Apprentices and Trainees

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN ( 14:33 ): Thank you, Mr President. My question is to the Minister for Employment, Higher Education—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Ridgway, your own member is on his feet to talk so I think you should show him at least some respect and let him speak and ask the question in silence.

The Hon. K.J. Maher interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Maher, you can be quiet as well. The Hon. Mr McLachlan.

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN: I am ready now, Mr President. My question is to the Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills. Why has the government not committed to reinstate the payroll tax exemption for apprenticeships and trainee positions despite the National Centre for Vocational Education Research and Business South Australia publishing data that establishes a clear link between the abolition of the exemption in 2012-13 and the sharp decline in apprenticeship and trainee numbers in South Australia?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) ( 14:34 ): I thank the honourable member for his most important question. Indeed, this is a government that has been prepared to take on the issue of tax reform.

We have seen Premier Weatherill, at the last budget round, announce that we would look at a range of new tax reforms. We have seen this government be prepared to work with businesses to reduce imposts wherever we can through tax reform and red tape reduction. We have seen a premier who has been very willing to do that, and we will continue to consider ways that we can work with business.

In relation to the support for apprenticeships and traineeships, I am very pleased that under WorkReady we are able to continue to subsidise apprenticeships and trades. I think there are 53 that are on our recognised trades subsidised list. It is 53 or 57, something like that. They continue to be subsidised and, what is more, they continue to be demand driven. There are no caps in place, so we will continue to subsidise as many as can be enrolled.

We know one of the things that had a considerable impact on the apprenticeship and traineeship participation rates was, in fact, a federal government subsidy to apprenticeships. I cannot recall the name of the particular subsidy, but the federal government stopped that a couple of years ago and it has had, from talking with the industry, a significant impact. I think it was given to employers at the successful completion of an apprenticeship. It was a large amount of money that the federal Liberal government ripped out of the system. I wonder if the Hon. Andrew McLachlan has contacted his federal colleagues and asked them to reinstate that particular subsidy to our apprentices.

The federal Liberal government also ripped out the heart of the tool allowance, a very important contribution to apprentices. They removed the tool allowance and said that apprentices could take out a loan. I recall running into an apprentice and he said to me, ‘What am I to do? I’ve already got a loan. I’ve got a loan on my car because I need a car to be able to work. I’ve already got a loan and now the federal Liberal government wants me to take out another loan to be able to buy the tools that I need.’ So, again, I wonder if the Hon. Andrew McLachlan has written or spoken to his federal counterparts, his Liberal mates, and requested the reinstatement of the apprenticeship tool allowance.

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