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Wednesday, 4 April 1973
Page: 1070


Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) (Minister for Education) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

This Bill seeks authority for the Government to provide an additional $10m to the States for technical training facilities. The existing legislation provides for grants totalling $36m during the 3-year period ending 30th June 1974, and the purpose of this Bill is to increase by $10m the funds available during this period.

There has been in recent years increased recognition in this country of the need for a more adequate provision for vocational training in the various skills required in the Australian work force. Honourable members will recall the conclusions of the Australian Tripartite Mission which in 1 968 and 1969 studied the methods of training skilled workers in Europe and which concluded that there was an urgent need for a critical examination of all aspects of vocational training in Australia. It will be recalled that the Mission observed that Australian governments were not providing sufficient funds for industrial training and that the amounts devoted to technical education were small compared to the expenditure on general and tertiary education.

The Government intends, that this situation will be remedied, and we are determined that technical and further education should receive the same consideration as will be given to the other areas of education. The Government has therefore decided to establish a commission which will examine the needs of technical and further education and make recommendations to the Government on financial assistance that should be provided to the States in these areas. I am confident that this measure will place technical education in Australia on a more satisfactory basis than has to date been the case.

The commission will be established as soon as possible, and assistance for technical and further education after 30th June 1974 will be on the basis of the recommendations of the commission. In the meantime, the Government wishes to ensure that additional capital projects of an urgent nature are not delayed until after that date, and this Bill to provide supplementary grants totalling $10m is an interim measure intended to raise the level of assistance available under the existing arrangements. The Government's decision to introduce this legislation is in accord with a request from State Ministers of Education that additional funds be provided for urgent building projects that could be undertaken during the current triennium.

The supplementary grants of $10m that the Bill will make available will increase the funds available to the States in the present triennium to $46m. As in the existing legislation, the funds will be allocated to the States in proportion to State population. The following table sets out the amount available to each State:

 

The present program is intended to assist the States provide buildings and equipment for the training of young men and women undertaking trade and certificate courses in technical colleges and trade schools, and for similar courses at agricultural colleges and rural training schools. The existing arrangements for the scheme will continue until 30th June 1974, with the exception that the Bill provides that grants may now be used for the purchase of land which is to be used for technical education facilities.

Although grants under this program have not in the past been able to be used for this purpose, this provision exists in similar States grants legislation in the fields of university and advanced education, and the Government has accepted the view of the State Ministers of Education that this program should include the purchase of land in appropriate circumstances. One consequence of the relative neglect of technical education in the past has been that the sites of the older technical colleges located in city areas are generally overcrowded and restricted. In order to remedy this situation, funds will now be available under the program, where necessary, to assist the States to acquire sites for technical education institutions.

There are 2 provisions in the Bill which will allow the Government flexibility in bringing this program to a conclusion. The Bill empowers the Minister to authorise a payment to a State after 30th June 1974 for funds appropriated under the legislation, of amounts for expenditure incurred in respect of an approved project undertaken before that date. The Bill further provides that the amounts specified in the Schedule for any State may be varied by regulations within the limit of the total amount specified in the Schedule. These provisions will cover any situation that could arise because of unforeseen delays in State building programs, and will facilitate the transition to the new arrangements when this program is concluded.

The proposed supplementary grants reflect the Government's interest in an area of education that I believe is of vital national concern. I am confident that the supplementary grants will provide the States with sufficient additional capacity to carry out urgent building projects until the nature and extent of the needs in this area of education can be assessed in a systematic way by the commission. While this is an interim measure, it is a necessary one, and I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.







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