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Queensland rejects $593.9 million for training.

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16 December, 2003 MIN 568/03

Today Matt Foley, Queensland Minister for Employment and Training, accused the Howard Government of threatening to cut training funding for Queensland.

The truth is Minister Foley is playing politics with training in Queensland and attempting to divert attention from his failure in this area.

Queenslanders should know that Minister Foley has in fact rejected the Howard Government’s offer of $593.9 million for vocational education and training in Queensland over three years - which includes $42 million over and above current funding levels.

The Howard Government’s offer represents a 2.5% increase in real terms in Australian Government funding for training places under the next Australian National Training Authority Agreement.

By contrast, Queensland has only been asked to increase its funding by 1.5%.

If accepted by the States and Territories, the Agreement would provide a 4% real increase in funding for training nationally, which would meet the growth forecast by Access Economics of 2.9% over the life of the next three-year Agreement.

The Australian Government’s offer was made to Queensland on 13 May this year. Minister Foley has had more than seven months to accept the offer.

The State and Territories again failed to move on the Federal Government’s $3.6 billion offer at the last meeting of all State and Territory Ministers of Training in Queensland on 21 November 2003. At this meeting I flagged a process by which indexation on growth money, as well as funding available under the Australian Government’s Welfare Reform measures would be allocated to States and Territories which accept the Australian Government’s offer. I have asked the States and Territories again to accept the offer by Friday 19 December or this process will begin.

At the last meeting of all State and Territory Training Ministers, I supported Minister Foley in his determination to have Queensland’s growth recognised in the next ANTA

Agreement. Minister Foley however failed to gain the support of other Labor state training Ministers of NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, ACT and Northern Territory. His motion was therefore lost.

The ANTA Agreement allocates funding according to a mechanism which reflects the contribution of each State and Territory to training funding in the early 90s, when ANTA was created. Queenslanders should be aware that as Minister for Employment, Training and Industrial Relations between 1992 - 1995, Minister Foley oversaw the funding formula which today deprives Queensland.

Minister Foley refers to calls by Queensland industry to revise the funding formula. But he conveniently fails to mention desperate calls from Queensland industry for him to reverse changes to his New Apprenticeships policy which will drive 10,500 New Apprentices out of the system in Queensland.

Since 2002 Queensland has slashed 3,800 New Apprenticeship opportunities. In the last year alone, Queensland has cut 1,930 training places from its system. Most places have been axed in desperately needed skill shortages areas such as automotive, building and construction and engineering and mining. In its planned activity for 2004, Queensland has revealed its intention to cut a further 12.5% places in automotive and 4.4% in building and construction.

In the last State budget, the Queensland Government announced a 0.2% decrease in funding for vocational education and training. Allowing for indexation of around 2.4%, this amounts to a decrease of 2.6%. Since 2002 Queensland has taken out 3,800 New Apprenticeship opportunities. In the last year, 1,930 training places have been removed from the system, despite $19.5 million in growth funding in 2003.

Media contact: Dr Nelson’s Office: Ross Hampton 0419 484 095