STATE RAIL AUTHORITY TECHNICAL TRAINING CENTRE
Matter of Public Importance
(Auburn) [3.15]: I move:
That this House notes as a matter of public importance the State Government's current downgrading and possible sell-off of the State Rail Authority's technical training centre, Chullora, and calls on the Government to immediately enter into meaningful and fruitful discussions with the Federal Government and the trade union movement to bring the above mentioned facility back into full operational mode.
The training centre of the State Rail Authority is located in my electorate at Muir Road and the Hume Highway. This facility is approximately 400 to 500 metres long and houses a large amount of equipment and substantial training facilities for up to 500 apprentices. At present a staff training review is being undertaken I believe - and I hope the House will believe - for the purpose of downgrading the facility and subsequently closing it to enable it to be sold as part of the Government's asset sale scheme. The library facility at the centre has an extensive trade and advanced post trade training facility of computers, journals, videos and cassettes on a wide range of subjects. It has an audio-visual unit providing media support for training staff and marketing of services. Its curriculum development unit provides modular training packages for training staff and monitors the training function. The complex has an auditorium providing seating for more than 500 people. Conference facilities are available for management, student council meetings and other purposes. The theatrette provides seating for 40 people and utilises a 16 millimetre film and a video-stereo system.
Equipment worth millions of dollars has been provided for the purpose of training apprentices for a variety of future jobs. I shall refer to that matter later. A large body of teachers is ready, willing and able to utilise those facilities. The centre not only provides for the current apprentice needs of the State Rail Authority but also is able to provide training for outside industry, that is, surrounding factories. A wide range of factories and commercial premises are located in the Chullora, Silverwater, Rydalmere, Bankstown, Padstow and Revesby areas. Trainees from those factories could be sent to the Chullora complex. At present the technical and further education system caters for apprentice training and, though the technical college at Lidcombe is excellent, it is unable to cope with the number of young people seeking apprenticeships. This year 5,000 young people made application for entry to the Chullora training centre, but only 66 apprentices were accepted. Federal funding is available for this complex should the Government wish to avail itself of it. At present a staff review of the site is being undertaken and, step by step, inch by inch, the number of staff and apprentices is being reduced. The complex is not being utilised to its maximum.
Lesley Hodsdon is the manager of the training centre situated at Leichhardt and Petersham. Recently on television she said she was not the social conscience of the people of New South Wales. In fact, this Parliament is the social conscience of the people of New South Wales, and it should be this Parliament that directs the Minister to enter into meaningful discussions and fruitful activities with the trade union movement and the Federal Government for the purpose of retaining not only the existing apprenticeship places but also places for those industries that will require tradesmen for the next decade. Mr Delaney, State organiser of the Metals Engineering Workers Union, in a letter dated 13th January to the General Manager of Corporate Human Resources, said that there had been a dispute involving the union. He said in his letter that the subject of the dispute was this:
The winding back, and in most cases, dismantling of Training at the Technical Training College, Chullora for adult members of this Union, as well as the reduced apprentice intake of apprentices 1992.
In 1988 there was an intake of 169 apprentices; in 1989, it was 292; in 1990, 272; in 1991, 211; and in 1992 the number should have been 215 but the intake was only approximately 44. Training covers a variety of trades such as car and wagon builder, electrical fitter, auto electrical fitter, electrical mechanic, fitter machinist, carpenter, plumber, sheetmetal worker, telecommunications mechanic and vehicle trimmer. This establishment, before it was cut back, had facilities for training body builders, boilermakers, car and wagon builders, motor mechanics, moulders, panel beaters, pattern makers, sheet metal workers, vehicle painters, vehicle trimmers and wood machinists. Most if not all of those apprenticeship opportunities have disappeared. The Government is going full bat to win the Olympic Games for Sydney at the turn of century. If Sydney wins that bid, tradesmen will be needed to build and maintain the billion dollar complexes to be built at Homebush Bay.
