Wednesday, 24 June 2015
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(ii) new apprenticeships in New South Wales fell by 20 per cent in 2014,
(iii) the annual report further shows a 16.2 per cent decrease in apprenticeship completions from 2013 to 2014, resulting in 10 000 fewer apprentices completing their training in New South Wales, and
(iv) the Abbott Government has cut nearly $2 billion out of apprenticeship support since coming to office; and
(b) calls on the Federal Government to reinstate the Tools For Your Trade program and other forms of support for apprentices to boost skills development and improve job opportunities for young Australians.
The government will oppose this motion. It has a number of flaws to it. But, importantly, I would highlight for the Senate that the government continues to provide significant funding to New South Wales for vocational education and training. It continues to honour all agreements struck with New South Wales in that regard and provide all funding. The government is also providing to New South Wales TAFE, one of the highest beneficiaries of the VET FEE-HELP scheme, very significant funding under that VET FEE-HELP scheme.
In regard to apprenticeships, I would highlight to the Senate that the decline in apprenticeship commencements was most marked and commenced in the period before the election of this government. It was following the 2011-12 budget of the previous government where the $1,500 standard employer commencement incentive was cut, which saw around 100,000 apprenticeships lost during that period. We are committed to providing significant support to apprentices through the $20,000 Trade Support Loans, which is nearly four times the amount of support that was available to apprentices under the previous government's programs.
While Labor agrees with the sentiments contained within the Greens motion, unfortunately we cannot support this motion due to the lack of detail and the absence of costings. We saw $1 billion in cuts to apprenticeship programs in last year's budget. The government have replaced apprentice support with apprentice debt. Before the election, Mr Abbott promised that the coalition would provide better support for Australia's apprentices. They have now had two budgets, and all we have seen are cuts, cuts and more cuts. We need to start investing in programs to develop the skills and training that Australians need to obtain the jobs of the future. But these proposals must be detailed and must be costed.