Macfarlane Gags Debate On Trade Support Loans

The Abbott Government has gagged Members of Parliament from raising the very real concerns of apprentices, their families, their employers and by industry, Shadow Minister for Vocational Education Sharon Bird said.

Ms Bird said the Government’s gagging of debate on the Trade Support Loans Bill 2014 and the Trade Support Loans (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2014 was a slap in the face to the thousands of apprentices who will be worse off under Tony Abbott’s cruel cuts to education.

The gag followed Labor’s second reading amendment (see below) which outlined a number of issues the Minister must consider in implementing the Bill. 

“Ian Macfarlane and Tony Abbott have denied Members of Parliament, including from their own side, the opportunity of raising the concerns of apprentices, their families, their employers and by industry,” Sharon Bird said.

“Labor did not seek to oppose this Bill, we simply sought to try and fix a number of concerns and problems that were raised following the introduction of the legislation.

“Prior to the election, Tony Abbott failed to tell apprentices that they would be replacing the $5,500 Tools for Your Trade program with the Trade Support Loans.

“He has also failed to offer any grandfathering arrangements for current apprentices who have made financial commitments based on the Tools for Your Trade Loans.

“Mr Macfarlane has also failed to properly explain, in clear and plain language, the total liability that apprentices will be facing with the Trade Support Loans. 

“He has ducked and weaved around the questions on financial liability, yet at the same time accused apprentices of being irresponsible with money.”

Labor is also concerned about inadequate protections for school based apprentices and other apprentices under 18 years of age.

“The privacy protections are also inadequate and the Government’s decisions to offer these loans as a monthly payment rather than a lump sum option each year means that it will be harder for apprentices to purchase expensive items and will lead to the temptation for many apprentices to use these loans as a wage supplement.

"Rather than shut down the debate, the Minister needs to listen to apprentices, industry and the community and try and fix some of these concerns.”

 TUESDAY, 24 JUNE 2014

The Parliament of the

Commonwealth of Australia

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Trade Support Loans Bill 2014

(Amendment to motion for second reading to be moved by Ms Bird)

Whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House notes that the government has failed to:

(1) advise apprentices that they would be abolishing the Tools for Your Trade program, thus leaving Trade Support Loans as the only form of assistance for the purchase of tools;

(2) adequately explain in clear language the interest rates and full liability of these loans;

(3) offer adequate protection for school based apprentices aged under 18;

(4) offer fair and reasonable transition arrangements for current apprentices; 

(5) put in place adequate privacy protections for the large volumes of information that will be acquired through the Trade Support Loans Program; and

(6) offer apprentices the option of lump sum payments in order to purchase expensive items.