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Wednesday, 27 June 2001
Page: 25262


Senator FORSHAW (4:49 PM) —I congratulate my colleague Senator Crossin on that excellent contribution in the debate on the Vocational Education and Training Funding Amendment Bill 2001. I seek leave to have my speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows

This Bill seeks to amend two pieces of legislation - the Australian National Training Authority Act 1992 and the Vocational Education and Training Funding Act 1992.

The Bill gives effect to the new Australian National Training Authority (ANTA) Agreement for 2001-03 and provides funding to ANTA for funding vocational education and training.

The Government's record on Vocational Education and Training

This Government has a very poor record on vocational eduction and training, just like they do on all education matters across the spectrum.

This Government has cut funding for TAFE by $240 million dollars, putting in jeopardy many vocational education and training programs.

This Government gutted the budget for vocational education and training since coming into office. Since then, they have been forced to come up with a new funding arrangements with the states, but this increase does not even replace what they have already cut in funding.

Independent reports show that funding for vocational education and training has been in decline for some time. Despite solid contributions from each of the States, total funding has remained static for several years due to the Government's overall cutbacks.

The importance of Vocational Education and Training

Vocational education and training is critical in developing the skills and opportunities for working Australians.

For apprentices and school leavers looking for jobs in their post-school life, it is an essential stepping stone.

For existing workers keen to upgrade and develop their existing skills, it creates an important professional opportunity.

For those who are unemployed and out of the workforce, the need to re-skill is essential in finding a new job.

This Government has shown no commitment to developing and expanding the skill base of Australia's work force.

Dr Kemp's earlier offers as part of the ANTA Agreement was for an extra $13 per student per year in the first year and then only a further $3 per student per year after that. Labor has highlighted this mean spirited approach to Vocational Education and Training funding.

The Minister did revise this offer. However, it will not go very far to funding places for the 45,000 Australians who are turned away annually from TAFE courses.

The Government's record on education

This Government has a poor record in education. They have:

· Slashing TAFE funding by $240 million,

· Forced higher repayments for students on HECs loans,

· Cut $60 million from funding to public schools as a result of the enrolment benchmark adjustment,

· Reduced $170 million from rural and regional universities during this government,

· Inflicted massive cuts to student assistance schemes totalling more than $500 million, and

· Neglected research and investment which has led the Chief Scientist to condemn this Government's approach which has resulted in Australia becoming the only advanced western nation where private business investment into R&D is going backwards.

Conclusion

The ALP has always been committed to a well-resourced system of public education.

A crucial aspect of this is an adequately funded vocational education and training system.

Underpinning this approach is access and equity in education for all Australians.

I look forward to the election of a Labor Government which will restore access, equity and adequate funding to our education system