Tuesday, 6 October 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Cash. As we rebuild the Australian economy from the impacts of COVID-19, how is the Morrison government's plan for jobs ensuring we support our skilled workforce by investing in training and apprenticeships in this year's budget?
Tonight, the government will unveil one of the most significant budgets in modern history. This federal budget, as the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have said, is all about jobs. This federal budget is all about helping those who are out of work get into work, and helping those who're in a job stay in a job. From our very first stimulus package, the government have put in place support to ensure that our apprentices and trainees are able to stay on the job. We've done this through our supporting apprentice and trainee wage subsidy. This will now support around 180,000 apprentices and trainees across 90,000 businesses to stay on the job, because that is exactly where we need them to be.
The Prime Minister has also said that the COVID-19 economic recovery will be a skills-led recovery. That is why we have announced the introduction of a wage subsidy, to ensure that we're supporting the commencement of 100,000 new apprentices and trainees. As of yesterday, if businesses of any size, in any industry, in any geographic location in Australia, sign up a new apprentice or trainee they will be eligible for a 50 per cent wage subsidy on wages paid from 5 October through to 30 September 2021. Whether it's in manufacturing, whether it's in housing, whether it's in construction or whether it's in the arts or the mining sectors, our new wage subsidy will not only give businesses the certainty to hire but it will also provide a career path for aspiring young tradies and trainees. This latest measure will see the Morrison government's total investment to jobs and skilling Australians for this financial year now at almost $7 billion.
Honourable senators interjecting—
Order! Sorry, Senator Rennick. At the rear of the chamber on both sides—Senator Watt, Senator McKenzie and others, I can't hear the question. I'm going to ask Senator Rennick to start again because I can't hear the question and I doubt the minister could. Senator Rennick, please start again.
The government has partnered with states and territories to put in place the $1 billion JobTrainer Fund. This will provide Australians access to free or low-cost training in areas of demand so that they can get the identified skills and get into a job. JobTrainer is central to Australia's and Australians' economic recovery from COVID-19. What it will do is provide school leavers and jobseekers with new opportunities and new skills to get into a job. I'm very, very pleased to inform the Senate that we have launched JobTrainer agreements with Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia, New South Wales and the ACT, and that we will shortly launch JobTrainer in the Northern Territory. Those states and territories have agreed to match the federal government dollar for dollar. JobTrainer will provide Australians with an additional 340,700 training places and, again, these are in areas of identified need so that they can get into a job.
How does this much-needed investment in tonight's budget build upon the Morrison government's existing investment in our skills system to keep apprentices and trainees in training through the COVID-19 pandemic?
Senator Cash interjecting—
What those on the other side fail to remember is that they actually decimated vocational education and training in Australia. There was the greatest drop in apprenticeships ever under the former Labor government: 110,000 people left apprenticeships in one year. The former Labor government pulled out $1.2 billion in employer subsidies that correlated with the drop. But who can forget—Senator Birmingham in particular—VET FEE-HELP? Seriously, VET FEE-HELP totally, completely and utterly decimated the reputation of vocational education and training. To date, taxpayers have invested or paid out in excess of $2 billion—$2 billion!—to students who were signed up by dodgy providers for courses that didn't exist: given a laptop and told to sign up.
And guess what? There are still more students out there who are still suffering because of the failure of the former Labor government. In this financial year alone, the government will now invest $7 billion. (Time expired)