The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (12:25): I rise to speak on the Construction Industry Training Fund (Board) Amendment Bill. The bill will change the manner in which the board is appointed. Currently, the board comprises an independent chair, four members who represent the interests of the employers in the building and construction industry, three members who represent the interests of the employees in the building and construction industry, and two members nominated by the minister with experience in vocational education and training.
Employer and employee representatives are nominated by industry groups and are appointed by the Governor. The bill will change this so that the board will comprise of the chair, two members independent of the building and construction industry, and between four and eight people who have experience or expertise in the building and construction industry. All these appointments will be made after expressions of interest and will be appointed by the minister. The minister will have absolute discretion as to who to appoint within these broad parameters.
I have had many conversations with the minister about this bill and I understand that the motivation behind moving this bill is to modernise the board. I understand the minister wants to appoint board members based on merit, rather than being constrained to the current requirements as set out by the act. In consulting with stakeholders on this bill, it is clear that there are no issues with how the fund is currently being administered, nor the training that is being provided.
One does have to ask the question that if it is not broken, then why fix it? Whilst there may not be concerns about the manner in which the fund is administered, I understand there are concerns from all stakeholders about the rules regarding the board and particularly the veto powers contained within the current act. I agree that these are problematic and need change. I also agree with the minister that board appointments should be on merit. However, I am concerned that there is potential for the board to be stacked and that it will no longer represent the entire building and construction industry.
I have filed amendments that will oblige the minister to try to ensure that there is at least one person on the board who is there representing the interests of employers and one person who will represent the interests of employees. The board is there to do what is best for the industry as a whole and I believe this cannot be done if not all voices from within the industry are heard. As a minimum, this should include at least one member each for employers and employees.
Some have indicated to me that the minister has given an undertaking that the board will be balanced and include a range of people from different backgrounds but all with experience or expertise within the building and construction industry. Whilst I cannot comment on this undertaking, as it was not made to me, if this assurance has been made by the minister, then the government should have no problem with supporting my amendment. After all, my amendment will merely see one voice on the board of at least seven that may be out of step with others due to their experience or expertise.
I want to make it clear that I have deliberately refrained from listing or naming any organisations from which these people are to come and instead have left it up to the discretion of the minister to ensure that all interested parties are represented. I understand that this amendment may not be exactly what the opposition seek, and that, should the amendment be successful, the government are unlikely to support it in the other place. However, I believe this is a good compromise position and hope that it will gain support during committee. I support the second reading of the bill.