HON PIERRE YANG (South Metropolitan) [1.03 pm]: According to standing order 57(c), I advise that I have Hon Samantha Rowe’s consent to move the motion that she gave notice of last week. It gives me great pleasure to move —

That this house notes that the reduction in TAFE student fees for high-priority courses supports access to affordable training in targeted areas of projected jobs growth and responds to emerging skills needs.

Comments and speeches from various members

HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [1.37 pm]: I rise to make a few comments on the motion moved by Hon Pierre Yang, which notes in particular that the reduction in TAFE fees has had a positive impact on enrolments. I am pleased to see that preliminary enrolments in the fee-reduced courses have risen by an average of 20 per cent. I would be interested to receive further data, especially about the previous year and the current year, for each of the qualifications, especially the trade qualifications in fabrication and mechanical. It is not only course fees that impact enrolment in those courses; availability and support from employers matters as well. Although the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Amendment (Exemption for Trainees) Bill 2018 has gone through Parliament and the incentives to employ apprentices have been extended to smaller employers, the stories that I have been hearing from adults—especially adult women—who are seeking apprenticeships is that we need to do a lot more in this space.

I also note the particular focus on aged care, child care and disability care in the reduced fee qualifications. These areas will be in desperate need of workers over the next few years. I support the priority that is being given to those courses. I fully anticipate that the results of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability will reflect the findings of the other major inquiries that have occurred into institutional care and the wellbeing of vulnerable people, and that it will find that not only are these qualifications necessary to ensure that there is a change in the way in which care is delivered, but also, because of the chronic underemployment in these areas, more people will need to be available to undertake that work. However, I have to say that the Greens are spectacularly unsurprised that reduced fees have correlated well with better participation. Fee-free TAFE continues to be a goal that we need to strive to get back to. For those people with very short memories, I remind them that in the past we had fee-free TAFE. As I have said in this place before, my first qualification was a certificate IV from TAFE, and I did not have to pay for it. That was my leg-up to permanent employment that I really needed. We know that the opportunities available through education and training must be made available to the widest possible number of people. Fees, especially the thousands of dollars that are now being charged at TAFE, actively discourage younger people from signing up for training. I have heard from many people who wanted to go back to TAFE to upgrade their qualifications but who had to give up that dream when they saw the cost. I even have a family member who is on unemployment benefits who wants to work in aged care but is too concerned about the impact that fees will have. That is a huge problem and, obviously, from an economic perspective, counterproductive. Education, as we know, continues to be one of the most powerful tools to lift people out of poverty, ensure full employment and open doors to better jobs. Ultimately, that means that people get to have better lives. When we price people out of courses or put them into unserviceable debt in order to gain entry, that is a far too high, utterly unnecessary and completely avoidable barrier. It disproportionately affects the people who are often most in need of the opportunities provided by education and training.

I want to talk about one particular area in which we are not doing very well in WA, and the statistics certainly show it. Speaking about disadvantaged and vulnerable people, we know that the Western Australian vocational education and training sector has a particularly low rate of participation by people with disabilities. The rate of participation in government-funded VET places for people with disability is just over half, or 61 per cent, of the rate of people without disabilities. About 5.5 per cent of the population of people without disability are engaged in government-funded training, and only 3.4 per cent of the population with disability are engaged in government-funded training. The Productivity Commission’s most generous estimate of the proportion of government-funded VET students in WA with a disability is 7.8 per cent. The Australian average, which has been adjusted for non-reporting of disability status, is 10.1 per cent, with Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory having a substantially higher proportion of students with a disability. WA has the second-worst mark in Australia, with only the Northern Territory having a smaller proportion of government-funded students with a disability. One of the things that we can see in this data is that participation of people with disability is slowly increasing, but we are still very far behind New South Wales, which has a similar rate of participation in training, regardless of people’s disability status, and states such as New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, where 10 per cent or more of government-funded VET students are working with a disability. This is an enormous gap in Western Australia and points out how very badly we need to provide better training services to people with disability. The Productivity Commission’s “Report on Government Services 2020” also pulled out figures to show how very poorly we are providing training to people with disability and how poorly we are doing in comparison with the other states.

Combined with already low enrolment rates, just over half the people with disability who manage to make it into the system complete their qualifications. As Hon Donna Faragher pointed out, the rates of completion are the second part of the equation. Of those completions, barely any—less than one per cent—are at a higher level than the previous highest level of qualification. Unsurprisingly, our VET students with disability have not improved their job prospects after training, which is also another part of the criteria that needs to be examined. When it comes to this measure, WA has the lowest rate in Australia, whereas we are comparable with New South Wales and Victoria for students without disability. That gives us an idea of just how far behind we are when it comes to that area.

