Senate debates

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Questions without Notice

Vocational Education and Training

2:54 pm

Photo of Amanda StokerAmanda Stoker (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education, Senator Cash. Minister, how is the Liberal-National government strengthening the Australian economy and creating more jobs and greater opportunities by supporting mature-age Australians to upskill or transition into new careers?

Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Small and Family Business) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator Stoker for what is a very, very important question for the Australian people. The Liberal-National government has made real progress in ensuring the strength of the Australian economy. As Senator Cormann has articulated yet again today, we are on track to deliver a budget surplus on 2 April.

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

That's fantastic.

Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Small and Family Business) Share this | | Hansard source

That's taken hard work, Senator Macdonald, as you know. Our government's 2013 promise to put in place the policies to deliver one million jobs to Australians within five years was actually reached earlier than planned. Our unemployment rate is now at five per cent. It has fallen to five per cent. And, if you look at the percentage of working-age Australians on welfare, it has fallen to 15 per cent. This is the lowest rate of welfare dependency in over nearly a quarter of a century. But, on top of putting in place the right economic conditions to create jobs, what we are also doing—in response to Senator Stoker's question—is ensuring that we have in place programs that will support older Australians in need of a hand to stay in the workforce, or for those who are looking for new opportunities.

We are looking at putting in place a skills checkpoint. We want to make sure that older Australians have access to the skills they need not only for the jobs of today but also for the jobs of tomorrow. And we are increasing support for older Australians to upskill or transition into new careers through our new Skills Checkpoint for Older Workers Program. Senators may be interested to know that the definition of a mature aged person is actually 45, so I think the majority of us in this place would actually be interested occasionally in looking at the Skills Checkpoint for Older Workers Program. We are actually providing eligible Australians— (Time expired)

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Stoker, a supplementary question.

2:56 pm

Photo of Amanda StokerAmanda Stoker (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I understand that the government has also put in place the Skills and Training Incentive for older workers. Minister, how does this work? How is it able to be accessed? And why are initiatives like this so important for creating a strong economy, more jobs and greater opportunity?

Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Small and Family Business) Share this | | Hansard source

Again, older Australians are the most experienced people we have in our workforce and, as we know—considering it is all of us—they contribute greatly to the economy. But what we are also doing, in addition to the skills checkpoint is, from 1 January 2019, we have the Skills and Training Incentive. If you qualify, you will go through the skills checkpoint and you will work with your program manager to identify a skill that you may require or you identify a training opportunity linked to your current job, a future job opportunity or an industry occupation or skill in demand, and you will be able to put forward and access up to $2,200 from the government to fund reskilling or upskilling opportunities, and this funding will be co-matched by either you, if you want to, or, alternatively, your employer. This is all about ensuring that older mature aged Australians have the skills the economy requires. (Time expired)

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Stoker, a final supplementary question.

2:58 pm

Photo of Amanda StokerAmanda Stoker (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Can the minister outline who is eligible for the skills checkpoint and what a skills checkpoint assessment involves?

Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Small and Family Business) Share this | | Hansard source

As I was saying, eligible individuals are those between the ages of 45 and 70 who are currently employed or who have fallen into that category of being at risk of entering the income support system or recently unemployed but haven't yet registered for assistance through the Australian government employment services programs. Participants will undertake individually tailored assessments of their skill levels. Skills checkpoint providers will then work with them to develop a career plan to assist participants to identify gaps in their skills, if they are wishing to transition into a new career or undertake a new role in their current occupation, or skills that they could develop or enhance to increase their capacity to perform in their current role. This is all about ensuring that the policies are in place to create the jobs and about ensuring we have the programs in place to support Australians so they have the skills they need for the jobs of today and of tomorrow.

2:59 pm

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Human Services) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education, Senator Cash. I have recently met with representatives of emergency services organisations, including Surf Life Saving, Rural Fire Services and Marine Rescue, who expressed grave concern in relation to the government's changes to the assessment credential requirements for registered training organisations, including volunteer organisations. Has the minister met with these organisations to address their concerns and, if so, what steps has the minister taken to deal with their concerns?

3:00 pm

Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Small and Family Business) Share this | | Hansard source

As you would know, Senator Cameron, I meet with people on a regular basis within this portfolio. I have to say that one of the things they still continue to raise with me is the disastrous VET FEE-HELP system that Labor put in place. And, Senator Cameron, they are thankful that we have actually taken steps to address that disastrous situation and put integrity back into the vocational educational and training sector.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Cameron, on a point of order?

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Human Services) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, a point of order on relevance. This is a serious issue. I've simply asked if the minister has met with these volunteer organisations to address their concerns, and, if she has, what she has done.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

You've reminded the minister of the question. The minister has a minute 30 remaining to answer.

Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Small and Family Business) Share this | | Hansard source

As I said, I meet on a regular basis with stakeholders and I take into account their feedback. The majority of feedback, though, happens to be in relation to Labor's disastrous VET FEE-HELP.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Cameron, a supplementary question.

3:01 pm

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Human Services) Share this | | Hansard source

The changes announced by the government in June 2017 require trainers and assessors to meet the new credential requirements by 1 April 2019. Volunteer groups have advised that this will place an unnecessary burden on their volunteer assessors to keep the training system afloat and could have an impact on public safety. Will the minister commit to removing unnecessary bureaucratic and onerous training requirements on emergency service volunteers?

Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Small and Family Business) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Cameron, you actually raise a very, very good point in relation to red tape reduction. I am always happy to review things and look at whether or not they need to be streamlined. If you have any further suggestions, I would happily listen to them.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Cameron, a final supplementary question?

3:02 pm

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Human Services) Share this | | Hansard source

This is really concerning. Is the minister so busy fighting a subpoena requiring her to give evidence in the Federal Court that she doesn't have time to meet with emergency service and volunteer organisations and resolve their concerns?

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

That is absolutely pathetic.

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Human Services) Share this | | Hansard source

The minister was pathetic, not me.

Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Small and Family Business) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Cameron, what you're referring to is something that was agreed by relevant skills ministers from across the states. So that actually includes the Labor states on the Australian industry skills council. In relation to volunteers, let me assure you that I have regularly met with volunteer organisations throughout my time in different portfolios, but, in particular, with the CFA in Victoria. When it comes to taking on the concerns of volunteers and putting in place policies to address their concerns, that is something that I do.

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.