I would like to thank all of the members have contributed to this debate on the Education and Other Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2017.
There is no greater defender of vocational education in this place than me. There is no greater of vocational education than the Turnbull government. There have been a number of fairly wild inaccuracies made by those opposite in speeches in relation to this bill. Quite frankly they are made by those members who are really struggling to defend their dismal record in the area of vocational education and training.
The shadow minister has talked about government funding of TAFE. I have gone through this in detail with her before and I believe, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker Irons, that you were actually in the chair on the day that I referred directly to Labor's fiscal plan.
I am sure you remember it because it was just staggering what we were hearing from the other side of this place.
Mr Husic interjecting— The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Irons ): Order! You are not reflecting on the chair, are you?
Mrs ANDREWS: They talk at length about Labor's commitment to TAFE. I have researched it and I have gone back and checked the information. It does not take a lot to research what Labor has had to say about this and what their position is. I keep going back to this document, which is Labor's Fiscal Plan—
Mr Husic: This would be about as accurate as Rocky and Bullwinkle's Fractured Fairy Tales!
Mrs ANDREWS: I am not sure if the member opposite is actually concerned about the accuracies of his own document. Perhaps that is it, so I am going to read directly from it. In here, under education and skills, it has 'provide guaranteed TAFE funding'.
So here we go: 2016-17 is a zero, 2017-18 is a zero, 2018-19 is a zero, 2019-20 is a zero. Zero plus zero plus zero plus zero equals zero. So, for all of their carrying on and talking about guaranteed funding to TAFE, in their own document four zeros equal zero—so absolutely nothing. Labor was guaranteeing no increase to funding to TAFE at all in their document.
Those opposite have also talked about the decline in apprenticeship and trainee numbers, something that the Turnbull government is heavily focused on reversing. This is another mess that was created by Labor that the coalition has, once again, been left to fix. The previous Labor government cut employer incentives to take on an apprentice nine times during the period 2011 to 2013. Those cuts totalled $1.2 billion. In Labor's last year in office—so, from June 2012 to June 2013—the number of apprentices and trainees in training slumped by more than 100,000, or 22 per cent. The rot started under Labor and, as usual, they now try to blame others for the mess.
This government has a plan to restore the status of vocational education and training that was so badly damaged by Labor. We are putting industry at the centre of our reforms to ensure that skills training meets employer needs. We have introduced Trade Support Loans to support apprentices throughout the life of their training, and so far nearly 60,000 have been approved. The Turnbull government is following through on its election commitment to establish a National Career Education Strategy so that school students receive the best career advice possible, matching them with the right training. And the VET Student Loans program is restoring integrity to vocational education after the debacle of Labor's VET-FEE HELP scheme.
The first part of this bill establishes a VET student loans ombudsman to investigate and act upon student complaints under both the failed VET-FEE HELP scheme and the government's new VET Student Loans program.
VET Student Loans offer financial support to enable genuine students to receive and complete high-quality training. Our plan will ensure that training provided aligns with the skills employers are looking for to fill the jobs of today and the future, and this is good for our economy. VET Student Loans fix the mess of Labor's failed VET-FEE HELP scheme, which allowed unscrupulous training providers to target vulnerable people, who were left with debts but with little prospect of getting a job. The cost to taxpayers from this scheme soared, and the reputation of vocational education was badly tarnished.
This bill is an integral part of the government's total rebuilding of the vocational education and training loans program, and to restoring integrity to the sector. This bill on is the commitment I made in this place on 13 October last year to establish a VET student loans ombudsman. Unlike those opposite, we properly research and plan our policy implementation so that we do not end up with debacles like Labor's VET-FEE HELP scheme.
The VET student loans ombudsman will be able to investigate complaints and compliance by providers with legislation in relation to loans for both the new VET Student Loans program and under Labor's failed VET-FEE HELP scheme; make recommendations to training organisations and to the secretary of the Department of Education and Training and the minister in relation to loans, including cancelling student debts; conduct systemic reviews of the student loans scheme to ensure it is working as intended; and publicly report on its findings.
It follows the government's wide consultation with stakeholders in the VET sector on the introduction of an ombudsman through Redesigning VET-FEE HELP: discussion paper released in April last year. As a result, the government's proposal for an ombudsman has received wide support from interested parties, including Consumer Law regulators and advocates, unions and training providers.
By establishing a VET student loans ombudsman and the VET Student Loans program, the Turnbull government is supporting students to get the skills they need for work and protecting students and taxpayers from abuse and rorts.
The second part of this bill increases the funding caps in the Australian Research Council Act 2001 in line with inflation, and ensures that the Australian government can continue to support thousands of research projects.
High-quality research provides significant benefits to our nation. It helps to drive innovation and entrepreneurship, saves lives, improves standards of living, protects the environment and is absolutely critical to Australia's ability to compete internationally.
Again, I thank all members for their support for this bill and I commend this bill to the House.