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Thursday, 26 June 2003
Page: 17628

Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) (9:50 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Vocational Education and Training Funding Amendment Bill 2003 will amend the Vocational Education and Training Funding Act 1992. It provides for supplementing 2003 funding by $24.432 million to provide for normal price movements, as required by the Australian National Training Authority (ANTA) agreement 2001-03.

As a result, total funding for vocational education and training in 2003 will increase to $1,118.452 million, including $104.025 million in growth funding.

The bill also appropriates $1,136.822 million to be provided to the states and territories for vocational education and training in 2004. This includes $104.025 million in growth funding, to be matched by the states and territories under the terms of the proposed ANTA agreement 2004-06.

Over the next four years, the government will spend over $8.4 billion on vocational education and training encompassing $5.04 billion in funds for the vocational education and training sector, most of which is for distribution to the states and territories through the Australian National Training Authority. The Commonwealth will also provide nearly $3 billion for employer incentives, New Apprenticeships support services, and other New Apprenticeships costs of the Commonwealth. In addition there will be $400 million for other vocational training programs funded by the Commonwealth.

Vocational education and training underpins the competitiveness of our industries and supports economic and social development.

The latest available figures indicate that in 2001 there were over 1.76 million students in vocational education and training, equal to about one-eighth of Australia's working-age population. New Apprenticeships have grown to over 391,000 in-training at 31 March 2003, up by 177 per cent on 1995. Today, New Apprenticeships are available in more than 500 occupations; including aeroskills, electrotechnology, process manufacturing, information technology and telecommunications.

This growth has not been at the expense of the traditional trades. There were 137,000 traditional trades New Apprenticeships in-training as at 31 March 2003. `Trades and related occupations', encompassing trades such as carpenters, plumbers and electricians, make up 35 per cent of New Apprentices in training. Over the last five years, while employment growth in trades and related occupations grew at an average annual rate of 0.8 per cent, New Apprentices in training in trades and related occupations grew at an average annual rate of 1.6 per cent.

We are also seeing record numbers of New Apprenticeships completions. There were 118,500 completions in the 12 months to 31 March 2003, up 19 per cent from the previous year.

Australians of all ages are benefiting from the government's successful vocational education and training policies. In 2001, 24 per cent of vocational education and training students were aged 15 to 19 years. The number of 15- to 19-year-olds in training has grown by 30 per cent since 1998, reflecting the success of vocational education and training in schools programs, now available in more than 95 per cent of Australia's secondary schools.

In addition, 57 per cent of vocational education and training students were 25 years and over, and 27 per cent were 40 and over.

It is especially noteworthy that the participation rate for people 45 years and over in all education, at 7.1 per cent of the age group in 2000, is the highest of all OECD countries.

There is increasing participation by groups in the community which suffer greater disadvantage. Indigenous people make up 3.3 per cent of all vocational education and training students, and their numbers have increased by 122 per cent since 1995. People living in rural and remote areas make up 33.7 per cent of all vocational education and training students, and their numbers have increased by 49 per cent since 1995.

Record levels of Commonwealth funding are contributing to these considerable achievements.

In 2003-04, the Commonwealth is providing a total of $2.1 billion for vocational education and training. This encompasses an estimated $682.4 million to support New Apprenticeships arrangements, including employer incentives, and an estimated $1.167 billion to the states and territories.

The funding provided through this bill will give certainty to the states and territories and continue to give the Commonwealth influence over national vocational education and training policy, including in relation to New Apprenticeships.

The bill meets the government's commitment under the ANTA agreement 2001 to 2003, to increase the funding for 2003 for real price movements reflected in Treasury indices.

The bill will also provide the initial funding for the first year of the proposed ANTA agreement 2004 to 2006.

The offer for a new ANTA agreement provides funding of $3.574 billion over three years.

The Commonwealth's offer includes $218.7 million in additional funding, compared to 2003 levels, $325.5 million in continued funding for growth, and $119.5 million for Commonwealth priority areas, including older workers and Australians with a disability.

The offer reflects average real growth in recurrent funding of 2.5 per cent per annum.

The total increase in funding over three years is 12.5 per cent, compared to total funding for the 2001-03 agreement.

The proposed agreement seeks matching funds from the states and territories totalling $445 million over its three-year life.

Commonwealth priorities for the next agreement include: improving quality, addressing skills shortages, providing an open and flexible training market, regional development, and strategies for practical reconciliation for Indigenous Australians.

Under the proposed new agreement, the Commonwealth is providing the states and territories with funds from the Australians Working Together—Helping People Move Forward, and the Recognising and Improving the Capacity of People with a Disability initiatives.

Through these measures the Commonwealth will provide $119.5 million over 2004-06 for Commonwealth priority areas, including older workers, people with a disability and parents returning to work. The states and territories have been called on to match this funding. If the states and territories accept the offer, up to 71,000 additional places will be available in vocational education and training over the next three years.

The provision of the full amount of funding for 2004 is dependent on a new ANTA agreement being negotiated with states, as proposed in the Commonwealth offer. The states and territories have agreed to work collaboratively on developing a new agreement for the period 2004-06. I look forward to a satisfactory outcome of the negotiations.

This bill provides the Commonwealth funding required to support Australia's world-class vocational education and training system. I commend it to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Rudd) adjourned.