Although the Government’s Economic Statement made for less than cheerful reading, one positive was the decision to defer the cap on work-related self-education expenses until July 2005.
Expenses incurred by people undertaking short courses and professional training to further their careers or gain new skills has traditionally been covered by tax deductions. However, a Gillard Government proposal sought to limit claimable self-education expenses to $2,000 per person per year.
The construction industry was united in their opposition to the proposal stating that it was a fundamental threat to professional education in Australia and a move,which threatened to "dumb down the workforce.”
Consult Australia CEO Megan Motto is delighted that the government has listened to industry concerns.
“The wide-spread backlash against the cap proves that Governments should consult with business before making hasty decisions,” she said. “The deferral announced today is welcome, though opening up channels of communication earlier would have been simpler and more efficient."
Motto added that Consult Australia is eager to take part in discussions and consultations on this and other matters in the future.
Her sentiments were echoed by Engineers Australia.
“Engineers Australia is pleased the government has listened to the collective voice of more than 1.6 million working professionals and is reconsidering its proposal to cap work-related expenses at $2,000,” said Engineers Australia CEO Stephen Durkin.
“The decision to re-examine this policy proposal clearly shows that the government has recognised that a more nuanced and evidence-based discussion is needed."
He added that the Gillard Government's initial proposal to cap tax deductions for education and training "would have been disastrous for Australia’s productivity and long term economic agenda."
Although Engineers Australia welcomed the announcement, the organisation remains opposed to the blunt policy approach of a blanket cap.
“We are pleased Australia’s political decision makers have recognised the importance of encouraging the growth of our highly skilled workforce. A skilled and educated workforce will build Australia’s future and we look forward to ongoing discussions with the opposition and government in this critical area,” Durkin said.