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Monday, 14 October 2019
Page: 3997

Mr JOYCE (New England) (18:22): I want to talk briefly about the alternative universe of the Labor Party and it's a long, long time ago—that's because they're not very good at their job and keep on never winning an election. The greatest example of a Labor disaster was their VET FEE-HELP policy. Students were systematically exploited, signed up to accumulate huge debts for training packages that were never delivered. Since 2016 nearly 38,000 students have had VET FEE-HELP loan debts that have been re-credited by the Commonwealth. In 2009-10, Labor cut the Apprenticeship Training (Fee) Voucher program and shared competitive incentive. In 2009-10, they cut the Commonwealth Trade Learning Scholarship and apprentice wage top-up. In 2011-12, they cut incentives for employers for Australian apprenticeships undertaking their apprenticeships or traineeships at the certificate II level. In 2012-13, the Labor Party cut the commencement payment from the standard employer incentives for Australian apprentices. In 2012, Labor's MYEFO cut the commencement payments to employers of existing workers and Australian apprentices. They also cut the commencement and the recommencement of payments for Australian apprentices undertaking their apprenticeship at the diploma and the advanced diploma level.

The Labor Party also removed the completion payment from this incentive, including for any apprentices already enrolled who did not complete their apprenticeships by a certain date. They removed the support for adult Australian apprentices payment. They removed the commencement and recommencement payments for part-time and casual apprentices. In their final economic statement, the Labor Party cut the completion payment for employers of existing apprenticeships in non-skills shortage areas. This was a cumulative quarter of a billion dollar cut.

In the alternative universe, it's not sounding too good. What we acknowledge is that, in the program going forward, places such as the Namoi brickworks in Gunnedah will have the capacity to take on a new bricklayer. There'll be a payment to the bricklayer and a payment back to those training them in that trade. This is vitally important. The current apprenticeship process for bricklayers is incredibly low, but you can't build a house without the people who have the capacity to build houses.

The reality of the economy we're in—always remember—is that if it's done on a computer, if it's done on a keyboard, it can be done anywhere in the world; it does not have to be done in Australia. But the one thing that does have to be done here, and will always have to be done here, is the work of tradespeople. Whether it's a plumber, whether it's a plasterer, whether it's a bricklayer or whether it's a carpenter, everybody here is going to need local tradespeople. I can tell you right now that I saw this years ago as an accountant. When parents came in with their children, I'd ask, 'As your son or you daughter gets close to year 12, what are they going to do?' In the past they would have said, 'I want them to go to university because I believe they will make more money.' Those days are over, I can assure you. Become an electrician, become a sparky, and you will make a lot of money; you will employ people; you will have your own business. If you go through an area, the people who are truly wealthy are the ones who had the plant, had the material, were property developers, were builders. Even in Tamworth that's where the money is, and that's the area to do that.

If you're going to open up new subdivisions, you're going to need tradespeople, and smart tradespeople become smart business people—and that is what we're about. It was the coalition who understood this and stood behind things such as ABNs to make employees into businesspeople so that they can be their own boss, work for themselves and have their own careers. Politically that made a huge difference, especially in places such as the western suburbs of Sydney. Employees who were reliant on somebody else, were beneficiaries of someone else, became benefactors to their own families. They became the source of the wealth. By the sweat of their own brow and their own intuition they transcended through the economic and social stratification of life to their highest level, limited only by their innate ability. And why can we trot out a line like that? Because it's the National Party ethos; that's where it comes from. We acknowledge that a person of lesser education, born in a harder area, probably without the adornments that you might get in the inner suburbs—that person, their life, overwhelmingly comes good by the sweat of their own brow, and one of the most vital ways you can do that, advance in this great nation of Australia, is via a trade.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Zimmerman ): The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.