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September 17, 2012

Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (20:14): I move:

(1) commends the Australian Government’s:
(a) commitment to meeting Australia’s future workforce needs;
(b) strong investment record in skills and training; and
(c) partnership with industry to meet Australia’s skills challenges;

(2) notes that all Australians should have the opportunity to get the education and skills they need for the jobs on offer, and the importance:
(a) that the TAFE system plays in providing training opportunities; and
(b) of federal, state and local initiatives to provide jobseekers with customised employment and training to meet their individual needs and the demands of the labour market for a skilled workforce; and

(3) calls on Governments at all levels to:
(a) provide funding for employment and skills services; and
(b) continue to invest in TAFE and skills training,

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (20:46): It is with pleasure that I join this debate on late notice and take up on the contributions from members on this side of the House in relation to the motion put forward by the member for Blair. And I take up the comments that the member who preceded me, the member for Throsby, just raised in relation to whether members on this side of the House actually care about TAFE funding. I can assure the member that the members on this side of the House are equally as passionate about the skills shortage facing the Australian nation and facing each of our states and are as passionate about TAFEs as are the members on the other side. However, what the member failed to discuss at any stage during his contribution was the simple fact that you have to be able to pay for it, which the member for Hughes raised in his contribution.

Mr Craig Kelly: A novel concept!

Mr CHESTER: It is a novel concept for Labor governments. You can keep on spending—you can spend and you can spend and you can spend—but one day the Australian people have to pay for it. If the member for Throsby wants to talk about political parties having form on this, then let us talk about the form of the state Labor governments, of the former federal governments and of the current federal Labor government in relation to being able to manage a balanced budget. The simple reason the Victorian government has had to make some very difficult decisions in relation to TAFEs is that it is cleaning up the mess left behind by the Bracks and Brumby governments. The prime reason the Newman LNP government in Queensland is making some tough budgetary decisions right now is that they are cleaning up Anna’s mess—an $80 billion mess. It is hard to believe that a state government could achieve an $80 billion mess like that, but Anna Bligh was up to it, ably assisted by Peter Beattie.

And then we look at the New South Wales situation. If you listened to those opposite you would think that members of the Liberal Party and the National Party just want to cause grief for people when it comes to making tough budgetary decisions. The simple fact of the matter, once again, is that the O’Farrell government has had to clean up after—how many years was it? How many years of torture in New South Wales was it?

Mr Craig Kelly: Too many!

Mr CHESTER: The member shakes his head. There were years and years of poor budget performance in New South Wales, and now the O’Farrell government is once again cleaning up the mess. And it is a pattern that the Australian people know so well. Go into any public bar in regional Australia, perhaps even suburban Australia, and ask people about the Australian Labor Party. Ask, ‘Can the Australian Labor Party manage money?’ and you will not find a single person in that bar who believes that the Australian Labor Party is good with taxpayers’ money. It is accepted wisdom throughout Australia that Labor cannot manage money. Every time Labor gets to the Treasury benches they prove themselves incapable of managing balanced budgets.

So we have this motion here from the member for Blair, talking about providing funding for employment and skills services and continuing to invest in TAFEs as if the Labor Party is the only party that cares about investing in skills. Well, here is a news flash for the member for Blair: members on this side are equally as passionate about this issue, but we just have this feeling that you have to be able to pay for it; one day you have to pay the bills. Unfortunately for those in the Labor Party, they never have to pay the bills; they just leave it for the Liberals and Nationals to come into government and clean up the mess. In the last month, as members of the Labor Party walked into this place, you could have sworn they were running for state parliament. You could have sworn that the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and a whole assortment of the gaggling crowd opposite are running for state parliamentary seats, because they do not want to talk about the federal parliament anymore; all they want to talk about is what New South Wales is doing, what Queensland is doing, what Victoria is doing. You would have thought that at least one member opposite actually cared about the state of the Australian budget and what is actually happening in this parliament. Then again, if I were presiding over another budgetary mess, with a $120 billion budget black hole, the last thing I would want to talk about would be the federal parliament. So we have Anna’s mess, we have Brumby’s and Bracks’s mess, we have the mess of whoever was leading New South Wales for about 15 years—all their mess—and now we have Kevin’s and Julia’s mess to clean up.

The previous speaker was right: there are some people in this place who have form on this, and it is the Labor Party. We cannot afford Labor governments at state level, and we certainly cannot afford Labor governments at federal level.

Debate adjourned and made an order of the day for the next sitting.

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