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Wednesday, 4 November 1992
Page: 2598

Mr BEAZLEY (Minister for Employment, Education and Training) (6.05 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Bill be now read a second time.

I take great pleasure in introducing to the House a package of legislation comprising the Australian National Training Authority Bill 1992 and the Vocational Education and Training Funding Bill 1992. Together, these Bills provide for triennial funding for vocational education and training and the establishment of the Australian National Training Authority.

  These two measures give effect to the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States to establish the new national vocational education and training system, of which the new Authority will be the centrepiece. The terms of this agreement are set out in the statement released by the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) on 21 July this year, and included as a schedule to the Australian National Training Authority Bill.

  The statement provides for the national system to take full effect from 1 January 1994. Considerable preparation will be required to ensure that the new planning and funding arrangements are properly in place by that date. For this reason, the Commonwealth agreed to introduce legislation to establish the National Authority during the current sittings. This will allow the Authority to become operational early in 1993.

  The national system, and the creation of the National Authority, mark a significant stage in Australia's development as a clever and a capable country.  For the first time, the vocational education and training sector will have a secure funding base on which to plan. State governments have agreed to at least maintain their current effort for vocational education and training on an ongoing basis.

  With this package of legislation, the Government honours its own commitment in One Nation to provide secure and substantial funding for vocational education and training on a triennial basis. The Commonwealth will maintain the level of financial support for vocational education and training currently paid through States grants arrangements, incorporating within the base the extra $100m provided through the November 1991 economic statement. In addition, the Commonwealth will provide real growth of $70m a year in 1993, 1994 and 1995, bringing the Commonwealth's additional expenditure on vocational education and training during the triennium to $720m.

  For the first time also, there will be a consistent national approach to planning for vocational education and training, with common and agreed national goals, a national strategic plan and national planning parameters forming the basis for individual State training profiles, jointly developed between the Authority and State training agencies.

  And, for the first time, there will be an independent statutory authority to oversee and participate in the planning and funding arrangements for vocational education and training. The Authority will comprise a board of five independent members, chosen for their acknowledged expertise and providing for a strong industry representation in the development of the national system.

  I was pleased to announce on 22 September that the new Authority will be chaired by Mr Brian Finn, AO, Managing Director of IBM (Australia), who is expected to take up his position towards the middle of 1993. Mr Finn chaired the Australian Education Council's Review Committee on Young People's Participation in Post-compulsory Education and Training, whose July 1991 report was a primary stimulus for the creation of the new national system.

  The other members of the board of the Authority will be: Ms Anne Rein, head of Tourism Training Australia, who will be the board's deputy chairperson; Dr Michael Deeley, recently retired Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of ICI Australia; Mr Stuart Hornery, AO, the Chairman of Lend Lease Corporation Ltd; and Mr Bill Mansfield, Assistant Secretary of the ACTU.

  The National Authority will be overseen by a ministerial council, chaired by the Commonwealth Minister and representing all the States and Territories. The ministerial council will be responsible for decisions on strategic policy, national objectives and priorities. It will provide advice to the Commonwealth on the level of growth funds required to meet agreed participation targets and, in the context of the national strategic plan, will determine the principles to be applied to the allocation of these funds between the States.

  It is also the ministerial council's function to approve the training profiles developed jointly by the Authority and the State training agencies. These agencies will be responsible for the management of vocational education and training within the State.

  The new Authority will play a pivotal role in shaping the new national system. Subject to any directions from the ministerial council, the Authority will provide advice and other input to the council on the range of matters that fall within its functions.

  The Authority will also receive vocational education and training funds from the Commonwealth and from the States and, on the basis of the national allocation principles determined by the ministerial council, will allocate and pay those funds to the States, or to other parties where appropriate. It will play a key role in the overall planning of vocational education and training, from a national perspective, and administer any national programs assigned to it by the ministerial council.

  A central aim of the new national system will be to promote closer, more effective interaction between industry and vocational education and training providers. I have referred to the industry representation on the board of the Authority. In addition, this Bill provides for consultation between the Authority and industry, including the Industry Training Advisory Body network and representatives of industries, employers and trade unions. There is also provision in the statement for industry involvement at the State level in key aspects of the national system, including in the development of State training profiles and the provision of input to the national strategic plan.

  The Authority's functions are set out in the Australian National Training Authority Bill 1992, to which I now turn. This Bill establishes the Australian National Training Authority and sets out the framework for its operations within the national system. The Authority will have the functions ascribed to it in the agreed 21 July statement, which are set out in the Bill, and in particular in clause 6 of part 2. Clause 6 also foreshadows the conferring of functions on the Authority by State governments, which have signalled their intention to introduce during 1993 complementary legislation related to the national system. In performing its functions, the Authority will be subject to the terms of the statement and to directions of the ministerial council.

