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Thursday, 19 June 2003
Page: 17052

Ms MACKLIN (2:49 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. Is the minister aware of Australia's worsening skill shortages in the traditional blue-collar trades, like carpentry, plumbing, metalwork and vehicle trades, just to name a few? Minister, didn't the state and territory training ministers recently conclude that Commonwealth funding for the 2004-06 ANTA agreement:

... has the potential to worsen skill shortages ...

and go on to say it:

... does nothing to lift the level of vocational education and training in Australia ...

Minister, isn't it true that Commonwealth funding for vocational education and training will not even cover wage increases and certainly will not fix Australia's critical skill shortage?

Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —I thank the member for Jagajaga for what I think is the first question without notice I have had on apprenticeships and training; for that I am extremely grateful. The Commonwealth has made an offer to the states and territories for the next three years of the Australian National Training Authority agreement which represents a $3.57 billion commitment over the next three years. It includes $325 million of growth money, which is included in the current three-year agreement with close to $100 million added to it for indexation. It includes $218.7 million of extra Commonwealth money over the next three years, including $68.7 million to assist mature age people to go back into training, parents who want to go back and acquire more training and, most importantly, Australians with disabilities. The Commonwealth's commitment represents a 12½ per cent nominal increase above and beyond the current three-year agreement and a 2½ per cent real increase per year over the three years of the agreement. If the states and territories—

Ms Macklin —They don't agree with you!

The SPEAKER —Order! Member for Jagajaga!

Dr NELSON —If they agree to match the Commonwealth's growth money and the money for Australians Working Together that supports those with disabilities—

Ms Macklin —There's no growth money!

The SPEAKER —I have no choice but to warn the member for Jagajaga!

Dr NELSON —The states and territories are being asked to make a 1½ per cent real increase in funding to match the Commonwealth's 2½ per cent real increase in funding per year over the three years.

The other thing the member for Jagajaga ought to read is the report by Access Economics which was provided to ANTA and which looks at growth in demand for training over the eight years from 2003. It has forecast a 2.7 per cent growth in demand over eight years; for the three years of this agreement, an average of 2.9 per cent growth, with 1.7 per cent in the second and third years of the agreement. In other words, in an environment where quite a number of states and territories will struggle to meet the Commonwealth's offer, we also have an environment where forecast demand is certainly met by the Commonwealth's offer.

I should also point out to the member for Jagajaga and the state and territory Labor cousins that there are a number of things that the states and territories are doing which are not helpful to the government providing training in traditional trades. There are 11 industries where we have skills shortages. For example, the member for Jagajaga might like to know that, in New South Wales, training positions in the building and construction industry have declined by around 1,400 over the past year, while those in the engineering and mining industry have remained static. In Victoria, we have had a reduction in automotive training; in South Australia, a reduction in engineering and utilities; and in Tasmania we have also had similar contractions in those traditional industries.

I might also point out, with respect to the state and territory governments, that the Victorian government, for example, has introduced full fee paying degrees into TAFE—there are no loans there. Have I heard anything from the member for Jagajaga about the outrage? In the state of Victoria's budget this year, the Victorian government imposed a $155 million impost over four years on employers who take on apprentices. In the state of South Australia, there has been a 12 per cent increase in charges for those who go to TAFE—there are no loans there! There has been a 50 per cent increase in fees for people doing apprenticeships in plumbing and carpentry in South Australian TAFEs. Do I hear any outrage? None whatsoever.

I conclude my answer by pointing out one thing: 26 per cent of those who are full time in TAFE are there for non-vocational reasons; 36 per cent of module completers are there for non-vocational reasons, and in many cases for some very good reasons. But the question I put to the states and territories is: why is it that we are funding belly dancing at the West Coast Institute of TAFE in WA? Why are we funding feng shui at the Torrens Valley Institute of TAFE; blues harmonica for beginners at the Moreton Institute; astrology and tarot workshops at Box Hill Institute of TAFE; art foundation courses and fruit carving; and dance music events and rave party management, for example, at the William Angliss Institute of TAFE? If the Labor Party want to be serious about addressing significant skills shortages in traditional trades, they should get behind the government's campaign and support the ANTA offer.

Ms Macklin —I seek leave to table page 127 from the budget papers, which shows that the government is not putting one extra cent into vocational education and training.

Leave not granted.