Page 2242 - Week 06 - Friday, 27 June 2008

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in skills for their entire term of government. Their legacy—the legacy of the Liberal Party—is a national skills crisis.

Since coming to office, the new federal government has indicated a significant desire to invest in skills. This desire is matched by the Stanhope government as we continue to invest in skills and skills training, most particularly through the CIT. A little later today, we will be debating a range of important budget initiatives for the CIT.

It is worth contrasting the different levels of investment in the CIT—the performance of this government as compared with that of those opposite. Over the life of the Stanhope Labor government, CIT funding has increased in real terms by 15.5 per cent. This massive increase has seen thousands of Canberrans acquire the skills that both they and ACT employees need. I am pleased—

Mr Stefaniak: It is over seven years. It is two per cent a year.

MR BARR: In real terms, Mr Stefaniak. I am pleased that you raised this point. Mr Seselja asked this question in estimates, perhaps in ignorance of the history of his own party and certainly in ignorance of investment in the CIT in the last decade. He asked the government to provide figures for real changes in recurrent CIT funding from 1998-99 to 2008-09.

Whilst, as always, I was happy to provide the answer to Mr Seselja, I am not quite so sure that he was happy to receive it. It told him that, compared to the Stanhope government’s real increase in CIT funding of 15.5 per cent—a real increase, Mr Stefaniak, so over and above inflation—the Liberals when last in power slashed the CIT’s funding by more than a quarter: a massive 25.7 per cent reduction in funding for the CIT. That is the contrast: a real increase of 15.5 per cent under the Labor government, a 25.7 per cent real reduction in CIT funding under the Liberals. That is their form. They have slashed funding to the CIT.

Because building up skills takes time, their policy of slashing CIT funding, coupled with the neglect of the federal government during that same period, has led to a skill shortage in our local community.

We know that the Liberals have pledged to forgo nearly $50 million in revenue. They have a number of fairly ill-conceived schemes in the education and training portfolio—the only policies they have announced. But it is a question of how they will pay for them, most particularly the pledge to reopen schools. It is interesting to note that whenever they are in trouble, whenever they are looking to find money, the area they go to to slash funding, based on their previous form in government, is the CIT.

That would be an unacceptable outcome for ACT business, for the ACT economy and for skills development in the territory. At some point between now and 18 October, the Leader of the Opposition is going to have to come clean on what his position is on CIT funding and whether again the Liberal Party will turn to the CIT to try and eke money out of that organisation to meet their other election commitments.

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