Liberals’ $1 Billion In Cuts And Policy-Free Zone = 200 Fewer Apprentices In Braddon

Sharon Bird, Senator Anne Urquart and Justine Keay today visited St Brendan Shaw College Trades Areas to discuss the drop of apprentices in training in Devonport and the importance of TAFE in training and retraining Australia’s workforce. 

The Liberals have cut $2.75 billion from the skills portfolio, including $1 billion in cuts to apprentices through the Tools for Your Trade program and access and mentoring programs. 

These cuts have hit local apprentices hard and they don’t have one new plan to help apprentices. 

They have had a devastating impact on apprentices in training in Braddon with numbers falling from 2,424 in June 2014 to 2,224 March 2015 – a drop of 200 local apprentices. 

It is vital that we train and retrain our workforce to deliver on improving the participation, productivity, innovation and growth efforts required for the nation. 

The Liberals are a policy free zone when it comes to apprentices and they have resorted to peddling false claims to try and cover up their blatant disregard for training our future workforce.  See Attachment A. 

They have also refused to come clean on their secret plans for a TAFE-destroying federal takeover of vocational education, despite opposition from States such as Tasmania. 

“The issue of VET - which is no state secret, as members opposite would suggest - was also included in that communiqué and was a matter for some discussion at COAG. As the minister said last week and as I say now, we do not support a national takeover of that system.”

Hon Will Hodgman, Premier of Tasmania, Hansard, 22 September 2015 


“We do not support a Federal takeover of our VET or TasTAFE in Tasmania.

Hon Jeremy Rockliff, Tasmanian Minister for Education and Training,

Hansard, 16 September 2015


Brett Whiteley needs to come clean and let Tasmanians know what they plan for TAFE and whether they plan to have even one new policy for apprentices during this election campaign. 

In stark comparison, Labor has announced an extensive suite of policies across all aspects of the portfolio, including:

  • A TAFE funding guarantee.

  • A sector-wide national review to ensure vocational education is able to meet the training needs of the nation.

  • A range of integrity measures to stop the shonks and sharks in the vocational education system, including an $8,000 cap on VET FEE-HELP loans per year and a VET sector ombudsman.

  • A suite of initiatives to boost apprenticeships across the country, giving more Australians the opportunity to gain real skills and a good job. These include creating new apprenticeship opportunities through a ten per cent quota of apprentices on major federally-funded projects; restoring support for Group Training organisations; creating pathways into apprenticeships for young people and retrenched workers; and lifting completion rates by helping apprentices with the cost of their tools and study.

  • The establishment of Commonwealth Institutes of Higher Education to deliver new technical and education opportunities to areas where access remains difficult and participation is too low – including Labor’s investment of $150 million in the $300 million co-investment plan with the University of Tasmania for two new campuses to be constructed at Inveresk in Launceston and West Park in Burnie

This Minister has not put out one single policy.  All he can do is try and blame Labor for his own Government’s massive failings and mismanagement. 

He is a policy-free zone when it comes to TAFE, apprentices and skills. 







Students will pay upfront fees due to Labor’s $8,000 cap on VET FEE-HELP diploma courses. 


The Minister’s own discussion paper details how course fees have tripled since the Liberals were elected:


“Most of this growth has occurred since 2012. For example, average tuition fees grew from $5,917 in 2012 to $14,018 in 2015”.


Page 16, Redesigning VET FEE-HELP Discussion Paper


Students are facing exorbitant costs to undertake diploma courses and all the Minister can do is to criticise strong and sensible policy options. 

Labor has put in place a plan to cap fees at $8,000 for VET FEE-HELP courses.  This will stop price-gouging.  If providers can demonstrate that their courses cost more than $8,000 per year to deliver, they are able to apply for an exemption.


Additional support and stability of employer incentives introduced under the Liberal Government is starting to yield results.


The $4,000 employer incentive currently available was available under Labor. 

The Liberals have not introduced one single new employer incentive. 

What they have done is cut $1 billion from apprentice support including from Tools for Your Trade, access and mentoring programs and the Apprentice to Business Owner program.  They have also cut funding for adult apprentices.

This has meant that apprentice numbers have plummeted.

When Labor left office in September 2013, there were 415,800 apprentices in training.  In December 2015 there were 278,600.  That’s a drop of 137,200 apprentices in training across the country.


The Liberals introduced the Apprenticeship Support Network.


What the Liberals did was to rebadge Australian Apprenticeship Centres, and cut their funding by $10 million a year.  On top of the funding cut, the Network is also expected to do additional tasks such as providing job matching, mentoring and support.


Trade Support Loans provide assistance with living and work expenses.


Trade Support Loans have an extremely low take up rate.  Under Labor, apprentices will not need to go into $20,000 of debt in order to get some assistance to purchase tools and equipment. Labor will reinstate the Tools for Your Trade payment at $3,000 per apprentice.


The Turnbull Government has a deliberative and consultative approach.


The Minister has not conducted one public visit to a TAFE since he became a Minister. 

What the sector needs is leadership and action but all it has received from the Liberal Government is a revolving door of Ministers, funding cuts and no policy initiative.