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Thursday, 17 October 2002
Page: 5355

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (9:47 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows

The Vocational Education and Training Funding Act 1992 appropriates funds to support vocational education and training, provided to the Australian National Training Authority (ANTA) for distribution to the States and Territories and for National Projects.

This bill will increase the amount previously appropriated for 2002 by $24.348 million in line with normal price adjustments, giving effect to the Government's commitment to maintain base funding in real terms under the Australian National Training Authority Agreement 2001 to 2003.

As a result, total funding for 2002 will be increased to $1,055.506 million, including $76.725 million in growth funding, matched by the States and Territories under the terms of the ANTA agreement.

The bill appropriates $1,094.020 million for vocational education and training in 2003. The total figure includes an amount of $12.381 million provided under the Australians Working Together initiative of this Government and a first instalment of $4.545 million to deliver new training opportunities for people with a disability under the Recognising and Improving the Capacity of People with a Disability initiative.

This record level of funding provided to the States and Territories for their vocational education and training systems in 2003 is a demonstration of the Commonwealth's commitment to a strong national vocational education and training system. This Government believes it is essential to develop a highly skilled workforce to increase the productivity and competitiveness of Australian industry, and to enable individual Australians to fully realise their potential.

It is also essential that our vocational education and training system provides opportunities for all our young people who decide to embark on careers that do not involve university study. Young people's decisions need to be respected and nurtured.

It is very pleasing to see that participation in vocational education and training in schools continues to grow. An estimated 170,000 students participated in vocational education and training in schools in 2001. The ANTA funding provided in the bill includes $20 million per annum to assist with the implementation of vocational education and training in schools.

Our commitment to training is further demonstrated in the 2002-03 Budget.

Under measures announced in the Budget we will be providing $33 million over three years, commencing in 2003-04, for vocational education and training to assist people with a disability. This is in addition to the $72 million for vocational education and training provided under last year's Australians Working Together package, $24 million of which was to provide additional places for people with a disability.

In the Budget the Government has provided $54 million over the next four years for additional New Apprenticeships incentives to encourage employers to employ and retain young people in school-based New Apprenticeships as well as to encourage employers in the field of Information Technology and other emerging highly skilled occupations to take on New Apprentices.

The sustained expansion of New Apprenticeships is clear evidence that they are delivering the types of training that responds to the needs of businesses and are opening up opportunities for more Australians in a wider range of occupations than ever before. The latest figures from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research show that there are a record 333,000 New Apprentices in training.

In an important life long learning initiative the Budget also provides for IT training for older workers. Up to 46,000 older Australians will be assisted through this four year, $23 million initiative. The IT Skills for Older Workers programme will provide training valued at up to $500 to help develop skills to a level that will allow effective participation in today's workforce. The training will be aimed at people aged 45 years and over who are in the labour force and are welfare dependent but have no previous post-school qualifications in IT.

These measures together with the funding we provide to the States and Territories under the ANTA Agreement 2001-2003 are helping to provide new vocational and training opportunities for many more Australians.

The increased Commonwealth funding provided to the States and Territories through ANTA in 2003 will help ensure that emerging issues such as support for new and emerging high technology industries and the training needs of older workers can be addressed.

Together with the reforms to vocational training that the Government has led, this new funding provides a sound basis for the vocational education and training sector to develop in the year ahead.

I commend the bill to the Chamber.

Debate (on motion by Senator Mackay) adjourned.