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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 2031


Mr KATTER (11:12 AM) —My comments on the Vocational Education and Training Funding Amendment Bill 2004 will be very brief because the contributions made by other members cover most of the ground I want to cover here. The importance of trades has been recognised throughout all of history. In fact, when the Ottoman Turks ruled the civilised part of the world for some 200 years, every sultan had to do a trade. The trade of Suleiman the Magnificent, who was the most famous of the Ottoman rulers, was that of a jeweller. He was a very good jeweller; in fact, his jewellery is still heirloom material today. He was famous for his siege of Vienna—it took every single army in Europe to relieve the city. Also, without Henry Ford and the training that he received and gave, through what we would now call a TAFE, I do not think we would have had the motor car in the 1920s.

Like many members of parliament, I get constant complaints about the lack of tradesmen and the difficulty in getting trained tradesmen these days. Other points mentioned have been to do with multiskilling, which has undoubtedly led to greater benefits flowing through the community, and the removal of demarcation disputes. In relation to those, I always remember my first job, working in the lead smelter at Mount Isa Mines. One day, five of us were waiting around to clean out a big flue, and the boilermaker was cutting a hole for us to get into the flue. When the boilermaker took a break from his arc cutter there was one tiny piece of metal holding the section he had been cutting on, so I went over with a hammer and banged the tiny piece of metal off. There was a thundering silence then, with everyone looking at me. I said, `You can't be serious,' but I was an unskilled labourer and, of course, it was a tradesman's job. The leading hand took me aside and had a little fatherly chat to me, saying I was very lucky to still be in the job. We had that sort of stupidity—where five people were standing around waiting and there was just one tiny piece of metal that needed moving—but, all the same, there has been a downside to multiskilling and that is the fact that there is a sort of an idea around that you do not need tradesmen now. That is a very dangerous attitude that has crept in and permeated all of the training in this area.

The major thing I wanted to say today is that, although this seems to be a fight about where there should be more money, where there should be less money and who should decide where the money goes—a typical state-federal barney—with regard to ANTA and the ANTA agreement, I think the federal government must require a trade registration system. I heard of an excellent example recently in the hairdressing profession, where a person who was claiming to have a range of licences was found to have no licences at all. This can happen because there is no central registration system, and I think, if the federal government are going to finance the states through ANTA, there is an absolute necessity that they give consumers, society as a whole and the professions themselves—the hairdressing profession, the motor vehicle electricians' profession or whatever—the security of a registration system. That way, people who are unprofessional and who have done the wrong thing can be punished and can have their registration taken away and consumers can be protected by the knowledge that a person they are dealing with is a registered—that is, a trained and skilled—hairdresser, motor vehicle electrician or whatever.

It may well be—and you and I both know this, Deputy Speaker Scott—that in country towns you cannot get people with training and you have to have people without any. But the necessity for that registration is absolute. I was appalled to find out from Brian Cox, who is a Queensland CEO—he is probably the country's best CEO—that there is no central register for hairdressers. You cannot find out who is registered. You cannot find out if someone has professional qualifications. The case I heard of involved a leasing arrangement. The business was leased to a person who claimed to have technical qualifications that they apparently did not have. The business suffered very severely, but there was no central registration system that could be contacted in order to find out whether this person was actually registered or not. That is a very big hole in the legislation as it now stands, and it is one that I hope the minister will address. It is a hole that should not be there.