Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Page: 4667

Vocational Education and Training


Senator MARSHALL (Victoria) (14:14): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Evans. Can the minister update the Senate on how the Australian government is continuing to invest in the skills and training needs of the Australian economy?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:15): I thank Senator Marshall for his question and his interest in these issues. We are rightly proud of the strength of the Australian economy at a time when other countries are doing it tough, with very high unemployment and debt. In comparison, Australia's economy grew by 4.3 per cent through the last year, faster growth than for any other major industrial economy.

We know the challenges this growth throws up include the challenge of providing skilled workers to meet the jobs emerging in the economy. That is why the government has invested so heavily in education and training. Across universities we have increased funding to $14 billion this year, up from $8 billion in 2007. That is a 50 per cent increase, which has seen 150,000 extra students at universities getting the sort of training that will help them fill the professional jobs emerging in the economy. But we are also seeing increasing demand for trades and technical skills. That is why the government is investing a record amount of $15 billion to support training over the next four years and to allow people to have access to the high-skilled, high-paid jobs emerging in the economy.

The reality is that low-skilled jobs are disappearing from the economy. What we need is people who have skills, to support the growth occurring in the economy. In future, the ability of people to earn good incomes will depend on their skills levels. That is why we have invested, as such a priority, in skills training and higher education to make sure that Australia continues to be a high-skilled, high-wage economy. That is where our future is and that is why we have to continually invest in the skills and education of young Australians.


Senator MARSHALL (Victoria) (14:17): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware of any risks to the strength of skills investment, particularly in my home state of Victoria?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:17): It is important the investment effort this federal government is making is supported by the states. They run the vocational education and training systems. While we got a very strong agreement from them recently through the COAG processes, it is important they continue to invest in their training systems. As I say, we are putting in a record amount of money, but it is going to be undermined if the states do not continue to maintain their investment. That is why I am particularly concerned about the Victorian government's $300 million cut to TAFE expenditure in their recent budget. There is no point in us increasing our investment if, at the other end, the states are pulling the money out.

We are seeing redundancies, closures of courses and TAFEs making very tough decisions in Victoria. That will reduce training opportunities for young Victorians and undermine the skills efforts of this country. (Time expired)


Senator MARSHALL (Victoria) (14:18): I ask a further supplementary question. Is the minister aware of how cuts to skills investment in Victoria will have significant impacts on regional Victoria?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:18): The impact on regional Victoria is even worse because the TAFEs are, in some of the smaller markets in regional Australia, the only provider of these training opportunities. We are seeing closures of courses, students being turned away and staff being made redundant. Today Bendigo TAFE announced that a total of 100 staff were to be sacked due to these funding cuts. This follows similar announcements made in relation to other regionally based Victorian TAFEs. In regional Victoria we are seeing a huge diminution of training capacity, young Victorians being turned away from TAFEs, people being sacked from their jobs in the education sector and opportunities available to young Victorians being restricted. We are making record investments, but the Victorian state Liberal government needs to maintain its investment in young people and their opportunities. (Time expired)