Second Reading

Resumed from 7 May.

Comments and speeches from various members

HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [4.12 pm]: I rise to make a few comments about the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Amendment Bill 2019. As indicated by the lead speaker for the Greens, my colleague Hon Diane Evers, we are supporting this bill.

The bill follows on from last year’s changes to the payroll tax exemptions for trainees, which restricted new payroll tax exemptions for trainees to new employees and also those earning $100 000 or less in regular wages. One of the prompts for the previous bill was the end of one four-year contract for funding from the National Partnership on the Skilling Australians Fund. At the time, the loss of this funding blew a $54 million hole in the 2017–18 training budget. From 2017 onwards, the proposed National Partnership on the Skilling Australians Fund severely restricted the things we could spend this money on and, importantly, did not allow the funding to be used for health, ageing and community service training and required a matching funding commitment from the state. I also know that it potentially had an unstable availability, as it was based entirely on a levy from sponsors of temporary skilled migrants. At the time, the Minister for Education and Training estimated that losing the funding for general training, combined with clawing funds out of the general budget to meet those matching requirements for what was going to be an inappropriate training profile, would cost us 23 000 training places. These would have come almost entirely out of the TAFE system. I think this would have been a terrible outcome. I supported the government holding out on signing the partnership at that time. The Greens also supported, as an interim measure, removing some of the payroll tax exemptions to assist in maintaining the training budget while the government put together the program that is before us today. We are expecting to see the end of payroll tax exemptions for new trainees and a grant program that is accessible to a much wider range of businesses. The bill before us effectively deals with the administrative elements of removing the payroll tax exemptions for new trainees and it also deals with the transitional arrangements for those trainees who signed on to their courses prior to 1 July this year.

The meat of the employer incentive scheme is not in this bill, but it should be of great interest to every member of this place. The employer incentive scheme is part of WA’s main project in our contract with the feds for the National Partnership on the Skilling Australians Fund. The fund requires that as part of expanding jobs and skills, WA, with national partnership funding, will institute an employer incentive scheme worth over $232 million through to 2022, and create a new enterprise training program to support skills development for existing workers, which will focus on workers in allied health and social assistance. That will be enormously helpful in supporting the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Debate interrupted, pursuant to standing orders.

Resumed from an earlier stage of the sitting.

HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [5.07 pm]: As I was saying before the debate was interrupted, as part of expanding the Jobs and Skills WA national partnership funding, we have agreed to create a new enterprise training program, which will focus particularly on workers in allied health and social assistance to support the rollout of the NDIS. That has been valued at $1.2 million. I am not entirely sure what that amount of money will do, given the size of need in this area, but I certainly look forward to finding out. The government has also agreed to a work placement program to provide employment-related training at certificate III and IV level, which is $8.6 million, and to an expanded pre-apprenticeship program, which is $21.7 million.

For the 30 April 2019 milestone, WA should have provided the feds with a short report detailing the development of the design of a new incentive scheme and also an outline of information on the industry consultation, design and implementation for the enterprise training program and the expansion of the pre-apprenticeship program. I would very much like to see a copy of that report tabled. I note that this is listed as an element of project 1 of WA’s commitment to the national partnership. I look forward to seeing any additional projects under this partnership.

As I stated in the past and I will undoubtedly state on many more occasions, I believe that training is one of the best avenues to assist people to access broader and brighter futures and, as such, I think we have an obligation to ensure that good and targeted training is available to the people who most need it. The employer incentive scheme should result, I hope, in a larger number of businesses taking advantage of the program to employ new trainees. I think that this is a very good thing. It should open up the benefits of this program to more industries and businesses than have been able to access the payroll tax exemption. I hope that the government not only tracks the number of new trainees and apprenticeships, as per the requirement of the feds, but also looks for growth in the uptake of the program across the estimated 5 900 businesses that will now be able to access this scheme. Of course, the Greens also believe that education and training should not cost the student. I understand that the commonwealth funding will cover the tuition costs of the trainees and apprentices enrolled through this program. The revenue regained through lifting the payroll tax exemptions will be used to fund the employer incentive scheme. This is something that we not only support, but also applaud. The loadings for the incentive scheme that assist priority groups to be employed and recognise the difficulty faced by employers and employees in the regions are also welcome. As earlier stated by my colleague, the Greens will support this Pay-roll Tax Assessment Amendment Bill and look forward to further training initiatives that make more training available and affordable for more people.

Comments and speeches from various members

Debate interrupted, pursuant to standing orders.

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