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Monday, 1 December 2003
Page: 23302

Ms LIVERMORE (2:48 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. I refer to the severe shortage of skilled workers in my electorate, where there currently are vacancies for 36 electrical tradespeople, 19 motor mechanics, 11 hairdressers, 18 boilermakers and welders, 10 metal fitters and machinists, and seven child-care workers. Minister, why is the Howard government turning away 15,000 eligible young Australians from TAFE each year instead of adopting Labor's plan to create 20,000 new TAFE places each year for young Australians to find jobs and to help businesses overcome skills shortages?

Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —I thank the member for Capricornia for her question and for reminding the parliament that unemployment in her electorate was 10.3 per cent in 1996 and is now some 6.2 per cent. Inherent in the question, of course, is clearly outlining to the Australian people just how significantly, economically and in real terms, average workers have benefited from the continuing good governance of Australia under the Howard government. I regret, however, to inform the member for Capricornia that, under the current policies of the Queensland Labor government, the situation for apprentices and trainees next year is likely to deteriorate. That is because over the last year alone the Queensland government reduced apprenticeship and training opportunities by 3,800 in the state of Queensland. Commerce Queensland has estimated that there has been a contraction in user choice, which gives employers and small businesspeople like those in gallery—they know all about user choice—the choice of sending their apprentices and trainees to either a TAFE or a private training provider. In Queensland, the Queensland government is cutting back on user choice opportunities.

The member for Capricornia might like to know that—at the same time this government is offering Queensland an additional $593 million for training over the next three years, with a $43 million real increase for training—the Queensland government has submitted to the Australian government a training plan for next year which will reduce training opportunities in the automotive industry by 12½ per cent and reduce training opportunities in the construction and building industries by 4.4 per cent. Further to that, we had a 2.6 per cent real reduction in the Queensland government's training budget this year. The Labor Party ought to get real and start talking to Peter Beattie.