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Thursday, 14 August 2003
Page: 18519

Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) (9:43 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Australian National Training Authority Amendment Bill 2003 is to amend the Australian National Training Authority Act 1992 to provide for an Australian National Training Authority Agreement, 2004 to 2006.

The Australian National Training Authority Act 1992 (the Act) establishes the Australian National Training Authority (ANTA) to promote the development of the national vocational education and training system, in accordance with the objectives of the ANTA agreement.

The ANTA agreement between the Commonwealth, states and territories sets out the planning, accountability and funding arrangements for the national vocational education and training system and is renegotiated every three years. The agreement for 2001 to 2003 expires at the end of 2003 and a new agreement for the period 2004 to 2006 is being negotiated.

This bill complements the Vocational Education and Training Funding Amendment Bill 2003, introduced in this year's winter sittings of parliament. The Vocational Education and Training Funding Amendment Bill will provide funding support for the national VET system in 2004, the first year of the new agreement. Subsequent annual legislation will give financial effect to the terms of the new agreement.

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

The latest available figures indicate that in 2002 there were around 1.7 million students in VET, representing more than one-ninth of Australia's working age population. Participation in vocational education and training for Australia's youth exceeds one in four, for those aged between 15 and 19 years. These figures are higher when students undertaking VET programs at school are further taken into account.

New Apprenticeships have grown to over 391,000 in training as at 31 March 2003, up by 177 per cent on December 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 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, comprise 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 over 118,500 completions in the year to 31 March 2003, up 19 per cent on the previous year.

There is increasing participation by groups in the community which suffer greater disadvantage. Indigenous Australians make up 3½ per cent of all vocational education and training students, and their numbers are up by 129 per cent since 1995. People living in rural and remote areas make up 34 per cent of all vocational education and training students, and their numbers are up by 45 per cent since 1995.

Record levels of Commonwealth funding are contributing to these achievements.

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 $0.4 billion for other vocational training programs funded by the Commonwealth.

In 2003-04, the Commonwealth is providing a total of $2.1 billion for vocational education and training. This encompasses an estimated $682 million to support New Apprenticeships arrangements, including employer incentives, and over $1.1 billion provided to the states and territories under the new ANTA agreement.

The offer for an ANTA agreement 2004 to 2006 would provide funding of $3.57 billion over three years.

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

The offer reflects average real growth in recurrent funding of 2½ 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 Commonwealth's proposal for a new agreement seeks matching funding from the states and territories totalling $445 million over three years.

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

Through these measures the Commonwealth will provide $119.5 million over the period 2004 to 2006 for Commonwealth priority areas, including older workers, people with disabilities and parents returning to work. One of the other significant priorities for the Commonwealth in negotiating the agreement will be continued, if not expanded, access to user choice. The states and territories have been called upon to match the Commonwealth funding. If the states and territories were to match the offer, up to 71,000 additional places will be available in vocational education and training over the next three years. In real terms, the states are being asked to provide 1½ per cent real growth per annum over the three years of the agreement compared to a 2½ per cent real growth per annum contributed by the Commonwealth.

I am pleased to report that the states and territories have agreed to work collaboratively on developing a new, forward looking agreement for 2004 to 2006, reflecting national priorities for vocational education and training to be collectively agreed. I am confident that the new agreement will over its duration deliver improved outcomes for employers, individual Australians and communities. I look forward to a satisfactory outcome from the negotiations.

When the negotiations are finalised and the new agreement is signed by all Commonwealth, state and territory training ministers, I will make the agreement for 2004 to 2006 public by tabling it in both houses of the parliament.

This bill also seeks to amend the act to increase, from seven to nine, the number of members on the ANTA board. The ANTA ministerial council, which the ANTA board advises, resolved late in 2002 to approach me, as the Commonwealth minister responsible for vocational education and training, to request this amendment to the act. The ministerial council's strongly held view is that the capacity of the board to provide high quality advice will be strengthened by increasing the number of its members. I strongly support this position.

In accordance with normal practice, the ministerial council, comprising the training ministers from all the states and territories and the Commonwealth, will be responsible for deciding on the filling of the proposed new positions.

This bill will provide for the continuing successful operation of Australia's world-class vocational education and training system into the future.

I commend it to the House and table the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Tanner) adjourned.