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Labor delays key skills shortages legislation.

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Media Release


15 June 2005

Minister for Vocational and Technical Education, Gary Hardgrave, has criticised the Australian Labor Party for delaying critical legislation to address skills shortages by referring three Bills to a Senate Committee.

Mr Hardgrave said the ALP, by deferring the Australian Technical Colleges (Flexibility in Achieving Australia’s Skill Needs) Bill 2005, the Skilling Australia’s Workforce Bill 2005 and the Skilling Australia’s Workforce (Repeal and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2005 to a Senate Committee for scrutiny, was holding up important initiatives needed to address the current shortfalls in our training system.

“To make matters worse, the ALP is doing this for blatant political purposes. The ALP’s submission to refer the Skilling Australia’s Workforce Bills which was signed by Senator George Campbell, gave the following reason:

‘in order to enable student organisations, universities and other interest groups can [sic] express their opposition to the bill’.

“It is telling that the ALP does not want committee hearings to seek the views of representative organisations. Instead they want hearings to take place so organisations can express ‘their opposition’. They have shown their true colours and are only interested in cheap political point scoring.

“In doing this, the Australian Labor Party have also chosen to ignore that during the consultation process on the Skilling Australia

discussion paper, consultations were held with all state and territory departments, industry groups, the ACTU and training providers. Importantly also, the groups identified by the ALP in their referral to committee, not one is directly involved in the provision of vocational and technical education.

“All the Labor Party has achieved is to delay the reforms needed to bring our vocational and technical education system in line with community and industry expectations. Moreover they are blocking Australia’s capacity to appropriately address current skills needs and to position vocational and technical education to be more flexible and responsive to future needs.

“It is disappointing that the ALP’s only contribution to the debate surrounding our current skills needs is to constantly belittle those who choose to undertake a New Apprenticeship, to offer up piecemeal solutions like their much vaunted Completion Bonus and to obstruct every measure we try to implement to ensure our training system is responsive to industry and business needs.

“The Australian Technical Colleges have been enthusiastically received throughout Australia with the only people voicing opposition being the Labor Party and their affiliated union leaders. The Colleges are designed to respond directly to their local communities to ensure they are delivering the training needed in those regions.

“The training system reforms contained in both Skilling Australia Bills put forward by the Australian Government will help to address current and future skills needs.

“The ALP and union leadership’s objections to the offering of Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) is playing politics with Australia’s economic future. Why does the ALP think that Australian teachers should be the only group in the Australian workforce that cannot be given the opportunity to earn more money under an AWA? Why is it that the ALP and the union leadership don’t want to see quality teachers rewarded for their efforts? They are not interested in choice and they are not interested in rewarding effort and solid performance.

“In years to come, I expect that State Governments will have to offer AWAs in order that they retain quality teachers within the TAFE system.”

Media contact: Suzanne Ferguson 0402 896 100

A copy of Senator Campbell’s referral to Committee is attached.