Wednesday, 14 February 2018
Questions without Notice
Skilling Australians Fund
I thank Senator Fawcett for his question and his interest in the Skilling Australians Fund, which is indeed structured in a way to create greater opportunities for Australians, particularly young Australians, to secure training opportunities for their future. It's about ensuring that we provide training in areas of economic growth: priority areas such as hospitality, tourism, health, manufacturing, building and construction, agriculture and digital technologies. All together it's around a $1½ billion commitment from the federal government to work with the states and territories on creating more opportunities by re-engineering the partnership in skilling in vocational and educational training between the Commonwealth and the states and territories so that we get improved outcomes, particularly in relation to apprenticeships.
I'm pleased to say that already there has been significant interest from states. In particular, last week we saw the Hodgman Liberal government promise that, if re-elected, they would help address the increasing demand for skilled workers across a number of sectors by investing some $7 million to establish a trades and water centre of excellence. I know that the Hodgman government has achieved great results in lifting the number of apprentices in training in Tasmania since they came to office. Through commitments like this and their commitment to working with us in relation to the Skilling Australians Fund, we would see even more opportunity for Tasmanians.
Equally, Senator Fawcett, in our home state of South Australia the Marshall Liberal opposition committed that, if elected, they would invest $100 million to partner with the Skilling Australians Fund to create 20,000 new places in vocational education and training, creating 20,000 new opportunities for young South Australians to secure apprenticeships and traineeships in areas of economic growth, creating job opportunities for them into the future.
Indeed, as I just mentioned, a Marshall Liberal government has committed to providing $100 million to secure matching funding under the Skilling Australians Fund, creating more than 20,000 new places in the vocational educational system. They will provide, indeed, some 20,800 specific estimates of places in new apprenticeships and new traineeships.
And the response from employers is positive. Master Builders Association of SA stated it was great to see Steven Marshall and John Gardner backing apprenticeships and non-government training providers. Addressing the current skills shortage is a top priority for the building and construction industry. Of course, it comes on top of other commitments that they have made that would feed into our Skilling Australians Fund to deliver a new technical college in Adelaide's north-western suburbs, with a focus on encouraging students to work in the defence industry sector—a critical skills opportunity that I know, Senator Fawcett, you appreciate, where the Turnbull government is delivering record levels of investment and growth.
The minister would be aware that I initiated an inquiry into TAFE in South Australia due to concerns around CASA withdrawing the qualifications of people who had trained there. Is the minister able to explain to the Senate why an inquiry into the failings of TAFE of South Australia and the South Australian government ended up being held in Sydney?
Thank you, Senator Fawcett, for that question. Indeed, the only explanation for why it is that a properly constituted Senate inquiry looking into the failings of the Weatherill Labor government in South Australia and the management of the TAFE system there—an inquiry supported by the Greens and the crossbench in its establishment—would hold its only hearing in Sydney is that those opposite wanted to cover up the failings of the Weatherill Labor government. TAFE SA has been in a state of ongoing mess, debacle and embarrassment, with around 800 students impacted by compliance issues in relation to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and many more impacted by compliance issues by the—
That is not a point of order. I remind ministers not to reflect on the motives of others in the chamber.
Senator Wong interjecting—
Can I continue, Senator Wong! The motives of other senators should not be reflected upon in questions or answers, particularly assigning a motive to another senator's actions. Senator Birmingham.
They are so sensitive about the failings of the Weatherill Labor government in SA, which can't keep the lights on and has driven jobs away, and their TAFE sector has been an absolute debacle and embarrassment.