Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 21 September 2005) . . Page.. 3461 ..
Vocational education and training
MS PORTER: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Acting Minister for Education and Training. There has been some media coverage about the time it has taken to respond to the commonwealth government’s funding offer for vocational education and training. Could the minister bring the Assembly up to date on the state of negotiations on the funding agreement associated with the commonwealth’s Skilling Australia’s Workforce Act that was enacted late last month.
MR STANHOPE: I thank Ms Porter for the question. It is a very important matter. I think that members would be aware that there has been continuing correspondence between the ACT Minister for Education and Training and the commonwealth Minister for Education, Science and Training about the ACT’s role in the national vocational education and training system. It was simply not possible for the ACT to accept the first offer put forward by the commonwealth. Through the setting of artificial targets in the previous VET funding agreement, the commonwealth would have been able to short-change the ACT of half a million dollars. My government was not going to allow this to happen and so we have been negotiating with the Australian government on reasonable targets and conditions of the grant.
We have responded quickly to all Australian government correspondence. The most recent letter from Minister Nelson arrived late, I think after business, by fax last Friday, 16 September. I responded to that letter this morning. So there have been no delays on our part. These negotiations have been very successful and the ACT is getting the best deal it can on Australian government VET funding. Minister Gallagher has struck a very good deal with the Australian government on funding of vocational education and training. The commonwealth funding will extend the ACT’s capacity to carry on mainstream vocational education and training and to make a positive contribution to the national VET system.
The new funding agreement has stringent performance requirements and specified targets, such as increasing the number of apprentices in traditional trades and in other skills shortage areas. The ACT has already met, and will continue to meet, the requirements outlined in the Australian government’s skilling Australia’s workforce legislation and in the associated multilateral funding agreement. For example, the ACT has led the way in adopting a fully competitive approach with new apprenticeships through user choice, and for the last six years all apprenticeships and traineeships have been available through user choice. We have already met all the Australian government’s requirements in this regard, before the agreement even starts.
Minister Katy Gallagher has also negotiated a realistic baseline for training activity targets, in hours of training and in new apprenticeship commencements. Minister Nelson agreed to modify his original requirements and ultimately he agreed that the baseline for training activity is, more appropriately, 2004 planned activity rather than the remarkably high levels of actual activity achieved in 2004. This means that the ACT will be able to meet its targets and avoid the very bizarre circumstance where the ACT could be penalised for alleged underperformance because it had done so well in 2004 and 2005.