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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 2 Hansard (8 March) . . Page.. 426..

MR GENTLEMAN (continuing):

survey found that the current skills shortages are the most important constraint on business investment.

This is a huge issue for Canberra businesses. This is arguably the most important issue for business round the country. But what of the response of the federal government, that final tier so determined to pursue economic prosperity and business growth? Have they invested in upskilling the nation? Have they invested in long-term training strategies? No. Despite the pleas of the state and territory governments, of industry, of employers and of the federal representatives of Australian workers, the federal government has not seen fit to invest in the growth of training.

Rather, it has dismantled the Australian National Training Authority, to the great concern of Australian industry, employers, unions, and training providers. That body had a record of excellence that certainly will not be replicated under the new arrangements, arrangements whereby it is the commonwealth-junior-minister for training who will set the agenda in the future. That, together with the abysmal record in running down VET funding over the last 10 years, has left all stakeholders in the VET sector understandably appalled.

More alarmingly, whereas the commonwealth should be directing its efforts into strengthening the sector, it has instead sought to use negotiations over the recent commonwealth-state funding agreement as a vehicle to pursue its IR and other ideological agendas. It has sought further control over vocational training without any increased funding.

What it has done though-and this has a familiar ring to it-is that it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on establishing what it calls Australian technical colleges, not surprisingly all of them in marginal electorates in another naked piece of pork-barrelling. Whereas this money will turn out a few thousand partially qualified students, the same investment in traditional VET funding would deliver over 20,000 fully qualified tradespeople per year. What a joke!

Mr Speaker, you do not have to take my word on the importance of education in future prospects for business. In June last year BCA research, in conjunction with the Dusseldorp Skills Forum, showed that boosting the proportion of young people completing school or apprenticeships to 90 per cent by the end of the decade would increase work force numbers by 65,000 and it would boost economic productivity and expand the economy by nearly $10 billion, in today's money, by 2040.

Quite clearly, the BCA supports education as the key to increasing the number of skilled workers. Their research asserts that education not only is necessary for business growth but also has the potential to greatly assist the economy. But for this windfall of $10 billion to be realised, programs must exist that encourage students to continue education and support businesses and education providers to increase the number of completed apprenticeships.

Given the federal government's continued neglect of vocational training, businesses and state and territorial governments have had to look at other means to produce short-term results. One such means is, as I have already mentioned, the live in Canberra campaign,

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