Feb 9, 2004

New training places a furphy


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 9 February 2004

Today’s announcement by the Federal Government that it would fund 10,000 additional training places for older workers, parents returning to work and people with a disability is a furphy and cold comfort for the 15,000 young Australians who will this year miss out on a TAFE place.

Just before Christmas last year the State and Territory Ministers rightly refused to accept the Commonwealth’s funding offer for the 2003 – 2005 Australian National Training Agreement (ANTA) as it contained no growth funding.

Unable to bully the State and Territory Ministers into signing the agreement, Minister Nelson suspended further negotiations until October 2004. Minister Nelson’s decision to suspend negotiations will deny thousands of young Australians the education and training opportunities that would greatly improve their long-term career prospects.

Last year alone 15,600 young Australians aged 15 to 24 were turned away from TAFE despite meeting all the entry requirements – an increase of 20% on 2002. (Source: ABS, Education and Work, 6227.0)

There is a desperate need for quality training places for those people wanting to upgrade their skills and qualifications but these “new” places should not come at the expense of other training places – particularly those for the young.

Furthermore, these 10,000 “new” places do not form part of an integrated strategic plan tasked with providing the unemployed with employable skills and young people with a secure start to their working lives.

In his media statement of today Minister Nelson accused Labor of blocking the creation of a further 2,500 places for people with a disability, however he failed to point out that the Government wants to pay for these extra places by cutting, by more than $60 a fortnight, the pensions of 100,000 disabled people.

For the sake of the thousands of young people who will be turned away from TAFE this year, I urge the Minister for Education, Science and Training, Dr Brendan Nelson, to stop playing politics and immediately restart negotiations with his state and territory counterparts over funding for the Australian National Training Authority (ANTA) Agreement.

Australia urgently needs to expand the number of TAFE places. We cannot afford to wait until October. Labor will end the Howard era of neglect by creating 20,000 on top of these 10,000 places.