Thursday, 29 November 2018
Questions without Notice
Australian Apprentice Wage Subsidy
My question is to the Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education, Senator Cash. Minister, a couple of weeks ago I responded to a call from a New South Wales butcher, Darren Wilson, who was denied access to the new Apprentice Wage Subsidy trial despite his proud history of employing apprentices and supporting both his industry and local community. Mr Wilson, whose business is located in regional New South Wales, at Forster, on the New South Wales North Coast, was to be denied access to the scheme because he had employed apprentices over the previous three years. I have been assured that this was a bureaucratic error and would be corrected. Minister, can you confirm the steps the government has taken to ensure Mr Wilson and other hardworking small-business owners in rural and regional Australia can get access to this subsidy and not be punished for prior investment in apprentices?
I thank Senator Burston for his question. Senator Burston, I can assure you that my team has also spoken with Mr Darren Wilson. He is a proud small-business butcher in Forster. It was a very positive and productive discussion. I have to say, just by way of context, that I was delighted to announce, with our Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, on 31 October 2018 that the Liberal-National government are investing $60 million in a wage subsidy trial for apprentices in rural and regional Australia. The trial is going to commence on 1 January 2019. Mr Wilson is absolutely able to access apprentices. In fact, in the discussion with my team, he said he would welcome taking on a new apprentice.
This is all about the Liberal-National government recognising that those in rural and regional Australia face additional barriers to employment. In particular, all senators would be aware of the drought affected areas in Australia. We want to trial the wage subsidy. The wage subsidy is a significant incentive. It is 75 per cent of the apprentice's award wage in the first year, 50 per cent in the second year and 25 per cent in the third year to see the effect it has in rural and regional Australia. The trial is actually going to support, over the forward estimates, an additional 1,630 new apprentice opportunities in rural and regional Australia. That is why you have to take on a new apprentice. This is all about creating new opportunities for people in rural and regional Australia. In fact, Mr Wilson's business is the perfect example of the type of business— (Time expired)
Thank you very much, Senator Burston. This trial is about testing the effect of wage subsidies as an incentive for rural and regional employers to engage more Australian apprentices in areas of skills need. This is actually the first time a wage subsidy has been trialled in this manner. The trial is all about helping us to better understand and better address the barriers that stop employers in rural and regional areas from employing apprentices. The subsidy will be in addition to other incentives currently available to employers through the Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Program. As such, the pilot will assess the interaction of wage subsidies and employer incentives. Assessment of the wage subsidy will include monitoring its performance in terms of apprenticeship commencement, retention and completion rates against baseline indicators. This is all about creating new opportunities for Australian apprentices in rural and regional Australia. (Time expired)