During the recession that extended from the beginning of 1980 through to 1982 a large cutback occurred in apprenticeships in New South Wales. The consequence today is a great shortage of electrical contractors and tradesmen, carpenters, body builders, motor trimmers, moulders, sheetmetal workers and various other trades. This is not a time to cut back on apprenticeships in New South Wales but rather a time to conduct a full and detailed examination of the dire need for apprenticeships in this State. The Chullora complex is ready, willing and able to train 500 apprentices each year to take up the roles of tradesmen. Mr Gary Sturgess, Director- General of the Cabinet Office, in reply to a letter from Mr R. Holland, chairperson of the combined unions committee at the training centre at Greenacre, sent copies of two press clippings outlining the policy of the Government. One of the articles that Mr Sturgess attached to his letter was written by an excellent journalist with the Sun-Herald
, Karen Davey, for whom I have much time, love and affection. Ms Davey, who has recently changed her name, wrote about an interview with the former Premier in these terms:
Premier Nick Greiner yesterday instructed all his Ministers to give their "highest priority" to finding employment for school leavers . . . The letter came back before the release - expected next week - of a State Government employment package aimed at providing employment and training opportunities for school leavers.
Sue Quinn, in an article in the Sunday Telegraph
of 8th December, 1981, stated in reference to the former Premier, Mr Greiner:
He said apprenticeship recruitment levels next year should be maintained at 1991 levels.
He ordered each Minister to present a proposal to implement the strategy by December 31.
The former Premier is reported as then saying:
I am seeking your co-operation in ensuring that this critical situation and the measures we have adopted receive your personal attention and are awarded the highest priority.
That high apprenticeship recruitment level was not maintained. Of 215 apprenticeships available, 66 were ultimately taken up. That training centre, which had the ability to train 500 apprentices, received 5,000 applications for apprenticeship training. Recently the Minister was interviewed by Alan Jones on radio station 2UE. In that interview the
Minister expressed his opinion and then a listener rang in saying he would be willing to pay the training centre to take on his son for a four-year apprenticeship. I do not advocate that type of priority but I do advocate approaching factories in and around Revesby, Bankstown, Pendle Hill, Parramatta, Rydalmere, Silverwater and Chullora to search out those companies that want to put on apprentices but cannot get them into the TAFE system. The Prime Minister said recently that he wanted to create training opportunities. This training facility could be used for that purpose. Nothing should prevent the Minister taking the proposal for the establishment of the New South Wales Vocational Skills Training Centre to Canberra. He should tell the Federal Government that the people of New South Wales want it. The Minister should ask Canberra to fund some or all of that proposal and match this State's contribution dollar for dollar.
With that support, the training facility would be established and could train between 250 and 500 apprentices over the next three or four years. On completion of those apprenticeships, the community would be able to rely on those tradespersons in the future. Young people should be given the opportunity to undertake apprenticeships. At the unemployment summit conducted by the Prime Minister, attended by the Premier, every person showed great care and consideration for the need to train young people in whatever vocation they wished to follow. A training facility is available and should be utilised for the Prime Minister's project for the training of young people. On 24th August Alan Jones sent a letter to Mrs S. Lewis in which he said:
We are monitoring the situation at Chullora carefully. I have written to Bruce Baird, the transport Minister, making some suggestions regarding the continued operation of the Centre. I am still waiting for his reply.
Rest assured, we won't let the matter rest.
The next sentence in the letter is crucial:
It is absolutely ridiculous to even consider closing down such a well-equipped centre, especially at a time when we're spending millions on every conceivable kind of training scheme, some of which, I would think, have very little merit.
The Department of Industrial Relations, Employment, Training and Further Education made funds available to provide an intensive training scheme at Chullora. A number of letters were written to the technical training centre at Chullora and to the State Rail Authority stating that money was available. I quote one of those letters:
Ron Naylor, of the Task Force, will be sending you names of 2nd year apprentices, as well as those in their 3rd and 4th year, in trades in which you can deliver intensive training.
