House debates

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Matters of Public Importance


4:27 pm

Photo of Daryl MelhamDaryl Melham (Banks, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to support the matter of public importance that was submitted by the member for Perth in the following terms:

The failure of the government to adequately invest in the skills, education and training of our people and the need for greater investment in education at every level.

I support the comments made by the member for Perth and also the comments made by the member for Jagajaga. As I only have five minutes, I will certainly cover a different area from the areas they covered. There was a press release issued by the Leader of the Opposition today, and the member for Perth, as well as the federal Labor candidate for Eden-Monaro, Mr Mike Kelly. It pointed out that, after 11 years, the government’s record on public spending for schools and vocational education shows that Australia has fallen to third-last in the world on OECD figures, ahead of only Korea and the United States. That is a disgrace.

Reports released by the ACTU and the Australian Industry Group in 2004 projected skills shortfalls of over 21,000 positions, particularly in the traditional trades areas, although the Australian Industry Group said that a more conservative estimate would put the number close to 18,000 positions. In the manufacturing sector, the AiG projections recorded the following skills shortages: wood, wood products and furniture, 2,800; chemicals, petroleum and coal products, 3,200; transport equipment, 3,000; and, machinery and equipment, 3,100.

The ACTU paper stated that, in addition to the manufacturing sector, there were national shortages in the vehicle trades, in the electrical and electronics trades and in some of the construction and food trades. To date, these shortages have not been seriously addressed by this government—11½ years, 11½ years too long. Their record shows that they deserve to be thrown out at the next election.

As I have said previously, the government’s reaction has been simply to introduce the infamous Australian technical colleges. I quote what I said on 21 June 2006:

Of course, the concept of Australian technical colleges crystallises the government’s agenda on two fronts: industrial relations and education. ATCs further privatise our education system and have the potential to damage enrolments and course offerings at nearby high schools.

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The real ideological attack is on public education and the government’s underhanded attempt to deregulate the national training system.

I have a TAFE in my area of Padstow and I know the member for Blaxland has the Bankstown TAFE in his electorate. They are terrific institutions and they have served the community well. They are the institutions that we should be pumping money into. We should be growing those institutions and creating opportunities for children to come through those institutions with trade qualifications. Ideology stopped this government from doing it, so they set up an alternative system which is doomed to failure.

I am of the view that the Commonwealth should cooperate with the state and territory governments on the all-important issue of apprenticeship training. Instead, we have a government that is duplicating existing skills structures. The government have effectively decided to avoid cooperation and coordination. They will be caught out and found out when the figures come through.

In my seat of Banks, apprenticeship completions have been dropping over the past 10 years. I am advised that failure rates have risen—in some cases to 40 per cent. Certainly there have been marked changes in the types of apprenticeships completed, with the proportion of those in traditional trades decreasing. For example, in the 12 months to June 2005 there were 430 new apprenticeship completions and only 110 traditional apprenticeship completions. What is the government’s solution? Bring people in from overseas on 457 visas. That is a short-term, crazy solution.

A federal Labor government will work with the states and territories to encourage and support young people to take up apprenticeships which will realistically address the national skills shortage. Among other initiatives, younger students will be encouraged to try their hands at a trade through a trade taster program. We will increase the number of school based apprenticeships and establish a $2,000 trade completion bonus to encourage kids to complete their courses. We will introduce skills training centres in our high schools, where students will be able to complete their general education while at the same time beginning trades training. This is how it should work: a federal government working in conjunction with the states and territories to achieve outcomes together, not setting up in competition to make a political point.

This government has failed to adequately invest in the skills and education Australia needs to participate on the global stage in the 21st century. They will suffer for it at the next election, because people will punish them for it. If you do not invest in the nation you are stupid or foolish because you do not give the nation a decent future. What this government has done for the last 11½ years is to invest in ideology alone. (Time expired)


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