  I now turn to the arrangements set out in part 3 of the Bill for the allocation and payment of funds. The Commonwealth and the States have agreed to pass their vocational education and training funds to the Authority. Consistent with the provisions of the statement, the Commonwealth has also agreed to pass to the Authority certain national programs currently administered by the Department of Employment, Education and Training.

  The money paid to the Authority will form a pool for allocation by the Authority in accordance with national allocation principles determined by the ministerial council. In recognition of the importance of maintaining the capital facilities and infrastructure for this sector, the Bill specifically provides that the ministerial council may determine that part of the money paid by the Commonwealth to the Authority is for allocation for expenditure of a capital nature.

  Once allocated by the Authority, the funds will be paid according to the arrangements agreed by heads of government. Each State will receive an amount not less than the sum of the amount paid to the Authority by the State and the amount of Commonwealth vocational education and training funds paid to the State by the Authority in the preceding year, excluding amounts paid specifically for expenditure on national projects or on capital. These arrangements guarantee planning certainty for the States. A State will qualify for additional Commonwealth growth funds only once its training profile has been agreed by the ministerial council. This helps to ensure that additional Commonwealth funds are spent in accordance with the agreed national objectives and the national strategic plan.

  The Bill provides that the Authority may also allocate and pay funds to other parties for expenditure on national programs or national projects. Consistent with the terms of the statement, a clear aim of the national system will be the promotion of a more effective training market, comprising public and private provision of advanced technical training and further education opportunities. Money paid by the Authority to a State may also be used for the provision of places through either public or private providers.

  Part 4 of the Bill contains provisions for public accountability on the funding and performance of the national vocational education and training system. Each State will be required to provide the Authority with an audited financial statement on the expenditure of funds paid by the Authority. The Authority will submit to the ministerial council a draft annual national report on the performance of the vocational education and training system. Once approved, the annual national report would be tabled in both Houses of the Parliament.

  Part 5 of the Bill provides for the Authority's finances. The Commonwealth has agreed to meet the Authority's establishment and running costs. The initial operating budget will be determined when the Authority's size and structure have been established, probably early in 1993. The Authority's running costs needs will be considered within the Government's annual Budget context, on the basis of estimates prepared by the Authority.

  I turn now to the administrative provisions relating to the Authority, which will consist of five members, including a chairperson and deputy chairperson. Members will be pointed by the Governor-General on the nomination of the ministerial council for a period of up to three years, and could be re-appointed. Members could be appointed on a full time or a part time basis. The ministerial council has agreed that, for the foreseeable future, members will be appointed part time but that the flexibility to allow for a full time appointment should be maintained. Division 1 of part 6 also sets out standard provisions for remuneration, allowances and other benefits for board members. The Authority will meet as required to perform its functions. Three members will be required to form a quorum at a meeting, and at least three votes would be required to decide any matter at a meeting of the Authority.

  I turn now to the provisions of part 7 of the Bill, which relate to the chief executive officer and staff of the Authority. The chief executive officer will be appointed by the Authority after consultation with the ministerial council. Once again, there are standard provisions for remuneration, allowances and other benefits. The provisions of division 2 of part 7, which relate to the staff of the Authority, reflect the nature of the Authority as a Commonwealth statutory authority, accountable to a council of Commonwealth and State Ministers and assuming responsibility for some programs currently administered by a Commonwealth department.

  There are two main options for the Authority's staff. The Authority may employ its own staff under written agreements, with terms and conditions consistent with any guidelines determined by the ministerial council. Under the second main option, staff of the Authority may be persons appointed or employed under the Public Service Act 1922. In particular, staff already employed under the Public Service Act who are successful in selection for a position with the Authority may elect to join the Authority under the provisions of the Public Service Act and regulations. The Authority may also second staff or engage consultants.

  I now turn to the final, miscellaneous provisions of the Australian National Training Authority Bill. Part 8 contains standard provisions relating to delegation and the making of regulations. It also provides a

means for changing the name of the Authority on the basis of a ministerial council decision.

  I referred at the outset to the agreement between the Commonwealth and all the States to establish the Australian National Training Authority as part of a new, national vocational education and training system. That agreement was reached after a sustained period of negotiations, during which the needs for a national and properly funded system of vocational education and training were balanced against the constitutional reality that vocational education and training remains primarily a responsibility of the States.

  This package of legislation respects that balance. It honours the Commonwealth's commitment to provide triennial funding for vocational education and training, including a total of $720m in additional funds over the 1993-95 triennium. It establishes the Australian National Training Authority as an independent Commonwealth statutory authority that is responsible to the Commonwealth-State ministerial council. It provides the framework of national planning and national reporting, a framework within which our vocational education and training system can respond most effectively and efficiently to the needs of industry and of individual Australians. I present the explanatory memorandum to this Bill and commend the Bill to honourable members.

  Debate (on motion by Mr Anderson) adjourned.