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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 11993

Mr MITCHELL (McEwen) (11:47): Didn't that five minutes of diatribe show how embarrassed the member for Wannon is? He is out there trying to defend his mates who have cut $472 million out of education. As he scurries like a rodent from the chamber, he should learn and remember that this government delivered the most amount of funding for education—

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop: I rise on a point of order. I ask that that offensive term be withdrawn.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I do not think that was necessary. If you do not mind, apologise, thanks.

Mr MITCHELL: I will happily withdraw for you, Mr Deputy Speaker.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you.

Mr MITCHELL: There can be nothing more important than giving our kids education and skills to give them the best opportunities in life and providing the best pathways and choices for kids. That is why it came as a shock to many schools right across Victoria that the heartless and incompetent Baillieu government have savaged our kids' futures by slashing $48 million from the VCAL program.

While the Victorian Liberal government is slashing $48 million in education and training support for young people, the Gillard federal Labor government is investing a record $472 million to help Victorian school students get the skills they need. The Liberal government needs urgently to reconsider its decision to cut funding to the VCAL coordinators' program. These cuts will directly affect some of our most vulnerable young people. When students leave school, they need to possess the skills necessary to meet the workplace demands of a modern vibrant economy. These cuts will seriously put at risk young people's ability to gain these skills, reducing their access to practical, hands-on, work-related experiences and learning programs tailored to their individual needs.

VCAL is a more hands-on vocational certificate, generally taken up by students moving to vocational education and training. These students are our tradesmen and so forth for the future. We know that VCAL is more flexible and adaptable for students needs than VCE, and it can bring together a range of different modules that can be adapted to suit students.

Our government, the Gillard government, is committed to providing young people with the option to pursue high-quality, industry-standard training while they complete high school. This not only helps to build a skilled and productive work force but also encourages young people who may not to go on to university to stay at school and finish their education. We have invested some $238 million in 40 trade training centres in schools across the state, as well as another 135 million under the National Partnership on Youth Attainment and Transitions.

We are investing $2.5 billion over 10 years to enable every high school student in Australia to have access to a trade training centre. Three years into this program we have already funded more than a third of schools—that is $1.03 billion in 288 projects benefiting over 900 schools. Thirteen schools in McEwen are benefiting from the Australian government's Trade Training Centres in Schools Program. Let's compare that to the last Liberal federal government, who delivered three. They delivered three across their 11 years.

We have, in Yarra Valley, the polytechnic TTC. The Yarra Valley Polytechnic Trade Training Centre is receiving some $3.6 million from this government. The lead school is Healesville High School and the two cluster schools are Upper Yarra Secondary College and Worawa Aboriginal College.

We also have the Central Ranges TTC. It is a huge investment in a regional area that was affected by bushfires but neglected by the state Liberal government and the former federal government. The schools in the Central Ranges TTC cluster have received $11.3 million from the Gillard government. The schools in McEwen that are part of the TTC are lead school Broadford Secondary College and cluster schools Alexandra Secondary College, Assumption College, Seymour P-12 College, St Mary's College, Wallan Secondary College, Whittlesea Secondary and Yea High School. There is also Euroa Secondary College, which is in the electorate of Indi. We also have the Lakes South Morang P-9 School, which is part of the Peter Lalor Trade Training Centre and is shared across electorates of McEwen, Scullin and Batman.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I know you are aware that young people in rural and regional Victoria face particular issues making the transition from school to further education, training or employment. They have more limited access to a range of education, training and employment positions by virtue of having smaller and fewer schools and local training providers, limited public transport, and reduced family income. That results in fewer employment opportunities.

Currently, in the region of Hume, 65.2 per cent of rural and regional students complete year 12, which is 17 per cent lower than the statewide average. So you would have to ask: why would the Victorian Liberal government cut VCAL? VCAL is an opportunity for Victorian kids to lift that state average and give them every opportunity. Both I and the Liberal member for Seymour attended the Central Ranges LLEN launch of the Hume Regional Youth Commitment. One has to wonder: does the Liberal member understand the importance of this project? Has she actually got a clue? This cut is probably the cruellest cut of all because it is a cut to our future generations' opportunities, and there is no worse thing you can do to your kids than cut their educational opportunities. It is an absolutely disgrace that they would say: 'Oh, you don't need coordinators; kids can find any job they want. They don't need help or assistance. You don't need to make sure that they get the opportunity to go to each company and get the education that will set them up for the future.' It is a joke and an embarrassment, and the Victorian Liberal government should be condemned for their actions. (Time expired)