I note that the government has said that it will upgrade facilities across the regions to ensure that training for National Disability Insurance Scheme jobs can take place. That is obviously welcome and desperately needed, but it is also essential that training creates better job chances for people with disability, not just work in that sector for people who will provide services. The data tells us quite clearly that we have a lot of work to do in this area. We need to have better systems to support and encourage people with disability into training, and also into training that assists in providing better job opportunities or better access to further education.

I also want to make some comments about the opportunities that are currently being lost in training for the transformation economy. As I repeatedly say in this place and will continue to repeatedly say, I want to bring up the need to dramatically transform our economy over the next 10 years, and for that transformation to continue. Of course, I am talking about the need to reduce our carbon emissions by 47 per cent in the next 10 years and get down to net zero emissions by 2050. As I said before, and will undoubtedly say again, this government’s lack of vision in this area is a tragedy for this state and the country, and a spectacularly lost opportunity. It is not responsible to tout LNG jobs and open new training centres focused on LNG jobs, and to spend our precious training dollars on an industry that will pollute for decades. I encourage the government to do some solid work on what the WA economy will look like in two years’ time, then in five years, and again in 10 years, because if we are ever going to get serious about reducing our impact on climate change, we will have to identify and support those industries that we will need, and we need to make sure that we are training people up for those jobs that those industries will need through the upcoming transition and beyond.

In response to the wording of this motion, I note that reducing fees so that people can access training is clearly an excellent plan, and I am pleased that the preliminary indications are that it is having an effect. We need to move to a completely fee-free training system; that should always be the ultimate goal. I encourage the government to not limit it to two years, and to extend the program beyond the current 34 identified qualifications. This is how people get into jobs. We build an economy by ensuring that access to training is easy, that people are able to change professions easily and upskill easily without the barrier of fees and the burden of debt associated with continuing their pathway to full employment.

I absolutely believe in the value of the TAFE system and that it is one of the best pathways to better opportunities for so many people, but I want to make sure that those opportunities are available to everybody. I want to ensure that my comments about the need to ensure appropriate training options for people with disability, specifically, are noted. I also note that a number of other target areas of the population need opportunities provided by ready access to training. That means that we need to have proper structures to assist people to find the right courses and also get the right supports so that they can achieve the right qualifications for them. Our training system will be integral to responding to the challenges of the near future, both social and environmental as well as from an economic perspective. As a result, TAFEs will need to be a priority area for attention and funding, because we think that our TAFEs deserve the funding and leadership required in order to respond to these challenges.

Comments and speeches from various members

Amendment to Motion

Hon COLIN de GRUSSA: I move —

To insert after “emerging skills needs” —

and directs the Minister for Education and Training to table by 12 March 2020 enrolment figures for all courses at each individual TAFE campus for the years 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 to date and include which courses have been added or removed at each campus

Comments and speeches from various members

Amendment on the Amendment


To delete “12 March” and substitute —

2 April

Comments and speeches from various members


Amendment on the amendment put and a division taken, the Acting President (Hon Adele Farina) casting her vote with the noes, with the following result —

Ayes (19)

Noes (10)

Amendment on the amendment thus passed.

Amendment to Motion, as Amended, Resumed

The ACTING PRESIDENT: Members, the question now before the house is that the amendment moved by Hon Colin de Grussa, as amended, be agreed to.

HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [2.46 pm]: I have to say that I am in two minds on this particular amendment. I do not like the principle of effectively hijacking a member’s motion. The Greens have said consistently in this chamber that if members do not agree with a motion, they should vote against it. However, I also recognise that this amendment is not quite opposing the motion; it is simply trying to get additional information.

I will say that a lot of the information that is being sought is information that I have already put on notice previously and have received answers to. I am aware that a lot of the information is already readily available from this term of government. I am a big fan of getting information and making sure that everyone has exactly the same information. I think this information would be very easy to get. As I have said, a lot of it has already been provided in answers to questions on notice that I have put previously to the minister. I am curious to hear what other members have to say. However, as a principle, I hope we do not continue to do these sorts of things to other member’s motions.

Comments and speeches from various members

Amendment on the Amendment

HON STEPHEN DAWSON: Therefore, I move —

To insert after “at each campus” —

and calls on Leader of the Opposition Liza Harvey to release the cabinet documents related to the decision by the Barnett government to increase TAFE fees in 2013

Comments and speeches from various members

Sitting suspended


Parliamentary Type: