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Thursday, 1 September 1994
Page: 858


Senator TIERNEY (7.52 p.m.) —I want to bring to the attention of the Senate the complete demolition of the ALP government's national training reform agenda in a scathing report by Dr Vince Fitzgerald of Allen Consulting Group. The real irony is that the government and ANTA commissioned this report. What the ALP government got was a highly critical report on its approach to training. This may explain why the Minister for Employment, Education and Training, Mr Crean, is actually hiding the report. He has obviously told ANTA to keep it out of sight. How do we know this? Because it was finished three months ago and we have received some access to the contents of that report.

  The minister should come out and explain why he has not released it, seeing that it has been ready for three months. Is it not reasonable and proper that a report that has been out for this long should be seen by the Australian parliament? Is it not reasonable and proper that business, which relies so much on well trained staff, should see the report? It is certainly very proper that the youth and the long-term unemployed of Australia, who have been victims of this government's inadequate policies in this area, should see this report.

  The reason why the minister has not released it is that it systematically carves up Labor's credibility on training. That is the reason why the government is hiding it. I quote from the report:

The current approach to training reform will not, without change, bring about the fundamental outcomes desired . . .

Stripped of its bureaucratic jargon, what this means is that Fitzgerald has officially identified what we have all known for a very long time—that is, the government's training policies are not working, they are not putting the long-term unemployed back to work and they are not putting the youth of this country back to work.

  This came out most starkly to all Australians when they watched in embarrassment Minister Beazley's performance on television in front of an audience of youth in Wollongong. As he explained what the government was doing for training and how marvellous the government's program was, the youth in the audience kept yelling back at him, `But there are no jobs.' They identified the basic underlying problem: there were no jobs linked to the training.

  The people in Wollongong told me that in Wollongong they have the best trained dole queues in the world. People undertake training courses, but there are no jobs at the end of it and not much training linked with it either. They would do another training course and there would be no job at the end of that. So it goes on, cynically keeping them off the unemployment queue so that unemployment figures look much lower. The government has a systematic program of doing this—of removing groups from the unemployment queue. Mature age people—older people—are the latest to be removed from the queue. It makes the figures look a lot better, but it does not solve the fundamental underlying problem for the 870,000 people in this country who are still without jobs—half of them long-term unemployed.

  Fitzgerald has recommended a complete change in direction on training policy. In Europe this was recognised a long time ago. OECD reports are very critical of Australia for not doing what a lot of other countries have done, and that is realise that training and work must be intimately linked if they are going to provide long-term employment for people. We have some good models in Australia and it is a great pity the government is not adopting and pushing these around Australia.

  In my own area of Maitland, the Hunter Valley Training Co. has a number of very successful programs which have linked workshop training to actual job experience and to theory. Those very successful training programs have now taken off in a number of areas in New South Wales. But such programs are limited and are only a small part of the total picture. The Dusseldorp Corporation, which started the TRAC scheme in Newcastle in the area of commerce, links training and work experience very closely. This is another great model. We have the overseas example and the local example in this area, but the government persists in putting an enormous amount of money into a lot of training that does not have work related experience.

  Fitzgerald was on the right track when he said that Australia should follow this overseas experience; it should link work and training together. The government stands condemned for not doing that and it stands condemned tonight, in particular, for taking three months to release a report when so many people out of work could benefit from its outcomes.