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Thursday, 15 May 2014
Page: 3916


Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (14:52): My question is to the Minister for Industry. Minister, how would apprentices be better supported under the government's new trade support loans?

Mr IAN MACFARLANE (GroomMinister for Industry) (14:52): I thank the member for Hughes for his question and I also congratulate him for his involvement in last week's launch at ANSTO of a new nuclear medicine facility, which shows that Australia excels in a whole range of areas; in fact, it is a world leader in a whole range of areas. I know that the member for Hughes has a strong interest in what goes on at Lucas Heights, but he has an even stronger interest in what goes on in his electorate for small business, where he has some 10,000 small businesses. He fully understands the importance of a skilled workforce to those small businesses. That is why the government are introducing our trade support loans scheme; that is why we want to give apprentices more support during their time—more support to become the skilled Australians who will support the productivity growth that we need to see in Australia in the coming years.

As of 1 July, an apprentice will be able to apply for a loan, which will total $20,000 and which is interest free. Because we have seen, particularly in the Labor times, when Labor was in government, that the number of apprentices falling out of apprenticeship schemes grew by 9,000 between 2008 and 2012 and because we are concerned that apprentices are falling out of their apprenticeships and not completing their schemes, we want to make sure they are incentivised to finish. So, when they finish their four years or however long their apprenticeship takes, they get a 20 per cent deduction off their loan. That is worth $4,000. But that is only part of it. The real story to this is that, compared to a commercial loan, this is worth more than double, almost triple, that amount to an apprentice, and so an apprentice has a real incentive to finish. That is really what it is all about.

We want to support apprentices while they go through the time of training, which is not dissimilar to a university student. Times are tough when you are trying to make ends meet on an apprenticeship wage. We know that and we want to support them. We want to make sure they have the ability and the desire to finish their apprenticeship. This scheme is there to help them along the way. This scheme is to make sure that there are more skilled apprentices in our workforce, in the seat of Hughes, making sure that the small businesses in that seat have access to the skilled workers who will make their small businesses viable in the long term.