Plan to train youth jobless angers state leaders

September 26, 1997

A FEUD has erupted between Australia's federal and state governments over funding vocational education, writes David Bruce.

The battle for the moral high ground has captured the interest of daily newspapers: both levels of government are keen to champion vocational training as a solution to high youth unemployment.

Federal training minister David Kemp seized the headlines with his announcement of a planned expansion of more than 100,000 vocational student places for young school-leavers. However, he said that since the states wasted millions of dollars in the sector, they deserved no extra cash.

"The buck stops here. No more waste," Dr Kemp said. "No amount of empty rhetoric from a state minister will stop me fighting for a better deal for young Australians."

The states pay for two-thirds of the cost of vocational training and were angry at not being consulted over the new places. They have rejected the federal offer of Aus$900 million (Pounds 413 million) a year.

An offer of extra money for vocational places, contained in a new five-year Australian National Training Authority agreement, depends on the states making the sector more efficient and locking the budget for five years.

Victoria's tertiary education minister, Phil Honeywood, has been scathing of his federal counterpart, claiming him to be more interested in raising his profile.

"Dr Kemp's arrogance has no bounds," he said. "It does a disservice to the young people of Australia to assume that you know in three to four years' time the level of funding needed given the fluctuations in unemployment and the changing needs for skilled labour."

Dr Kemp said the response was disappointing. "I am very concerned that the Victorian government is not able to match the commonwealth guarantee to maintain funding for vocational colleges over the next five years. Failure to provide a stable funding base leaves a cloud of uncertainty over the future of the colleges."

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