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Tuesday, 7 October 2003
Page: 20629

Mr CHARLES (3:00 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. Would the minister inform the House of the success of the new apprenticeship campaign, which is focused on attracting young people back into traditional trades? Is the minister aware of other statements or policies likely to have a detrimental impact on the access of young people to training opportunities?

Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —I thank the member for La Trobe for his question and his great contribution to Australia and his advocacy for the Berwick campus of the Chisholm Institute of TAFE. On 27 June this year, the government announced its marketing and promotion campaign for new apprentices. This year we have 396,000 Australians—more than half of them under the age of 25—undertaking apprenticeships and training. About 136,000 of those are in traditional trades and occupations. Not content with this, however, this government is determined to see that young people and their parents in particular see apprenticeships and training as being just as highly valued by this country as going to university or undertaking any other form of education and training.

We have conducted this campaign focusing on construction and building, hospitality, the restaurant industry and hairdressing. These are bread-and-butter, core occupations for many Australians and great careers for young people in particular. In fact, when the Holden racing team takes to Mount Panorama for the Bathurst 1000 this coming weekend, its livery will include the promotion of the Howard government's New Apprenticeships program. In the last year in particular, we have had a six per cent increase in commencements for young people starting apprenticeships in traditional trades.

I am asked about possible obstacles to further promoting and undertaking apprenticeships, particularly by young people. Last week the Victorian government announced that it will be increasing up-front fees in TAFE by 25 per cent. That means that students at the Berwick campus of the Chisholm Institute of TAFE, who disproportionately come from low-income families, will be met at the gates of the TAFE with a compulsory, up-front, no loan available, fee increase of 25 per cent. Further to that, in its May budget this year, the Victorian government announced it would withdraw $210 million in payroll tax exemptions for employers of apprentices over four years. This is a $210 million tax on the employment of young people as apprentices in Victoria.

What have we heard from the federal Labor Party about this? While the member for Jagajaga and the Leader of the Opposition roam around the country expressing concern for double-income families graduating as lawyers and dentists and about a possible increase in HECS charges of up to 30 per cent—every dollar going into improving their education—not a single word has been said by the Australian Labor Party leadership about a 300 per cent increase in TAFE fees in New South Wales, a 25 per cent increase in TAFE fees in Victoria or full fee paying degrees of $12,000 in Victorian TAFEs—no loans available there. Not a word has been said by the Labor Party on a 50 per cent increase in TAFE fees for apprentices in South Australia. The Labor Party has absolutely no credibility in any of its arguments in relation to education and training so long as it is not prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with the member for La Trobe, and the other members on this side, and argue against these outrageous taxes on young people who are trying to get apprenticeships and training throughout Australia.

The only person on the Labor frontbench who has said anything to explain Labor's position in relation to this is the member for Grayndler. On 15 September in this House the member for Grayndler described the actions of state governments as them balancing their books. One thing the Labor Party should not do is balance the books of TAFE and apprenticeship and training opportunities with the career aspirations of young people who want to get into apprenticeships and training and with the career aspirations of their families for them.