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Wednesday, 27 June 2001
Page: 25253

Senator BUCKLAND (4:22 PM) —To continue with the agreement and its needs, embodied within the agreement there needs to be an Australian recognition framework with clearly defined quality assurance measures. Non-TAFE RTOs should only be granted a licence to operate in an area or region if TAFE is unable to provide a service and where the RTO meets TAFE human and capital resource standards. This is not a case of keeping RTOs out of the marketplace but rather of maintaining national standards of quality learning and a national recognition of achievement framework. The agreement needs to provide a youth guarantee of a fee-free year in TAFE.

One of the real dilemmas now being faced by industry is that, because of the changes in the method of training apprentices in particular, there is a shortage of trained and skilled tradespeople coming through for the future. Many of the larger longstanding industries have ageing work forces and work forces that are more productive in a single industry environment, but the need today, with outsourcing and because of the ageing of the current work force, is to have more and more young apprentices coming through to carry on where their forebears left off.

Very few large organisations today are operating with their own trained trade work force. When they are in a highly productive environment, the trend today is to outsource or to bring in contractors. Without these contractors getting retraining through the TAFE sector to deal with the multitude of industries they now service, and without young people getting access freely and openly to the TAFE institutions, we are losing this very important component of manufacturing industry. Not only are we losing it in the large manufacturing industries of smelting, steel making and car manufacture; we are also losing these people at the farm gate—those who would normally work in small businesses dotted throughout the country where farm machinery is serviced and maintained and those who operate plant and machinery on farms and in small business environments. Unless we do something about this, unless we have a national accreditation system whereby a person can freely move from state to state, from industry to industry and from business to business, then we will lose much of what we have today.

I cannot see the day when we will go back to large industry employing large numbers of their own tradespeople. That seems to be a thing of the past. It is sad that is occurring but, as companies rationalise and move into a more competitive environment, they tend to see the maintenance of their plant and machinery and the trade requirements as not core to their business operations. I think there is a great need for this government to revisit the ANTA agreement and to start taking into account what those people who work within the system are saying—that there needs to be more money to provide good education and good training for people within the TAFE sector, more money available for staff to travel to isolated communities and a greater availability of funds so that those living in isolated and remote communities can have access to computers, even though they may be laptops, to help them do their training so that they, too, can contribute to a more vigorous industrial environment in the future.

I think the TAFE Directors Association were right when they questioned whether the ANTA agreement was the best way to go forward to achieve a truly national vocational and educational training system, when they expressed their disappointment with the government's response to the Senate's Aspiring to excellence report and when they said that they were concerned that the recommendation to appoint an educator to the ANTA board had not been endorsed. The government seems to have lost the plot on this particular matter. It is of great interest and of great importance to the nation. I will be supporting the opposition's amendment.