Labor claims government underspent on Tafe training and apprentices

The Federal Opposition has accused the Morrison government of shortchanging Tafe and training by underspending in vocational and training programs.

The education department revealed in its 2018-19 annual report that it had spent less than what was budgeted in the last financial year, which had contributed to a combined almost $1 billion underspent since 2014.

Limited funding was spent on key programs including -$68 million for trade support loans, -$51 million for Australian Apprenticeships Centres and -$35 million for apprenticeship incentives.

The annual report showed the education department budgeted $1.1 billion for the year but spent $214 million less.

It was not the first time that the government had spent less than what it had budgeted, with Labor’s analysis indicated that the government’s underspending had been consistent.

The government spent $138 million less than promised in 2014-15, $247 million less in 2015-16, $118 million in 2016-17 and $202 million in 2017-18.

Labor is pursuing the issue at a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday.

Shadow education minister Tanya Plibersek criticised the government for not investing enough.

She said it “(shortchanged) Tafe and training by $1 billion despite the fact Australia is suffering a national shortage of tradies.”

Ms Plibersek added that more people were dropping out of apprenticeships and traineeships.

“If the Liberals don’t do something serious to fix the skills crisis they have created, we could be looking at the extinction of the Australian tradie,” she said.

“We have a shortage of workers in critical services including plumbing, carpentry, hairdressing and motor mechanics.”

“Businesses are crying out for more trained staff. The Australian Industry Group says 75% of businesses surveyed are struggling to find the qualified workers they need.”

However, employment minister Michaelia Cash said the figures “represent underspends which come from demand-driven programs in vocational education and training.”

She claimed “it’s not a cut” and said it was responsible budgeting to ensure that no one would miss out on training and apprenticeship programs.

“Despite Labor Party members saying something does not make it true,” Ms Cash said.

“The Coalition government is committed to ensuring Australians have the right skills for the workforce of today and the future and is funding skills through a number of different components.”

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