That letter was dated 2nd July but to date those names have not been sent. At the State Rail Authority training centre a plumber is teaching two plumbers when he could be teaching 20. The State Rail Authority has not provided the name of any person who might be interested in attending the training centre. Why has an advance of $280,000 which was made available not been taken advantage of? If that offer had been taken up the training contract could have been extended far past September and the centre could have trained another 40 or 50 apprentices. Yet, from what appears in correspondence between the legal adviser of the State Rail Authority and the Department of Industrial Relations, it seems that the Government does not intend to take up any moneys that might be available. Young men and women in the west of Sydney are screaming for jobs but cannot get apprenticeships. These training facilities should be made available for 300 or 400, if not 500, apprentices to help to meet the needs of the community as we approach
the turn of the century. Whether or not Sydney wins the Olympic bid for the year 2000 is irrelevant. Tradesmen will be needed when the economy takes off again and demand increases through construction and redesign of motor vehicles and transportation systems. Retraining and further educational facilities should be made available to allow tradesmen to update their talents. Opportunities are being ignored. The Australian Labor Party wholeheartedly supports the proposal to establish the New South Wales Vocational Skills Training Centre. I ask and indeed beg the Minister to ask the Prime Minister and the Federal Government to match contributions by this State dollar for dollar so that apprentices can be trained to become tradesmen and tradeswomen. Ultimately, we should never be able to say that we lack tradespeople. [Time expired.
(Northcott - Minister for Transport, and Minister for Tourism) [3.30]: This debate highlights a number of things about the honourable member for Auburn: first, he is well meaning with respect to the issue at hand and, second, he is totally incompetent. This matter of public importance calls on the Government to immediately enter into a meaningful and fruitful discussion with the Federal Government in relation to the downgrading of the technical training centre at Chullora. Did the honourable member for Auburn make one phone call to his mates in Canberra to ask what the Federal Government was doing? On 28th January the Government wrote to Mr Beazley, the Federal Minister, a mate of those opposite, about the apprentices at Chullora. We asked him what assistance he would provide with injection of funds for the Chullora workshops. We said that we have the facilities, the staff and the capacity to provide further apprenticeship opportunities if there were funding for such a government initiative, but that we are unlikely to be able to provide careers for additional apprentices, upon graduation, in trades positions with the State Rail Authority. We wrote to Mr Beazley again on 5th August because we had not received a reply to our first letter, and pointed out why we needed an answer.
The honourable member for Auburn called upon the Government to write to the Federal Government, but he did not take the trouble to telephone to check whether his mates in Canberra had done anything. He does not deserve his job. He has brought his mates into the gallery, and pretended that he is looking after them, but he did not check his facts first. The problem does not lie with the Government of New South Wales; it lies with the honourable member's incompetent mates in Canberra. They have not done a thing. The Federal Government has had a jobs summit, a youth summit and a wages summit, but it has failed in each. Not only has the Federal Government not provided one cent; it has not answered our letters. The honourable member should get his facts right before he speaks.
A number of things need to be said about the Chullora workshops. A competent group of people work there. The training staff are excellent, as are the apprentices who graduate. Every Australian should be proud of them. The quality of their workmanship is first class; they are the cream of the Australian apprenticeship school. There is no doubt that it is a first class school, with first class training and a first class intake and output of apprentices across the board. It must also be pointed out that the Government has a strong agenda for the downsizing of State Rail, which has been endorsed by the Federal Government and the Industry Commission. It is part of the overall microeconomic reform which must be undertaken in this country. Without apology, the Government has quite dramatically downsized the number of people in State Rail, particularly in the trades area. However, no-one has been forced out of a job; they have taken a voluntary redundancy package or been retrained to other areas. Four years ago State Rail employed 7,100 tradespeople; today it employs 2,700 tradespeople. It has 582 apprentices in training - far in excess of its projected labour requirements.
The Government is training people - it has first class training, first class apprentices and first class output - but on graduation there will be insufficient meaningful technical and trades jobs. What is the responsible thing to do? Should we keep training apprentices for whom we have no jobs or should we do something else about it? One of the first things we should do is write to the Federal Government. It has failed to respond at every point. The Government has reduced its apprentice intake, which is the responsible thing to do. In New South Wales, apprentices complete four years of training to qualify in a trade. Most of that training occurs on the job, working under the close supervision of a qualified tradesperson. Apprentices usually attend a technical college for one day a week during the period of their apprenticeship. State Rail is one of the few organisations which offers full-time off the job training in the first year. If State Rail increased its first year apprentice intake, it would have no difficulty coping in the first year. However, if we have a reduced number of tradespeople there is a problem with on-the-job training.
