Vocational Education and Training

10 May 2018 speech

Ms FLINT (Boothby) (16:06): I'm very pleased to speak on this matter today because the Turnbull government is doing a wonderful job when it comes to vocational education and training, and I am delighted that the minister responsible, the Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, is here in the chamber. She is doing a wonderful job in this space. We are inspiring so many young Australians to take up a trade and go through skills based education and training. It's really exciting stuff.

But, first of all, I just want to reflect on the fact that, when we have a strong economy, we can support as many young people as possible to get into university or to get a trade based skill, to do an apprenticeship, because we can afford to support them—and, of course, we can get them a job at the end of their education. So, as we've heard over the past few days, we are cutting personal income tax and we are cutting business taxes because we want Australians to spend their money as they choose to spend it. We want that money in their pockets. Unlike the Labor Party, who want to take money out of people's pockets, we want to keep it in their pockets so that they can make decisions for themselves. We're guaranteeing essential services, we're keeping our nation safe and secure and we are making sure the government is living within its means.

Since we have come into government, we've created around a million jobs. That is a huge achievement. We're supporting a variety of different pathways to employment, whether it is through university, where we've increased funding, or through vocational education and training.

It's really important that we recognise that not everyone wants to, needs to or should go to university. There has been far too much emphasis on young people in particular needing to go to uni. There are so many fantastic careers and employment pathways available to young people that do not involve needing to go to university. So, when I'm out and about in my electorate, speaking to school students at my 54 schools, I encourage them to think about doing a trade by going to TAFE, to think about acquiring skills through vocational education and training. And we have one of the best systems in the world, so why wouldn't they? The minister knows this. She's doing a fantastic job on a range of different programs and promoting the opportunities to young people.

There are about 4.2 million students involved in VET, gaining the skills that they need to get a good job or upskilling within their current employment. So that's nearly one in four Australians aged between 15 and 69. We are committed to supporting a VET system that provides the skilled workforce that our industries need to ensure Australia's continued economic growth. This is why we're investing in a new $1.5 billion Skilling Australians Fund. This replaces the scheme that Labor introduced in 2012, which was their five-year national partnerships agreement, under which apprenticeship and trainee numbers collapsed. We, under our agreements with the states, will see an extra 300,000 apprenticeships, traineeships, pre-apprenticeships and higher apprenticeships provided over the next four years. So, Minister, congratulations on the incredible work that you've done.

We have axed Labor's failed VET FEE-HELP scheme, and we've replaced it with VET student loans, because we should be helping students and young people in particular who want to do vocational education and training with some money to get them through their studies. We've also introduced greater protections for students who are doing a course. I'm particularly excited about the Real Skills for Real Careers strategy, which tells fantastic stories about people who have pursued a trade or skills-based training and education. There are incredible careers that people can pursue, whether plumbing, hairdressing or whatever you might choose to do. There are great opportunities.

I really hope, and I will be doing my very best to make sure, that those opposite never get back into office, because when they were in office they absolutely destroyed vocational education and training. In their last year in office, from June 2012 to 2013, when the Leader of the Opposition was employment minister, apprentice numbers collapsed by 110,000, or 22 per cent. This was the largest single annual decline on record. That is a disgrace. They gave us the VET FEE-HELP scheme that saw a lot of rorting and dodgy operators and damaged the sector. I'm delighted to speak on this, as to why the coalition government is doing such a great job in this area.