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Thursday, 10 November 2016
Page: 2510

Senator HUME (Victoria) (15:40): I was here two days ago, rising in this chamber at exactly the same time, to speak, ironically, on exactly the same issues. This is like deja vu all over again! And the last thing I want to do is to carry this metaphor any further, but I think one more time we have to refer to Alice in Wonderland: this is getting 'curiouser and curiouser'!

I am so fundamentally disappointed with the questions without notice asked by those opposite. There is no substance, there is no legislative focus. The government has important work to do and those opposite have a duty to constituents—they have a duty to all Australians—to get their act together, to start dealing with the substantive issues of policy and to get on with the job of statecraft.

I thought that perhaps today we would have some serious questions but, sadly, no—once again we are playing political games and personal witch-hunts rather than policy development and policy passage. Perhaps honourable senators will be more lucky next week and more dedicated in the next sitting week. This government, however, is getting on with the job.

On the issue of former Senator Day: I do not think this government could be more transparent in this matter. It has repeated these assertions: both the Special Minister of State and the Minister for Finance have made extensive statements to the Senate on Monday 7 November, outlining the time line and the circumstances surrounding the lease of former Senator Day's electorate office. The government has moved a motion in the Senate to refer the election of former Senator Bob Day to the High Court due to a potential breach of section 44(v) of the Constitution. And this passed the Senate unanimously on Monday 7 November. There is clearly only one body that has the power to determine whether former Senator Day was in breach of section 44, and that is the High Court. Those opposite agreed that this matter has now been referred to the High Court and it would be foolish of anybody to pre-empt their findings. And it is very important that neither house of parliament should try to have this matter tried outside of that court process.

On the issue of apprenticeships, that Senator Cameron has raised: clearly this government supports vocational education and training, and has made that support abundantly clear. Many stakeholders have raised concerns about apprenticeships, and this government has listened to those concerned. This is not surprising. It is not surprising, given that Labor cut $1.2 billion in apprenticeship incentives in government, leading to the largest single drop in apprenticeships on record. Senator Birmingham commissioned the Apprenticeship Reform Advisory Group to consider a range of issues, including incentives, pre-apprenticeships and alternative models. The advisory group made 22 recommendations, including to explore and pilot alternative apprenticeship delivery arrangements. The government addressed this recommendation by providing $9.2 million under the Apprenticeship Training alternative delivery pilots initiative. The Australian government is funding five projects under pilots. The pilots are being delivered by Master Builders Australia, the National Electrical and Communications Association, the North East Vocational College in Adelaide, the Australian Industry Group—the Ai Group—and PricewaterhouseCoopers. The pilots will test training models which provide alternative skills development options both for industry and for those undertaking the training.

The Turnbull government wants to support industry efforts to explore these new arrangements and to examine and test potential regulatory or administrative barriers to innovation in industry-led apprenticeship training practices. All five of these pilots will be subject to ongoing evaluation, and the findings will be used to contribute to an evidence base that will inform future policy developments. This government is getting on with the job and delivering that which Australians expect and deserve.