The Government sacked the tradespeople.
Order! I call the honourable member for Bulli to order.
The honourable member for Bulli knows that no sackings occurred in any area of the transport administration. He is used to his own rhetoric. They all went on a voluntary basis.
No, they did not. The Government pushed them through the door.
Order! I call the honourable member for Bulli to order for the second time.
That is absolute rubbish. That happens to suit the Opposition's agenda. The Federal Government has taken over the National Rail Corporation and has the same agenda as the New South Wales Government. Those opposite should not pretend that it is hopeless and terrible that we try to downsize, while their mates in Canberra are doing exactly the same thing with the National Rail Corporation - and rightly so. We would have a problem if we increased the first year apprenticeship training. As I have mentioned, we approached the Federal Government, but without response. We have had some spare training capacity, which is clearly acknowledged. We provide training for outside areas - the Federal Department of Employment, Education and Training and two apprentices for Tooheys Limited. We are also marketing our spare capacity. Honourable members may have noticed an advertisement in the press which outlined our availability for apprentice training. We have had significant inquiries. I am sure that the honourable member for Auburn would approve of that initiative. We invited applications from companies and have had several significant inquiries; one organisation in particular looks as though it will take advantage of our capacity to provide first-year training.
State Rail is required by law, under the Federal training guarantee legislation, to allocate an amount equal to 1 per cent of its wages and salary bill to training. The reality is that State Rail spends 5 per cent on training. State Rail is known for its training excellence. Its students win apprenticeship prizes each year and its operating staff are extremely well trained. Much of the training is specialised because of the railway requirements. State Rail will always have a need for trade staff with skills which are railway specific. Allegations that State Rail will abandon training are totally wrong and
spurious. We know that the unions are orchestrating a campaign about this matter. The reality is this: if the Opposition wants the Federal Government to come to the party, it should get the Federal Government to see us and talk to us about it. The Federal Government has refused to answer our letters. We have also taken the initiative with respect to advertising and we have an apprenticeship school available. There is no point asking individuals whether they would like to attend, because we do not know what the full requirement from the private sector will be.
In summary, Chullora is an excellent training school. The quality of the staff and apprentices is first class. Everyone in Sydney should be duly proud of them. The Government is taking steps by way of looking to the private sector to fill this need. Again, I remind the House that the honourable member for Auburn has called on the State Government to speak to the Federal Government about this issue; and that we have been doing that all year but it has failed to respond. The honourable member should get his facts right before he wastes the time of this House.
(Kogarah) [3.39]: I have had the privilege to examine the training college at Chullora. Anyone who has seen the magnificent set-up and the job it has done since 1975 in training apprentices for the State Rail Authority could not come away without asking, "Why is this magnificent operation being destroyed by this Government? In the 1990s, when we understand the problems with unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, and the problems which will be seen in the years to come with the shortage of tradesmen" - as the honourable member for Auburn pointed out - "how could that centre be allowed to stay there without being used to its maximum capacity?" The Minister for Transport, and Minister for Tourism has defied the previous Premier's directive that there would be no reduction in the intake of apprentices in any part of government operations. This year the number of apprentices taken on by the State Rail Authority was way down on last year's intake.
I would have hoped that for once the Minister would have realised that this issue is about a bit more than base politics; it is about the future of not only the State Rail Authority but, more importantly, our kids - those who are about to leave school. As well as being Minister for Transport he is Minister for Tourism, the Minister in charge of the Olympic bid. The honourable member for Auburn asked where the apprentices will come from to build the hotels and tourist attractions for the Olympics in 2000, particularly those at Homebush Bay. The downturn in the intake of apprentices 20 years ago is causing problems now. It is an absolute responsibility of government to train apprentices to meet the needs of industry as well as the needs of government. I would have hoped that the Minister would have taken a more statesmanlike attitude and not resorted to his normal base politics. He should think laterally. When will this Government understand that in difficult times we should build, not drag down and destroy? This is not the time to cut apprentice numbers and reduce the opportunities for kids leaving school. They will not have the opportunity to learn a trade. The Minister says that the operation at Chullora must be downsized. He should try to look at a bigger picture. Why could it not be used to train apprentices for all government departments and for private enterprise? Has the honourable member for Albury seen the facility?
