House debates

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Questions without Notice

Vocational Education and Training

2:57 pm

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. On 2 July last year, the government promised 80,000 new apprenticeships, but, even before coronavirus, 140,000 apprenticeships and traineeships had been lost under this seven-year government, and the losses are just getting worse. Why does the Prime Minister want young people to join the unemployment queue rather than learn a trade?

2:58 pm

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I don't want that to happen.

Ms Plibersek interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Member for Sydney.

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

That's why one of the first things we did when we went into the COVID-19 crisis was increase the support for apprentices with a 50 per cent wage subsidy, so that, if we could help it, we'd not become early victims of this COVID-19 crisis, and we continue to provide that support. We continue to work with the states and territories, to have major changes to the reform of how skills training is conducted in this country. Each year the government puts $1.5 billion to the states and territories to support vocational education and training. That dates back to the agreement that was put in place by the Labor government which said $1.5 billion each year to the states and territories in return for—nothing. There was no accountability. There were no targets. There were no requirements for the states to report or do anything in relation to that money. That needs to change. That's why I'm engaged with the premiers and chief ministers in discussing how we can change those arrangements to better put that $1.5 billion to work.

So we are very committed to changing the way skills are delivered in this country, the appointment of the skills commissioner has been absolutely vital to inform the sort of skills that need to be trained in our workforce, particularly those who are coming out of work at this terrible time and how we can retrain them to be in the jobs that will be there in the post COVID economy. I note that the member raises these issues, but I also note that, when she was a member of the cabinet, the number of apprentices and trainees fell by 110,000 in a single year—2012-13—and over just two years between the 2011-12 budget and the 2013 federal election Labor gutted $1.2 billion from employer incentives to take on apprentices.

I'm sure that actually the opposition and the government agree that we need to get young people back into work and I'm sure we agree that we need to change the way that skills training is funded and delivered in this country. I would hope that, when we're able to bring forward that package of further reforms for skills training, I can look forward to the Labor Party supporting it.