Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Election 2004: Prime Minister visits Melbourne and pledges tool kits to apprentices.

Download WordDownload Word



This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Department of the Parliamentary Library.


It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in any other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.


For the purposes of quoting verbatim from a transcript, it is advisable to verify the transcript against the broadcast.





Wednesday 22 September 2004

Election 2004: Prime Minister visits Melbourne and pledges tool kits to apprentices


MARK COLVIN: As well as being critical of Mark Latham's $1- billion public hospital promise, the Prime Minister spent much of the day in Melbourne, talking interest rates with one outer suburban family and pledging to give tool kits to the value of $800 to apprentices in skill shortage trades. 


Mr Howard says that will help 34,000 apprentices a year in 23 trades, and encourage more young Australians to take up traditional trades. 


At the same time Mr Howard has hinted that he wants to promise more help to mature age workers, in a further bid to sustain economic growth. 


Alexandra Kirk reports from the campaign trail in Melbourne. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: The residents of Camphor Street, Lysterfield, were out on their lawns and verandahs this morning, looking on as the Prime Minister and the media descended on John and Lisa Downing's house in Melbourne's outer suburbs. 


The occasion: to talk about the current low interest rates.  


Mr Downing knows the local Federal Liberal MP, Chris Pearce, through the church. 


JOHN HOWARD: Most of the houses around here are sort of this kind of size, aren't they? And so, and they'd all be fairly new, so therefore the interest rate thing will be very big in people's minds. 


JOHN DOWNING: I think so. It makes a difference of several hundred dollars depending on what the interest rate's doing at the time. 


JOHN HOWARD: Yeah, well that's why we talk about it a lot. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: For the Downings, with two young children and Mrs Downing working part time, interest rates are a prime concern. In fact, the biggest issue.  


REPORTER: Can you get a bulk billing doctor in this part of the world? 


LISA DOWNING: No, we can't. 


REPORTER: Are you upset about that? 


LISA DOWNING: Yes, yeah. It can be, yeah, it puts a strain on the kids when they're sick if there's no bulk billing, for sure. Yeah. 


REPORTER: Did you raise that issue with Mr Howard when he was inside? 


LISA DOWNING: No I didn't. 


REPORTER: Do you believe Labor is a real danger when it comes to interest rates? 


LISA DOWNING: I do. Yeah. 


REPORTER: On what basis? 


LISA DOWNING: Ummm, from Labor governments that we've had before where the interest rates have hiked up to around 17 per cent. 


REPORTER: Will you make your decision on voting day on the basis of the interest rate issue? Is that the number one primary issue for you? 


LISA DOWNING: It would be the number one. 


JOHN DOWNING: That would be the number one issue, but obviously there's others to consider as well. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Then it was off to a lunch for 200 organised by the Victorian Liberal Party. Waiting outside was a protester, in what has become a feature of this election campaign, in a rat suit.  


PROTESTER: Oh, we're looking for John Howard, and just going to let John Howard know that we think he's a lying rodent. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: So are you related to the rodents in the other cities of Australia? 


PROTESTER: Ah, no. I don't know them. We've heard about them. We're just sort of following the trend, I guess. I'm doing this more or less on behalf of myself. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: So you're not a member of a protest group or? 


PROTESTER: I'm a member of a certain party, but it's not in relation to that party at all, so … 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Which party? 


PROTESTER: I'm a member of the ALP. But as I said, this has got nothing to do with the ALP. 


JOHN HOWARD: As I address you today, it's fair to say that the Australian economy is in a golden groove of strong non-inflationary economic growth, the second longest boom in our nation's history. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Prime Minister says one of the challenges still facing the economy, with an ageing population, is a skills shortage. He is keen for mature age workers with vital skills and experience, to be able to continue to work.  


On the back of the $500 tax rebate to those over 55 who choose to keep working, comes the hint of another sweetener. 


JOHN HOWARD: Employers need to ensure people have more options about how long they work, where they work, and what hours they work. And I'll be announcing further initiatives in this campaign that expand employment opportunities for mature age workers.  


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Mr Howard says a skilled workforce is the key to sustaining economic prosperity and broadening people's opportunities to fulfil their potential. 


And despite more than a million new apprenticeships, Mr Howard says the vocational education and training system isn't responding well enough to changed labour market conditions. 


JOHN HOWARD: Strong job growth means that we now face significant skills shortages in key trades. These shortages create bottlenecks that could choke off investment and growth, lift inflation, thus undermining our international competitiveness, productivity and job creation. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: And while society puts great store in the benefits of a university education, the Government says skilled trades are undervalued. 


JOHN HOWARD: To encourage more young Australians to take up traditional trades, I've announced today that the Coalition will fund tool kits worth up to $800 each for about 34,000 new apprentices starting out each year in skills shortage occupations. 


Whether in the metal trades, or carpentry, or hairdressing, new apprentices face many expenses in the early years, including acquiring the tools of their trade, and this is a very practical demonstration of the Coalition's determination to give young Australians a leg up into industries where we face real skills shortages. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: But the rumoured major announcement of a big boost for the TAFE sector, expected to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, it seems, has been put off for another day. 


JOHN HOWARD: The Coalition has made building a culture of enterprise and excellence in traditional trades a key priority for the future, and I'll be outlining some further details of other initiatives of how we plan to build a world class trade skill training system in the coming days. 


MARK COLVIN: The Prime Minister ending Alexandra Kirk's report.