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Tuesday, 25 November 2003
Page: 22717

Mr ALBANESE (3:04 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. I refer to the ANTA ministerial council meeting last Friday and its failure to finalise a new agreement for 2004 to 2007. Did the minister threaten state and territory governments that they could be stripped of millions of dollars of funds if they do not sign up to the new ANTA agreement? Can the minister confirm that the major area of disagreement is the refusal of the Commonwealth to provide any growth funding to meet the growing demand for trainees and apprentices? Will the minister now withdraw the threat he has made to state and territory training ministers?

Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —In relation to the next three years of training, this government has put on the table $3.57 billion of extra money to support apprenticeships, training and TAFEs throughout Australia. That represents a 2½ per cent real increase per year in the first three years of the agreement. We are asking the states to contribute another 1½ per cent per annum real increase in funding. This government is proposing to fund at least an extra 71,000 places in the sector over the next three years. In relation to the Australian Labor Party, I think this is only the third question in two years that the Labor Party have been able to ask about training. There have been lots and lots of questions about middle-class people training to be lawyers, doctors and dentists—there have been endless questions about that—but they cannot even mention the word `apprentice' in a country where we have nearly 400,000 apprentices.

What is important is that a lot of progress has been made in concluding this agreement. It is an unusual thing to say, but I must congratulate the states on the constructive way in which they have engaged in these discussions. As you would not be surprised to know, Mr Speaker, if the states were not to sign up to an agreement to create another 71,000 places then of course this government would make sure that we did everything we possibly could to see that Australia's interests came first and that there were training opportunities for apprentices in Australia.

Mr Howard —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.