Every Government member should inspect it. Then they would tell the Minister not to bring it down but to build it into something of which we can be proud. I would join the Minister in an approach to the Federal Government. This issue is too important to sweep under the carpet today. It is important for industry,
tradesmen and the children of this State. Regrettably, the Minister again attacked the unions. The trainers at Chullora are of course concerned about their jobs but they are more concerned about the jobs that are not being created for our school leavers. They are concerned that an insufficient base will be left to train the apprentices of the future. Children leaving school will not have the opportunities presented in the past. I regret that the Minister cannot look at the bigger picture and see the opportunity to do something. Indeed, he might even be able to leave his mark on something before he is thrown out of politics. I implore the Minister to reconsider, to talk to his colleagues in Cabinet and to join them in building the Chullora facility into a training centre for all State government and semi-government authorities. It could be built into an operation that could attract private enterprise apprentices as well, something that the Minister and the kids of the future could be proud of. [Time expired
(Albury) [3.44]: I think I am the first person to speak on this matter who actually served an apprenticeship. I did it in private enterprise, not with the State Rail Authority. Even then, 40-odd years ago, it was recognised everywhere in New South Wales that the SRA provided outstanding training for its apprentices and turned out first-class tradesmen well equipped to serve the SRA and to make their mark in the trades for which they were trained. The Government is looking from a practical point of view at the future needs of the SRA, recognising that the authority's needs for tradesmen in the future will in no way match its needs in the past. First, the SRA does not employ people in as many trades. It does not employ anywhere near as many tradesmen as it did 40 years ago, or even four years ago. As technology and efficiency improves, and as restructuring and multiskilling of the work force continues, there will not be a need for as many tradesmen. The Opposition made great play of training apprentices for the future. Government members recognise the need to provide tradesmen for the future. The prosperity of this State will be built upon the present training of tradesmen. But the SRA will not need as many tradesmen. The answer is for other people to take advantage of the first-class facilities and training standards at Chullora.
How will this be done? The Minister for Transport, and Minister for Tourism has already said that he has approached the Federal Government. Its response was nil. Rather than huffing and puffing about the matter in this Chamber, Opposition members should use their influence with their colleagues in Canberra to get financial support and an answer on whether the Federal Government will support this centre. They might also spend their time better by using their influence to have outside industry take up the opportunity to train apprentices in this facility. The Government has already taken steps in this direction. It has undertaken extensive advertising campaigns to attract people from outside the SRA to use what are recognised as excellent facilities. There are dedicated trainers well equipped to do the job. Opposition members should do something practical by using their influence in this regard so that we can keep this facility operating to train apprentices for the future. Let me once and for all and very clearly put aside any thoughts people might have that the Government has any plans to close or dispose of this facility. That is not proposed at all; we want to keep the facility going, but the railways do not have the capacity to continue the present operation. Adjustments and changes are necessary. With restructuring and all the other changes going on, not just in New South Wales but in the rest of the world, we must be practical and realise that we cannot resist change.
(Bulli) [3.48]: The honourable member for Albury hit the nail on the head. The Government's plan is to move the responsibility of training our youth out of government and into private enterprise. The promise from the honourable member for Albury that the facility will not close is about as truthful as the promise by the former
Minister for Health that Bulli and Kiama hospitals would not close. The people of New South Wales cannot even trust the Government to train the youth of this State. The Minister for Transport, and Minister for Tourism mentioned voluntary redundancy and said there have been no sackings in the SRA. There has been a filthy, rotten fear campaign that has pushed people, frightened for their jobs, out the back door of the SRA. The Minister has been in control of the whole lousy episode. Ever since he stood on Helensburgh station during the Heathcote by-election campaign and said that the Government would do great things with rail, he has destroyed the rail system and jobs. He is a disgrace.
