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Wednesday, 22 June 1994
Page: 1899

Senator MARGETTS (4.40 p.m.) —This is a truly extraordinary debate today. The definition of `public funding' is `government spending or subsidy from the public purse'. By far the greatest amount of subsidy in the area of training goes to industry, in the form of vocational and industrial training, labour market assistance to job seekers and industry and employment services. The emphasis on training in both the secondary and tertiary education sectors, as opposed to education, also constitutes a huge subsidy to industry. We are talking about billions of dollars here.

  Senator Abetz professes to be outraged that the Trade Union Training Authority has close links with the executive of the union movement in Australia. It would be a strange thing indeed if it did not. How else could TUTA be expected to provide training that is relevant to the needs of trade unionists in the light of the recent and complex changes in work practices which are being driven by industry, recent legislative changes and the acknowledged need for Australia to move to world best practice in both management and work relations?

  Employers are on the TUTA board as well. The benefits of such a facility are much wider than the union movement. TUTA is often engaged directly by employers. We have heard this today. Let me the give Senate some examples of the value that TUTA is providing in Western Australia as we speak. Currently 12 shop stewards are receiving training in a three-day job representation 2 course. Each of them has undergone a three-day job representation course with aspirations of undertaking a job representation 3 course in the future. Their aspiration is the provision of high quality representation of the employees they represent both in the workplace and within their respective unions.

  A total of 21 individuals are receiving a five-day skills course for organisers. The course, which has an excellent reputation, is being delivered in Perth for the first time—it is usually presented on a national basis at the Clyde Cameron College of TUTA. Again, the objective is the skills enhancement of organisers in the context of rapid change in industrial relations. Each course runs from 8.30 to 4.30 p.m. daily.

  This week the centre will be open for 40 hours and during that time there will be 987 hours of skill enhancement and awareness training. This is in addition to the training being delivered by union-based trainers at the Shop Assistants Union, the Miscellaneous Workers Union, the state school teachers union, the electrical and plumbing union, the Civil Service Association and the Metals and Engineering Union.

  The course content for all training occurring this minute in Western Australia is based on 20 years of TUTA experience and is TUTA accredited, with associated quality control. The opposition needs to ask itself whether the same high quality, high intensity, high efficiency training can be guaranteed out of the innumerable schools of management around Australia which receive the direct and indirect benefit of millions of dollars of federal government funds.

  The broadly agreed economic reform process has as a central character the union movement. Through the painful transition, TUTA has played a central role in the delivery of high quality information and skills enhancement to engender a coherent approach to change. Again, the union bashers in the opposition need to ask themselves whether the schools of management have been as conscientious in their constant revision of curricula and training methods. With the devolution of training from centralised TUTA facilities to union-based trainers, the TUTA efforts at continuous improvement and increased efficiency in training delivery are again manifest.

  Unions in Western Australia remain committed to the maintenance of high standards of TUTA accredited training. The Trades and Labour Council of Western Australia continues to negotiate with TUTA on the provision and level of Trades and Labour Council-based training capacity required for direct delivery and to coordinate delivery of training by others to the full range of unions in that state.

  It seems to me that Senator Abetz and his union-hating cohorts on the opposition benches forget that the right of workers to organise is a basic human right, a right for which people in history have fought and died. Public subsidy to industry in its many forms is increasing in Australia, and this includes tax handbacks as well as very large training subsidies. A trade union training authority necessarily must have close links to the trade union movement in order that its training is relevant to the needs of trade unionists.