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Monday, 11 October 1999
Page: 9405


Senator ELLISON (Special Minister of State) (8:17 PM) —In relation to the last point Senator Carr made, I understand that there has been a growth rate in participation by indigenous groups in training, and I think the figure I saw the other day was over 5,000 indigenous people in training. Indeed, whilst we have still got a long way to go, there has been a good trend in relation to that.

I also mention, in relation to the inquiry into RTOs, that I am only aware of Tasmania conducting such an inquiry—apart from Queensland, which Senator Carr referred to. I am unaware of there being the same inquiry anywhere else. I understand that inquiry has not revealed anything to date in Tasmania.

In relation to appropriate audit procedures, I understand that state CEOs recently met and undertook to cooperate in this regard and that this was a priority for them. At the end of the day, Senator Carr must realise that the states are at the coalface in relation to vocational education and training. Really the states have to accept some responsibility for the carrying out of the training involved, the auditing of it and the accountability of it. Senator Carr cannot just say that the Commonwealth has to wear everything that happens within the borders of Australia.

One other point Senator Carr made concerned efficiency breeding compromise. This is not the case. The states do not think it is the case. What we have is 70,000 new positions being created. I do not think anyone in the states would volunteer any admission that they were part of a system which was breeding compromise. Quite the contrary. The national training framework we have has done away with the bygone years mentioned, I think, by Senator George Campbell, who likened the old system to the standard gauge railway system.

Senator Carr also mentioned apprenticeships for young people and said that growth was being diminished. The participation rate for 15- to 19-year-olds grew from 5.7 per cent in 1995 to 6.2 per cent in 1998. That is good news for young Australians.

Finally, Senator Carr has invited me to comment on a pending Senate inquiry. I think it would be inappropriate for me to pre-empt what a Senate inquiry might come up with or what should be done in relation to that inquiry or how it will be received—or whether various people who want to give submissions have been putting their heads together to put forward a point of view. The fact that there is a Senate inquiry is well known, but, Senator Carr, as an old member of the Privileges Committee, I would not dare pre-empt the outcome of a Senate inquiry by committee.

That deals with those questions. Senator Carr asked some questions previously. I am having the departmental figures checked in relation to the first question he asked. I am advised, though, that the second set of questions which I took on notice in fact are the same as the ones he placed on notice on 30 September this year and are ones which the department is currently working on. That is being checked at the moment. Perhaps Senator Carr might have something else for us in the meantime.