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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 4 Hansard (28 March) . . Page.. 1004 ..

MRS BURKE (continuing):

Is it right to say to employers that there are to be no consequences for you if you harm or injure your workers, because no matter what you do you cannot be made to pay more than 15 per cent? Surely this rewards bad workplace practices over good. Is it right to say as a community that we accept that you are a bad employer and that you injure your workers, but do not worry about that because the ACT Legislative Assembly said that this is okay; in Canberra we make businesses which demonstrate a higher duty of care to their workers pay for those who do not exercise that same care. In our community we will reward the poor performers and punish the good.

Mr Speaker, I for one am sure that this is neither a good or sound basis for developing public policy. Furthermore, Mr Speaker, to turn this basic and fundamental premise on its head is to undermine the significant work that many members of our community put into improving the quality of life of the working men and women by improving occupational health and safety workplace practices. We owe it to our community to do better, and to recognise and reward good and safe work practices over bad.

MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education and Attorney-General) (11.42): I listened with interest to what Mr Stanhope was saying. I agree entirely with Mr Stanhope, because I have been saying it for about six years, that the majority of young people do not go on to university, and it is absolutely essential that we have a very strong vocational education and training system in this territory. That is something, I think, that this government is very proud of. I am certainly very proud of it as the education minister.

About 40 per cent of our kids do go to university. That's nice. That's fine. That is well above the national average of 30 per cent. It speaks volumes for our education system. But 60 per cent do not.

One thing that has particularly pleased me since we have been in government is that the number of trainees and apprentices has grown from around 2,000 or so in June 1995 to around about 6,000 or so, I think, at the end of last year. That is particularly pleasing because it means that a lot of young people, mainly, are in jobs which they would not be in otherwise. Those training schemes enable apprentices and trainees to reach their potential and be a very marketable quantity in the work force.

Turning to capital works, I think we have put on the table the biggest capital works budget since self-government, and that obviously relates to the building industry. Quite clearly this government is trying to ensure that we have very significant capital works which will assist the building and construction industry in this town because we see it as vital. We do not like seeing downturns when people might not find much work, only part-time work, and maybe some people get laid off. I think it is very important that we sustain activity.

I partly disagree with some of the stuff Mr Stanhope said, although I think he is quite right about the majority of young people not going on to university. I hope everyone in this place supports vocational education and training. I hope everyone in this place supports schemes such as the CITEA scheme and the MBA scheme.

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