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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 3722

Mrs ANDREWS (McPhersonAssistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills) (15:30): If Labor is ever returned to government in this country, God help vocational education. They have the most appalling record in vocational education. I am very happy to stand here today and take you through, in detail, what they have done to bring this sector to its knees. Labor's record in vocational education, when in government, was appalling. Between 2011 and 2013, Labor ripped $1.2 billion out of vocational education—$1.2 billion over a two-year period. Nine times between 2011 and 2013 they cut employer incentives to take on an apprentice—$1.2 billion and nine successive cuts over a two-year period. During that time, 2011 to 2013, 190,000 apprentices were lost to industry. During Labor's last year in government alone, they oversaw the single biggest decline in apprenticeship numbers. We lost over 100,000 apprentices-in-training to industry.

During the previous speech I heard it said that some of those apprentices lost to the system would have been trained by now, and that's right—100,000 of those who came out of that system in 2012-13 would have been qualified. They would have been out there in the workforce using their skills, but they had the opportunity ripped away from them—taken away, no chance, their dreams removed. Their opportunity for a worthwhile, fulfilling career in their choice of industry was ripped away by the Labor government, which took $1.2 billion from vocational education.

I think it's actually quite telling to look at who the responsible minister was during that time. From December 2011 to July 2013 the responsible minister was the then Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. There was a title change to Minister for Workplace Relations from 1 July 2013 to 18 September 2013. The minister responsible for such a significant number of apprentices coming out of the system was the member for Maribyrnong. I would be so embarrassed if I were a member of the Labor Party, sitting in here, understanding that $1.2 billion and the decimation of the vocational education sector in Australia occurred under that watch.

Labor has an absolutely appalling track record in vocational education. In 2012, they negotiated a five-year National Partnership Agreement on Skills Reform. They negotiated it with the states and territories. It was a $1.75 billion, five-year partnership. Of that, $1.15 billion went to reforms in the sector. Those reforms introduced contestability into the market, so they provided for the competition between TAFE and private providers. They were introduced in the 2012 to 2017 five-year agreement between the Labor government and the states. The reforms that introduced contestability between TAFE and the private providers meant that the market share of TAFEs dropped over that period from 60 per cent to 49 per cent. So, under the five-year agreement negotiated by Labor, the market share of TAFE dropped by 11 per cent—an appalling track record. Of the $1.75 billion that they had in their five-year national partnership agreement with the states, $1.15 billion went to the reforms on contestability, which dropped the market share of TAFEs, and $600 million out of that $1.75 billion went to a direct training outcome. So it was only $600 million over five years, which is clearly not a lot of money.

What we have is the red team opposite contributing $600 million to training outcomes over five years and, over this side, we have the blue team contributing $1.5 billion over five years. Six hundred million dollars or $1.5 billion? I know where I want to be. I want to be supporting vocational education and injecting $1.5 billion into direct training outcomes. Three hundred million dollars of that is on the table this year. It's there to deal with projects and address the decline in apprentice numbers, which we know are there, because they were established back in 2012-13 when we had the biggest single drop in apprentice numbers. We're working with the states and the territories and, quite frankly, there are some states that are ahead of the pack. I can assure you that I am looking forward to continuing some very, very fruitful negotiations with a number of states. I will single out the new Liberal government in South Australia, which have been very quick to come and speak with me about the proposals that they took to the election—proposals that they developed earlier this year, and towards the end of last year, I believe, to address the significant shortfall that they have, as an incoming government, in the number of apprentices in training. I am very confident that we will be reaching agreement with South Australia in the very near future. The Commonwealth and South Australia will work together to make sure that we are addressing the skills needs in South Australia.

Some states have been less interested in talking about how to address skills needs. If I look at what's happened in Victoria, particularly over the last few years, I can see that there has been a significant drop in the funding contribution from the Victorian state government to vocational education. Over a five-year period, their funding for vocational education has reduced by over 50 per cent. So the state government in Victoria dropped their funding. If we look at the last three years alone—effectively from 2014 to 2017—we can see that $250 million has been ripped out of Victoria in vocational education and training. So, in fact, we are injecting more federal money than the state governments, individually and collectively, have injected. Victoria has the most significant drop in spending over a five-year period of all of the states. My door continues to be open to every state and territory to make sure that we can work together to address the skills shortages that we have around Australia.

In the minute that I have left to speak on this particular MPI today, I must say that it's very interesting that Labor has actually put up vocational education as an MPI, because since the last election this is the first time we have spoken about vocational education. However, at every opportunity I get I certainly speak about vocational education, so I have had the opportunity during MPIs to talk about VET. As a government, we have already done a range of things to address the problems we inherited from the Labor government. Getting rid of VET FEE-HELP is so important for the future of vocational education, and particularly for the reputation of the sector. We fixed that with VET student loans. We have introduced strategies to deal with the status of vocational education because we know we've got a lot of work to do to make sure vocational education takes its place as an opportunity for our young people to get the jobs that they need. (Time expired)