Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 26 November 2009
Page: 9027


Senator PRATT (2:30 PM) —Thank you, Mr Presi-dent—finally, an opportunity to ask my question. My question is to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Government Service Delivery, Senator Arbib. Can the minister please update the Senate on how the education infrastructure program is supporting jobs in the building sector? Is the minister aware of a recently released Australian Bureau of Statistics report on construction sector activity? Given the opposition’s plan—

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! When you are ready, we will proceed.


Senator PRATT —Thank you, Mr President. I could barely hear myself. Given the opposition’s plans to cut or delay the infrastructure stimulus, how would these plans impact on jobs and small business if they were to go ahead?


Senator ARBIB (Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Government Service Delivery) —I thank Senator Pratt for that question. I am happy to inform the Senate that construction through the education stimulus is going extremely well. I have talked about the number of tradespeople—electricians, plumbers, bricklayers et cetera—who are all being supported by the stimulus, but we now have the latest construction figures from September coming out of the ABS, which show a 2.2 per cent increase in total construction and 6.9 per cent annually to September, seasonally adjusted. We have also had further research from a company called Macromonitor, which predicts growth of 11 per cent in building starts across the entire non-residential building sector in 2009-10, after a 30 per cent drop last year.

Opposition senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Senator Arbib, you might just resume your seat until there is silence.


Senator Bernardi interjecting—


Senator Joyce interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Senator Bernardi, constant interjection is disorderly—and I say the same to Senator Joyce. Senator Arbib, proceed.


Senator ARBIB —Macromonitor Director Nigel Hatcher puts it like this:

This rebound has been almost entirely due to the boost to education building coming from the Commonwealth stimulus package.

He goes on to say:

This is the first time that a program of government building work has been of adequate magnitude to offset a major downturn in commercial building in Australia.

Peter Verwer from the Construction Forecast Council is in total agreement, saying that ‘the market is basically being held up by government spending and it is mainly education’. He says—and I think opposition senators will find this interesting:

If you look at the last quarter ABS data of approvals, for the $12 billion of non-residential developments, $7.6 billion of the total approved was education. That’s amazing … it’s historically unprecedented. Without looking at any single number, that has not happened even when Curtin and Menzies were the prime ministers. ( Time expired)

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! The time to debate this is after question time. Post question time is the time to debate—on both sides. When we have silence, we will proceed.


Senator PRATT —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. What else is the government doing to help support jobs and training as the economy recovers from the global recession? In particular, what is the government doing to address the incredible 20 per cent drop in apprenticeship commencements over the last year? I would like to know how—

Opposition senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Pratt, resume your seat. If people want to continue to interject, we will wait until we have silence. The questioner is entitled to be heard in silence.


Senator PRATT —In particular, what is the government doing to address the 20 per cent drop in apprenticeship commencements over the last year? How will Apprentice Kickstart help support young people seeking to enter traditional trades? Also, has the minister has any feedback from business about how they intend to use this initiative?


Senator ARBIB (Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Government Service Delivery) —One of the worst aspects of the global recession has been the effect on training. I have said before in this chamber that apprenticeship commencements over the past 12 months have dropped by 21 per cent. The government has been doing everything possible to turn this around. That is why the government put in place in the stimulus package a 10 per cent target of contract labour hours for apprentices. This means that apprentices are keeping their positions on stimulus projects. That 21 per cent would be much, much worse if it were not for the stimulus package.

Also, with the support of the Australian Greens and Senator Fielding, we have been able to reconfigure the Jobs Fund to improve incentives for apprentices. We have been able to almost treble the commencement bonuses for apprentices—up to almost $5,000—for the summer period. That means that we are going to see more carpentry apprentices, more plumbing apprentices, more electrical apprentices, more fitters and turners et cetera. This is how we will get through the— (Time expired)


Senator PRATT —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given the minister’s response to my first question—that the education infrastructure program is supporting jobs in the building sector across Australia—I would like to ask the minister to provide examples of projects that are having an impact in communities around Australia.


The PRESIDENT —Order! When there is silence, we will proceed.


Senator ARBIB (Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Government Service Delivery) —A couple of months ago, all the questions that were coming from the other side of the chamber, from the Liberal Party, concerned Building the Education Revolution, but they have dried up. What we are now seeing are all the newspaper clippings and articles talking about the good news coming out of the Building the Education Revolution. The Narrandera Argus said:

PCR Building Services Director Peter Piltz said that without the government stimulus he would have been cutting jobs.

“This government work came at just the right time for us and everyone else in the construction industry,” Mr Piltz said.

“We were looking at putting people off but now we can put more on.”

Similarly, the Illawarra Mercury reported that the managing director, Joe Cachia, from Mount Kembla company Piruse Constructions had said:

Without the stimulus money, the building industry is dead.

That is what the government is doing—supporting jobs. The opposition has no plan for jobs. (Time expired)