. They are not at all surprised by the fact that private training providers are kicking in and providing what industry wants at a quicker rate than can be the case through the state based system.

The Australian Education Union are apparently circulating flyers around TAFE colleges at the moment. What is particularly sad about their decision to circulate a flyer with only half the story on it—targeting the Commonwealth's contribution to TAFE—is that they are letting the various state governments off scot-free. It is the same as what they did with regard to general education funding. This government has put record amounts of money into assisting state school operations, as well as providing a far better system with a greater sense of justice for the parents who contribute to meeting the cost of sending their kids to poor Catholic system schools in my own electorate—St Brendan's at Moorooka, St Bernard's at Upper Mount Gravatt or St Elizabeth's at Ekibin. The cost of the choice that they make is being better supported by this government. Moreover, parents of students at state schools—my own children go to state schools—now know that they have a Commonwealth government that is in fact meeting the cost of education in those Queensland government schools to a greater level than has ever been the case before.

Madam Deputy Speaker Kelly, you are also from Queensland. You understand the hypocrisy that is practised by those members opposite; you understand the hypocrisy that is practised by the Australian Education Union as they use young children to get propaganda to condemn this fine federal government and its efforts with regard to education. I am sure that you would join with me in expressing concern that the TAFE system is now being subjected to exactly the same kind of misleading nonsense by exactly the same union whose sole purpose is to have the member for Dobell as the education minister in a Labor government. It is a would-be Labor government that cannot qualify for one moment where the money is coming from to meet the cost of the obligations that they are making often behind closed doors and behind cupped hands all around this country. The magic pudding economics of those opposite got us into trouble before. When you hear the member for Dobell in here complaining about cuts in the first couple of budgets of this government, every one of those cuts—

Ms Kernot —It is true.

Mr HARDGRAVE —The member for Dickson says it is true. Member for Dickson, you were in the other place and you—as the then Leader of the Democrats before you swam away to join the Labor ship—had the opportunity to assist this country in a far greater way than you ever did in preventing the sort of debt level that the previous government generated. In fact, every time you hear the word `cuts' of any form to any allocation, the blame for cutbacks is always sheeted home to the Australian Labor Party, because they clocked up a $96 billion debt in the household that is the Commonwealth of Australia. They clocked up this massive debt and left young Australians—people as young as my own children, people who are apprentices today—with the circumstance of debt around their neck. Unless this government had shown the sort of responsible economic management that it had to show to get rid of that debt, and fast, this country would be in a very parlous state indeed. When those members opposite come in here and complain about cuts to government expenditure in the early years of this government, we must remind everybody that the cuts were brought about because of the poor standard of understanding of how the economy works which is in fact evidenced every day by the sorts of questions that are asked of the Treasurer and the Prime Minister by those members opposite.

The Vocational Education and Training Funding Amendment Bill 2001 is very important. This bill is about providing record amounts of funding to a very important area, an area that was left languishing under the previous Labor Party, an area that this government has improved tremendously, providing opportunities to well over 300,000 Australians—double what they had in 1995. Despite their massive debt, they never directed into this sector the sort of funds that this government is. Therefore, I am happy to support the legislation and, in doing so, praise the ongoing personal effort and commitment of the minister, Dr David Kemp.