House debates

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Questions without Notice

Trade Skills Training

2:20 pm

Photo of Alex SomlyayAlex Somlyay (Fairfax, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to the claims that the government has not done enough to invest in skills and training? What is the Prime Minister’s response? Are there any alternative policies?

Photo of John HowardJohn Howard (Bennelong, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

In his press conference today, to which the Treasurer has already referred, the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Lilley had a number of remarkable things to say. One of the claims made by the Leader of the Opposition was that in the whole area of skills the government had effectively ignored taking action over the last 10 years. I take the opportunity of not only refuting that claim but also informing the House that since 1996 the government has provided over $22 billion for skills and over $12 billion to the states and territories for TAFE and vocational training. This compares with spending by the Labor governments during the previous year they were in government of some $1 billion.

Over the next four years, the government will spend a record $11.4 billion on vocational and technical education. In the 2007-08 financial year alone the Australian government has committed $2.9 billion, which includes funding for a range of initiatives aimed at addressing skills needs, particularly those in traditional trades. We have established 28 Australian technical colleges in 24 regions across Australia. We are providing a wage top-up of $1,000 per annum for two years for apprentices in trades with skills shortages, $500 a year for two years for training fees for apprentices in trades with skills shortages, FEE-HELP for people studying diplomas and advances diplomas in the VET sector and up to $50,000 for training organisations developing fast-track apprentices. We are establishing the Australian Institute for Trade Skills Excellence. We are providing a tool kit worth up to $800 to Australian apprentices in occupations with skills needs, employer incentives of $4,000 per apprentice, a $13,000 wage subsidy for mature age apprentices and work skills vouchers of up to $3,000 for individuals aged 25 years or over who do not have year 12 or equivalent qualifications We are also providing for apprentices business skills training vouchers of up to $500, the living away from home allowance, Austudy, Abstudy and a $1,000 regional allowance.

We are also providing two $500 Commonwealth trade learning scholarships to Australian apprentices who are employed by small- or medium-sized business or group training operations in occupations with skills needs. We are providing an additional 5,000 places in the Access Program, which assists job seekers experiencing barriers to skilled employment. We are providing up to 4,500 prevocational training places in the trades through group training arrangements. We are working in partnership with group training organisations to provide an additional 7,000 Australian school based apprenticeships. We are increasing the funding for Australian apprenticeship centres to allow them to intervene at key points during an apprenticeship to increase retention and completion rates. We are extending the employer incentives to include selected diploma and advanced diploma qualifications. We are establishing the Australian Surf Lifesaver Training Academy, which will provide a nationally consistent approach to surf rescue and public safety training. We are supporting national reforms agreed with the states and territories through the Council of Australian Governments designed to underpin a new genuinely national approach to apprenticeships, training and skills recognition. In the face of that record over the last 11 years, it was a complete distortion of the truth for the Leader of the Opposition to have made the claim that he did this morning.