Wednesday, 8 August 2007
Questions without Notice
My question is addressed to the Minister for Vocational and Further Education: what progress is the government making in dealing with labour and skills shortages, and are there any major impediments to further progress?
I thank the member for Macquarie for his question. Over recent months, in the absence of any worthwhile policy ideas on the other side of the House, they have resorted to asserting that the government has done nothing on skills—and the Leader of the Opposition was at it again this morning. This is just not true; it is a political lie, and the Leader of the Opposition knows it. He knows that apprentices in training in the electorate of Griffith have more than doubled since 1996. In 1996, there were 1,350 young people doing apprenticeships in the seat of Griffith; today there are 2,890 doing apprenticeships.
Recent research, released today, also puts a lie to the assertion. It shows a massive increase in the number of trade apprentices since 1995-96—for example, there has been an increase of 67 per cent in the number of apprentices doing construction apprenticeships; there has been a 63 per cent increase in the number of young people doing electrical and electronic apprenticeships. It is the result of the $22 billion worth of initiatives that the Prime Minister detailed earlier. It is why over the last four years in Australia 544,000 young people have completed apprenticeships, compared to 30,000—a lonely 30,000—in 1996 when we took office. This has not happened by accident.
It is a response of 10 years of hard work by the Howard government, yet what do we hear from those opposite? On the eve of an election and after eight months as Leader of the Opposition, the member for Griffith has provided no plan whatsoever to address the labour and skills shortages. There has not been one question in this House to me or anybody else about skills shortages from those opposite in eight months, yet we hear them assert again and again that this is a priority for the country; not one question. And why? It is because they are devoid of suggestions and ideas.
The only response to date that Labor have announced is a program all the way through to 2018, an 11-year program of spending, to tack on a technical classroom to every secondary school across Australia. Putting an oven or a lathe in a classroom down the back end of every secondary school is not a solution to the skills challenge and will only continue to reinforce the view that a technical education is a second-class career. In every one of those secondary schools, the academic stream will continue to dominate. This response would only serve to reinforce the view that a technical career is a second-class career. Recent research from Monash University shows that the one-size-fits-all approach is counterproductive. Labor made ‘apprenticeships’ and ‘trade training’ dirty words. If they win office, they will do it again.