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Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Page: 7164

Ms BIRD (CunninghamParliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills) (21:32): I appreciate it, Mr Deputy Speaker. I thank the member for his comments on the tremendous facility that we opened at Macquarie Fields and indeed, as he identifies, an area where I did my secondary education. It was a great pleasure to go back there. I also acknowledge the member for Lyons, who I know has a great commitment to adult education and further education opportunities. The member for Werriwa is absolutely correct: this is an area that this government has prioritised. Since the 2008-09 budget we have allocated over $15.5 billion to vocational education and training. As a former TAFE teacher it is certainly something that I believe is one of the most critical aspects for participation and productivity agenda into the future. Over $200 million has been allocated to the building TAFE facilities fund, which allowed us to fund the facility at Macquarie Fields. And in my own area at both Wollongong campus and Shellharbour campus there have been important facilities built. There has been a lot of capital put into our TAFE but also a lot of commitment to skills development across the nation, an issue that was repeatedly identified at the end of the years of the Howard government. Infrastructure and skills were two bottlenecks that were throttling our economy and something that this government has stepped up to. It was a great pleasure to join the member in opening that facility and to see those young people in that region being given an opportunity. There are also, as the member for Lyons has often discussed with me, the commitments and expenditure in language, literacy and numeracy for adults to make sure that those who have been left behind have an opportunity also to participate in the programs that this government is rolling out. I thank members for their interest in the portfolio areas.