Sep 24, 2004

Government response to skills crisis: too little, too late, too cheap


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 24 September 2004

Only a Latham Labor Government will fix Australia’s acute shortage of skilled workers.

The Howard Government’s announcement of $71 million over 4 years to assist people into a New Apprenticeship is too little, too late.

It follows Wednesday’s announcement of an $800 toolbox which will result in a pay cut for apprentices of $300 because they would lose their $22 tool allowance. Having contempt for Awards is no excuse for the Howard Government not knowing this would be the consequence of their policy.

It is a disgrace that having been warned by the industry, trade unions and the Labor Party for more than 2 years that urgent action was required if Australia was to avoid a skills crisis, the Howard Government has only decided to respond with ill thought out proposals and gimmicks in the dying days of the current election campaign.

Today’s announcement is a poor imitation of Labor’s Youth Guarantee announced by Mark Latham back in May.

As part of this $700 million program of investment, a Latham Labor Government will:

• Abolish all TAFE fees for students wanting to learn a trade while still at high school. TAFE fees can be hundreds of dollars and a barrier to secondary student’s access to vocation education. As a result of Labor’s policy this financial barrier will be removed altogether;

• Employ more than a 1,000 Training Mentors to work with young people and ensure that stay on the learning or earning path. Mentors will help early school leavers find full time work or assist them into an apprenticeship or some other form of training. They will be located in schools, TAFEs and workplaces.

• Fund an additional 20,000 TAFE places nationally;

• Provide a wage and training subsidy worth up to $10,000 to businesses wanting to take on and train early school leavers;

If Mr Howard was serious about increasing the participation of young people in apprenticeships and implementing real solutions to the current skills crisis, he would immediately adopt these initiatives.

Despite Minister Nelson belated interest in skill shortages, he rejected the offer to speak to the national conference of TAFE Directors Australia currently being held in Sydney. I addressed the conference today. This simply highlights the Howard Government’s contempt for the TAFE sector – the largest single provider of training in the country.

Labor has a plan. Howard has gimmicks.