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Monday, 8 October 1984
Page: 1423


Senator REID(9.05) —I refer to one aspect of these tax Bills as it specifically affects the Australian Capital Territory. A quite large section contains a number of amendments in relation to payroll tax. What I would like to see in it is not included, and that is, an exemption for the Master Builders Association group apprenticeship scheme from having to pay payroll tax. The scheme has been in existence since 1970 and payroll tax is still paid on wages spent under the scheme. I last spoke on this topic in this place on 8 September 1983 when I set out some of the history of the scheme and the reasons why I believe payroll tax ought not to be levied, at least on these wages. Personally, I think it should not be levied at all but, because of the importance of apprenticeships, I think this scheme should be exempt as it is in other places. The Master Builders Association has made a number of representations to government, so far without success. It is spending money which would be of value elsewhere. I understand that about 64 apprentices are employed under the scheme at present. The wages paid in 1983-84 were $687,195.75 and the amount paid in payroll tax was $34,359.74. I guess $34,000-odd is a great deal of money if one owes it and does not have it, but I suggest that in this instance it would be of great value to the community if that quite small amount of money were forgone.

More and more young unemployed in Canberra are not getting the opportunity for apprenticeships and real careers. Youth unemployment is particularly high-about 17 per cent-although there can be no denial that the unemployment rate generally in the Australian Capital Territory has dropped to one of the lowest rates in Australia. However, about 2,000 young people are still without the opportunity of having careers. I think it is particularly important that we work on the long term solutions to unemployment, or we will have an increasing number of young people joining this unfortunate group, who will not be able to have careers and establish their lives in the Australian Capital Territory. It is not good just looking at what one might call creche or kindergarten solutions of looking after them or caring for them. Much more than that is required.

The community employment program allocation for the Australian Capital Territory in this financial year is $7.6m. I have no doubt that a lot of money will be spent giving young people an opportunity to obtain employment experience , which is particularly worthwhile, but I suggest that of that total, which will be spent at the rate of $11,600 for only 45 weeks of experience and will then be spent and gone, the $35,000 allocated for the payroll tax could perhaps be diverted into this scheme, giving young people the opportunity to gain apprenticeships and a real opportunity to get on with their lives in a meaningful way. Similarly, only $500,000 has been allocated this year under the industry incentives program. Under that program, although the money is not paid out in wages, only $500,000 is allocated for capital expenditure and infrastructure to enable firms to have the opportunity to establish real jobs. That money is spent at the equivalent rate of $6,700 for each job which arises as a result of that expenditure.

The Minister for Territories and Local Government (Mr Uren) on 17 August 1983 issued a Press statement in which he announced the continuing agreement of the Government to help sponsor the group apprenticeship scheme. He indicated that in 1983, $42,500 would be allocated towards additional administrative expenses incurred by the Master Builders Association and a further $45,500 would be contributed in 1984 if more than 50 apprentices were employed under the scheme. He congratulated the Master Builders Association on the success of the scheme and its expansion and on the effort that the Association had put into it. I suggest that for the sake of $34,500 and the additional opportunities which could be given for real jobs, it is time that an effort was made to see that this provision was altered.

We have a crisis as far as the apprenticeship of cooks is concerned. A letter has been received by the Joint House Department from the Chairman of the Australian Capital Territory Apprenticeship Board which indicates that there will be virtually no apprentices in this area for some years as a result of a decision that I do not understand suddenly to interpret the award strictly. The number of cooks employed will now be determined as follows: If there is one cook , there will be no apprentices; if there are two cooks, there will be no apprentices; and if there are three or more cooks, only one apprentice will be allowed. In the past the award has been interpreted much more liberally and in a way which enabled a number of young people to get jobs. In an area of tourism- the restaurant industry is certainly a significant part of tourism-to be cutting back on the number of young people who can become apprentices is quite absurd. I have already called upon the Government to take steps to alter that situation so that this cutback will not occur. The mere idea of one apprentice for three or more cooks is just not in the best interests of expansion in this important area .

The intake as a result of this decision will be: In 1985, 15 apprenticeships will be available; in 1986, none; in 1987, none; and in 1988, 15. Given the rate at which the economy is growing, I suggest that the Government needs to look into this as a matter of great urgency and to ensure that the legislation is amended so that the strict interpretation of the award does not cause this cutback to happen. Given that the number of apprenticeships allowed will be cut back, it is even more important that we do something in the building trade to try to expand the opportunities available to young people. Mr Acting Deputy President, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a copy of a letter dated 17 September 1984, from the Office of the Australian Capital Territory Apprenticeship Board setting out the information and other facts to which I have referred.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows:

Office of the

ACT Apprenticeship Board

Department of Education & Youth Affairs

In reply please quote: Fourth Floor, Silverton Centre, Corner Moore and Rudd Streets, G.P.O. Box 1982, Canberra, A.C.T. 2601 Telephone:689611

17 September 1984

The Manager

Joint House Department

Parliament House

CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Sir

I have been directed to draw your attention to the relevant Section of your Award which provides for apprentice cooks, in particular the sub-section which states:-

''One apprentice male cook may be employed in each kitchen where three or more cooks are employed. Provided that when an apprentice has served two and one half years or more another apprentice may be employed subject to the approval of the Apprenticeship Board.

From this you will see that only one apprentice may be employed in a kitchen that has 3 or more cooks i.e.

Number of cooks Number of employed apprentices

1 0 2 0 3 or more 1

So that if a kitchen is employing say 30 cooks it can still only have one apprentice under the terms of the Award.

The only concession available to the ACT Apprenticeship Board is that after one apprentice has served 2 1/2 years in that kitchen another first year apprentice may be started with the approval of the Board.

The interpretation of this clause will mean that only kitchens employing 3 or more cooks can employ an apprentice every 2 1/2 years. Therefore, the intake for cooking apprentices will be in the order of 12 to a maximum of 15 apprentices every 2 1/2 years and that all those kitchens that are currently employing 1 or 2 cooks will no longer be permitted to employ apprentices. The larger kitchens employing more than 3 cooks will no longer be allowed to employ more than one apprentice-so the projected intake of cooking apprentices will be:-

1985

198619871988198919901991199219931994

15

NilNil15NilNil15NilNil15

Prior to September 1984 the ACT Apprenticeship Board had been administering this provision with a very liberal interpretation and has been endeavouring for the past few years to have this provision amended by industry.

The Boards' liberal interpretation has been that one apprentice may be employed where three or fraction of three tradesman are employed and this allowed kitchens with one, two or three cooks to employ one apprentice and kitchens that employ three, four or five cooks could employ two apprentices.

As a recent meeting with all sections of the Industry has indicated that there will be no attempt to amend this provision, the ACT Apprenticeship Board, as a Statutory Authority, has no alternative other than to abide by the existing industrial law governing the future employment of apprentice cooks in the Territory. However, current apprentices will be allowed to complete their training.

Yours sincerely

R A SMART

Chairman