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Thursday, 27 May 2010
Page: 4437

Ms RISHWORTH (2:44 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion. How is the government investing in our schools to deliver trades training centres; and are there any threats to these centres?

Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —I thank the member for Kingston for her question. She is a member in this House who stands up for her electorate. As I explained to the House yesterday, last November we approved 302 schools for funding for trade training centres. Schools approved know that they are getting the money and are excitedly making plans to implement their trade training centre. The Leader of the Opposition has announced that he will cut the funding that is supposed to be going to those schools—schools that have been promised funding and that are now at risk of losing their funding because of the Leader of the Opposition.

Yesterday I said that we would look for a member of the coalition who is prepared to stand up for their electorate and say, ‘I want the schools in my electorate that have been promised money to get that money,’ to stand up to the Leader of the Opposition and say, ‘It is wrong that you want to cut the equivalent of 180 trade training centres from schools that have been promised the money since last November. Yesterday we asked the member for Dunkley whether he would be a coalition member prepared to stand up for his electorate, and the answer has clearly been no. He will meekly follow the Leader of the Opposition and allow the trade training centres promised in his electorate to be cut.

I asked today about another member of the coalition—the member for Bradfield. Our old friend the member for Bradfield does not have a happy record with the schools in his electorate, as we know. But maybe he could overcome his unhappy record with the schools in his electorate if he was prepared to stand up for St Ives High School and Sir Eric Woodward Memorial School and make sure that they get their trade training centre. He would need to tell the Leader of the Opposition that he is wrong to cut this funding. We will wait for 24 hours to see whether the member for Bradfield is a man who is prepared to say to the Leader of the Opposition: ‘My schools have been promised money. They were promised it last November and it is wrong of you to rip that money directly out of their hands.’

Mr Fletcher interjecting—

Ms GILLARD —While she is not here, let me indicate that there is also a test for the member for Gilmore. I note the member for Bradfield. He is big on yelling in this House. The question is: will he stand up for his local schools? We will wait to see that answered. The member for Gilmore, who is not here, wrote to me about the failure of a school in her electorate to be approved for a trade training centre. She said that we had had the rounds, the applications, and we have had had more schools apply than could get in the first few rounds or applications. She wrote to me because she was very disappointed that a school in her electorate did not get approved. She said:

It has come to my attention that Vincentia High School has been unsuccessful in their application for a much needed Trade Training Centre. This school is one of the most disadvantaged schools in my electorate of Gilmore, reflected in the data outlined on the My School website …

Another thing delivered by the Rudd government in education. She said:

Many of the students come from low socioeconomic or Indigenous backgrounds, and the area itself is quite isolated from tertiary opportunities and services like public transport. The principal, Steve Glenday, has written to express disappointment.

I accept absolutely that the member for Gilmore is genuinely concerned about this school not getting its trade training centre, but the test for her is whether she will now go to the Leader of the Opposition and say, ‘If you go ahead with this cutback, Vincentia School will never get its trade training centre.’ The only way it will ever get a trade training centre is under the Rudd government’s 10-year program, if the Leader of the Opposition stops being a risk to this program.

Yesterday when I raised this matter in here the member for Goldstein, who also is not here today—the shadow finance minister who announced these cuts—yelled out, ‘We’ll have a better plan.’ And I thought, ‘Gee, the member for Goldstein with a better plan—that will be interesting.’ I checked on the performance of the member for Goldstein when he was a minister with responsibility in this area. In 2007 he famously said: ‘We’ve got a problem with skills shortage. We knew it was coming, but it has arrived with a force, and it is only going to get worse.’ That is the record of the member for Goldstein in dealing with skills shortages—knew they were coming, did not do anything about it.

Mr Andrews —What about technical colleges? That was so disingenuous.

Ms GILLARD —The member for Menzies helpfully yells out, ‘What about technical colleges?’ Thank you very much, Member for Menzies. I have looked at the track record of the Howard government on technical colleges, and let me illuminate the House on their record. In 2004 the Liberals promised that Australian technical colleges would help 21,000 students over four years at a cost of $289 million. Okay, that was a promise. What in fact happened? It cost $440 million to establish 24 colleges that ended up with 3,000 enrolled students. Let me just give you those numbers again—you would not have to blitz the grade 3 NAPLAN test to understand the import of these numbers: $440 million for 3,000 students enrolled, a cost per student of $140,000.

So let us not hear any nonsense from the opposition about having a better plan. Their track record in government is absolutely clear: $140,000 per student, watched skills shortages coming and just waved their hands in the air and did absolutely nothing. And now the Leader of the Opposition sitting there is a risk to the trade training centres in schools, particularly the more than 300 schools that have had funds approved and who are going to have those funds ripped out of their hands by the Leader of the Opposition. The search for a member of the coalition prepared to stand up for their electorate will continue. We have not found one yet.