Thursday, 29 November 2018
Questions without Notice
Vocational Education and Training
My question is to the Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education, Senator Cash. In July this year, and contrary to all evidence, the former minister, Karen Andrews, claimed that the Australian VET system is better than Germany's, and Minister Cash has claimed that the system is world class. I refer to Prime Minister Morrison's decision to appoint Steven Joyce, a former New Zealand National Party minister, to conduct a review of the Australian VET system. If the Australian VET system is better than Germany's and world class, why is the review necessary? And why has the government appointed Mr Joyce, who was responsible for cutting funding to regional New Zealand polytechnics by up to 57 per cent?
Opposition senators interjecting—
Senator Cameron talks it down. Colleagues, you should have seen Senator Cameron at estimates when it came to the international reputation of Australia's vocational and education training system. It is a world-class system. And I am proud—
I'm sorry to interrupt the minister, but, after Senator Wong's pious words on proper behaviour, she again flouts the rules by constantly interjecting when Senator Cash is speaking, and she's doing it now. Is there one set of rules for Senator Wong and one set for every other senator?
I have to say, that is surprising. Senator Wong raises the issue of TAFE and defunding. Well, Senator Wong, you're actually wrong. If you look at what the states have done—in particular, the states of Queensland and Victoria—they've actually said no to hundreds of millions of dollars under the Skilling Australians Fund. In fact, colleagues, the governments of Queensland and Victoria turned their backs on the creation of around 100,000 new apprentices. Those of us on this side of the chamber are proud of our VET sector's reputation. We are proud of the qualifications that it gives to millions and millions of Australians.
Senator Cameron, unlike you, we understand that you should always look to make sure that your VET sector is delivering the skills that industry needs and ensuring that Australians have the skills that our employers want. Senator Cameron, wake up! We actually don't live in the dark ages. Industry 4.0 is upon us, and those of us on this side of the chamber will ensure that Australians are equipped with the skills of the future. (Time expired)
The OECD has found that Australia doesn't have the skills needed to engage effectively in global value chains, and the Productivity Commission has called the system 'a mess'. Given the Abbott-Turnbull government cut $3 billion from VET and training since taking office and cut a further $270 million in the last budget, isn't it clear that the mess is of your making? (Time expired)
Absolutely not. Colleagues, there was a piece of legislation that went through the House yesterday and the Senate today, and do you know what that legislation was doing? It was continuing to clean up the mess that you, Senator Cameron, voted for when you were last in government. Colleagues, do you remember the disastrous VET FEE-HELP scheme? Labor single-handedly put in place a scheme that destroyed the reputation of the vocational education and training sector in this country. When I meet with stakeholders, they despair at a future Labor government for fear that they may once again open up the sector to dodgy providers, to rorting providers—to providers who will take advantage of vulnerable Australians and sign them up to courses that don't even exist and saddle them with debt. Again, we have cleaned up your mess—we have done that on so many occasions now it's not even funny—and we have restored integrity to the VET sector. (Time expired)
Why has it taken five years for the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government to realise the crisis of their creation in the VET system? Isn't this another example of the chaos and dysfunction of a government at war with itself?
Absolutely not. Again, Senator Cameron, you fail to understand: the VET FEE-HELP system was an absolute disaster for Australians' VET system. But we have progressively put in place policy, year after year, to clean up your mess. A piece of legislation had to go through the House yesterday and the Senate today, as we continue to clean up the disaster that was VET FEE-HELP.
What did we do? We stopped the dodgy providers from exploiting vulnerable students. We have invested heavily in apprenticeships. Senator Burston asked me about our $60 million investment. We have put in place the policies to clean up Labor's mess, to restore integrity back into what is an outstanding system in Australia. We put in place a substantial set of reforms. But we know that we can do more. As I said, we need to ensure that the VET sector in Australia responds to the employee's ultimate needs but also to the employer's needs. (Time expired)