This is what the Minister has done to the system at Chullora. In 1988 there were 169 apprentices being trained; in 1989, 292; in 1990, 272; and in 1991, 211. This year 66 apprentices will be trained for work on the railways. The Minister should talk to his National Party friends and their councils. The Opposition transport committee has visited rural areas. The clear indications are that country people want an efficient rail system. The Government has ruined their roads, and they want rail. Who will maintain the rail system? Will it be maintained by the 66 apprentices at Chullora, or perhaps the 500 who are entitled to be trained there? Did the Minister see the recent documentary on the railways? Does he recall the disaster at Granville? That disaster was a clear indication of inefficiency in the railway system. The Government had allowed things to run down and was fully responsible for that disaster. The Minister must understand that the railways must be maintained, and maintained correctly, for both freight and commuters. The Government also has a responsibility to ensure future jobs for the children of this State. The Minister continues to blame the Federal Government, but the honourable member for Auburn has done his homework. He did what the Minister should have done; he telephoned Canberra and ascertained that the Navy is seriously considering transferring 200 apprentices to Chullora.
The Government knows about that.
Why does the Minister not go to Canberra and talk to the Federal Government? The Federal Government is taking the initiative to create jobs when the Minister is doing nothing but putting apprentices out of work. Everyone in this State knows what he is up to. His mate Greiner said that would not happen. The present Premier, who was in charge of TAFE, should overrule the Minister. He knows about the problems associated with youth unemployment in this State. He knows about the efficiency that can be achieved by training apprentices at Chullora. Yet the Minister continues to call the Opposition inefficient. The Minister is a disgrace. As I have told him in this House before, he has no control over his department or his portfolio. It is time that jobs were created by a caring government.
(Lismore) [3.52]: Members of the Opposition need to calm down and look at a few facts. The first point is that allegations that the Chullora technical training centre will close are untrue. Did members of the Opposition hear that? Perhaps I should repeat it: allegations that the centre will close are untrue. The second point is that new technology and improved work practices have resulted in State Rail having a reduced need for tradespeople. Four years ago State Rail employed 7,100 tradespeople. Today it employs 2,700 and has 582 apprentices in training. That latter figure is far in excess of projected labour requirements. It should also be remembered that State Rail has an ongoing need, which it recognises, for tradespeople with specific railway training. It will continue to provide that training. Members of the Opposition should get it through their thick heads that the training centre will not be closed.
(Auburn) [3.53], in reply: The honourable member for Lismore and the honourable member for Albury have told this House that the training centre will not be closed. At no time during the seven minutes for which the Minister for Transport spoke - and I emphasise that he spoke for only seven minutes - did he give that guarantee. One would have thought that if a guarantee that the training centre was not going to close was to come from anyone, it would have come from the Minister. If the Minister wants to give that guarantee, he should write to the centre and say that it will not be closed. The honourable member for Lismore, the honourable member for Albury and the Minister have not said that the training centre will not be sold off. I would like a guarantee that it will not be closed or sold off. The honourable member for Lismore quite properly read out the number of apprentices who have come through the system. That is the sort of information I would like to have heard from the Minister. He had an additional eight minutes in which to speak. However, I am indebted to the honourable member for Lismore for that information and I will use it in my discussions with the Federal body.
The Minister has not explained why it was initially proposed to train 215 apprentices at Chullora in 1992 but only 66 are now on the centre site. I have been lobbying the Prime Minister's office on behalf of the centre, as has the shadow minister for transport and a number of other local members of Parliament. We are hoping to receive some response from the Federal Government. If the State Government is sincere about keeping this complex open, it would have sent someone to Canberra to lobby the Federal Government. That person should have been the Minister. The number of apprentices who have gone through the centre in 1989, 1990 and 1991 has decreased markedly. Money is available. I accept my responsibility as the local member, but the Minister for Transport has a greater responsibility because he is in charge of all transport matters in New South Wales. The State Government cannot be heard to say in its own defence that the Federal Government should give it the money.
