Sep 26, 2004

Howard responds to skills crisis of own making


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 26 September 2004

Today’s announcement by Mr Howard that he would establish ‘specialist technical schools’ simply underlines his contempt for public education and in particular, our world class public TAFE institutions.

Australia’s current skills shortage crisis is of the Howard Government’s own making. Mr Howard has:

• Cut funding in real terms to the vocational education and training sector (VET). In fact, since 1997 real funding per teaching hour has drop by around 19 per cent and the proportion of VET funding coming from the Commonwealth has fallen from 25 per cent to 22.2 per cent;

• Failed to provide funding certainty to the VET sector as a result of his refusal to negotiate a new 3 year Australian National Training Authority (ANTA) Agreement with state and territory governments. This Agreement was due to commence on 1 January this year;

• Misdirected public money away from the traditional trades into bogus training programs. The number of Australians undertaking traditional apprenticeships has remained virtually unchanged since 1996.

These actions have undermined the VET system which trains 1.72 million Australians and left more than 15,000 young Australians each year without a TAFE place.

After creating Australia’s current skills shortage crisis through neglect, Mr Howard is now attempting to cobble together a response in the dying days of the current election campaign.

Labor’s position is simple: instead of duplicating what is already there by creating 24 ‘specialist technical schools’ for just 7,200 students, we should be adequately funding our existing world class network of 1,460 public TAFE campuses.

It is for this very reason that more than 18 months ago Labor committed to investing $88.4 million to expand access to TAFE and create an additional 20,000 places.

In additional, Labor will abolish all TAFE fees for students wanting to learn a trade while still at high school as part of our $700 million youth guarantee.

Mr Howard has spent 8½ years undermining the VET system. A Latham Labor Government will rebuild our VET system to provide the skilled workers the Australian economy needs grow and compete internationally.