Page 1528 - Week 05 - Thursday, 7 April 2005

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Vocational education and training

MS PORTER: My question is to the Minister for Education and Training. Minister, could you inform the Assembly about the impending abolition of ANTA on 30 June 2005, and the effect this will have on providing quality vocational options for young people and our ability to address the current skills shortage.

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Ms Porter for the question. Members of this chamber will be aware that the federal government decided unilaterally to abolish the Australian National Training Authority from July 2005. The Prime Minister and Minister Nelson have indicated that the functions of ANTA will be incorporated into the general departmental work of the Department of Education, Science and Training. At this stage, the federal minister says there will be a national VET ministerial council but has failed to provide any detail to the states and territories on essential details such as meeting frequency, the powers and responsibilities.

ANTA was formed in 1992 to ensure that all stakeholders had a say in VET policies, programs and outcomes. For this reason ANTA operated under a broadly based board and provided extensive research and secretariat functions to the ANTA Minco. Industry groups are represented through ANTA, as are trade unions, small and large stakeholder interests, and indigenous and other specific interest groups who have a direct relevance to Australia’s VET system, through their representation of apprentices and interest in industry viability. The federal government rather than recognise this reality is instead pursuing an agenda against a cooperative and inclusive approach to the development and administration of national VET policies and strategies, as they are attempting to sideline important stakeholders from future debates in vocational education and training.

In abolishing ANTA, Australia will lose another of its unique national cooperative forums, where stakeholders have a real say, and are able to hold accountable federal, state and territory governments to work closely with industry and to deliver the skilled work force essential to Australia’s future prosperity. The scrutiny of government policies and fundings are progressed through these forums. ANTA is one of the key transparency measures for ensuring that we have a VET system which meets the needs of the economy.

Just as the federal government abolished the National Occupational Health and Safety Council, they are now pursuing ANTA. Members will be aware that the key funding relationships between the states, territories and commonwealth have been worked through the ANTA structure. This has included arguing for increased resourcing for VET through the ANTA agreement—the triennial funding agreement between the Australian government and states as agreed by ANTA Minco.

Since the days of the Whitlam government, the federal government has assumed a major funding responsibility for the VET sector. But the current federal government refuses to accept this responsibility and refuses to accept any criticism of its position and those involved in the direct delivery of VET services from industry and from members of the ANTA board. The dispute between all states and territories and the commonwealth is about one thing—the Howard government’s refusal to live up to its responsibility to adequately fund the rapidly growing demand for apprenticeships and traineeships.

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