Funding for the centre should be on a dollar-for-dollar basis. The State Government will derive a great deal of benefit from the apprenticeship schemes. It should be suggesting that for every dollar it contributes towards apprenticeship schemes on the training centre site, the Federal Government should contribute a dollar as well. Perhaps the Federal Government might contribute a little more. Who knows? Someone should talk to the Federal Government about it - not merely write a letter and wait for a response. The Minister for Transport should use his personality, point his big finger and say, "We need help for apprentices". That is what I ask him to do. On occasions he travels to Canberra. I would like him to go there soon, approach the Federal Government and say, "What about some money for this scheme? We will put some money in as well". I commend the Minister on the comments he made about the teachers at the training centre. His description of them was correct. They are dedicated, hard-working men and women who are there to ensure that male and female apprentices are well trained to take up their roles as tradespeople at the end of their courses.
Some of the apprentices are in the gallery. They have come here to listen to the debate, and that shows how interested they are. They will not lose their jobs if the centre is closed or downgraded; they will be moved somewhere else. It would be a shame if the Chullora training centre was to lose such competent, dedicated and hard working individuals. The equipment is on the site. The teachers are on the site and are ready, willing and able to do what they can to resolve the problems. The Minister pointed out that he had taken action to get other sections of the industry into a training mode. Will the results of that action be sufficient to get the Chullora training complex up and running again? Recently I inspected the centre. I saw benches piled high on top of one another.
I saw machinery which was not in use and had not been used for some time. I saw apprentices working on an old army tank as part of their training in regard to vehicle body building, electrical fitting, and car and wagon work. All of that training is important. This massive complex has a great deal of equipment, but very little of it is being used because only a handful of people are there. That is demoralising.
I thank the honourable member for Albury and the honourable member for Lismore for their participation in the debate. I was pleased to hear that they guaranteed the complex would not close. In 1989 apprentices undertaking electrical fitting auto totalled 104, electrical fitter 28, electrical mechanic 60, fitter machinist 12, telecommunication mechanic 20, and car and wagon builder 20. In 1990 there was a marked decrease: car and wagon builders 18, electrical fitter 29, electrical mechanic 59, electrical mechanic (S&C) 48, fitter machinist 49, sheet metal worker 10, telecommunication mechanic 18. In 1991 there was a further downgrading: electrical fitter 29, electrical mechanic 38, electrical mechanic (S&C) 36, fitter machinist 55, fitter machinist N/C 12 and telecommunication mechanic 14. Those figures are devastating in a time of recession. As the old tradesmen pass on, retire under the Government's retrenchment scheme - taking their superannuation and retiring early - the reality is we may not have apprentices.
I do not agree with the honourable member for Albury that modern technology is so efficient and advanced that fewer apprentices will be needed in the future. As technology becomes more complex further apprentices will be required. Machines will become more automated and apprentices will require training in computerisation. Many students at the complex have their higher school certificate. They will need to be able to understand computerisation to operate the machines and perform the work. Aspects of planning and drawing - preparing the things they have to build - could be undertaken when those apprentices were not involved with computerisation. I visited one section at the Chullora training centre where I was shown an old battery charger that apprentices had been working with for the past 20 years. Even though it was a simplistic item it was used to show apprentices the first steps in electrical engineering or fitting - important subjects taught by dedicated teachers. This is an important issue going to the very heart of the debate. The Minister should enter into meaningful discussions with the trade union movement and the Federal Government in order to achieve a satisfactory conclusion. I ask the Minister to use his wily charms to persuade the Federal Government that the Chullora complex should remain open at all costs. It is the responsibility of the State Rail Authority, not Miss Hodsdon. She is not the social conscience of the people of New South Wales. Honourable members in this Chamber are the social conscience of the people of New South Wales.
Honourable members on this side are.
That is exactly right. The honourable member for North Shore has kindly pointed out, the Opposition is the conscience of the New South Wales people because any honourable member present today who votes against this motion does not have a social conscience. I would be pleased to see the honourable member for North Shore cross the floor to cast his vote to save jobs so that in the future there will be apprentices who will be able to go to his home on the North Shore to do electrical fitting and any other type of carpentry work that may be necessary at the turn of the century when he is happily retired. I call on the House to support the motion.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put.
The House divided.
Mr A. S. Aquilina
Mr J. J. Aquilina
Mrs Lo Po'
Mr E. T. Page
Mr W. T. J. Murray
Mr D. L. Page
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr J. H. Murray