By Tanya Plibersek

06 December 2021


SUBJECTS: TAFE; education and skills; Federal election; Labor’s Powering Australia plan; climate change; medium term targets; state borders; Labor’s policy agenda.
EMMA MCBRIDE, MEMBER FOR DOBELL: Good morning, everybody. I am Emma McBride, the Federal Member for Dobell. And welcome to the Ourimbah campus of the University of Newcastle. I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land, the Darkinjung People, and to pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging, and to acknowledge any Aboriginal people here today, including Professor Rhonda Wilson, the only professor of mental health nursing in Australia. Thank you, Rhonda, for all the work that you do. Thank you to Vice Chancellor Alex Zelinsky for always making us feel welcome at Ourimbah campus. And to Professor Mike Bowyer for welcoming us here today. I am so pleased to welcome the Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, and our Shadow Minister, Tanya Plibersek, back to Ourimbah campus and to the Central Coast today. They are both really strong supporters of the regions and really strong supporters of the Central Coast. I am really pleased to welcome them here today because of the important announcement that you would’ve heard yesterday about skills and training and the significant investment that Labor is looking to make in TAFE and universities. And that will make a really big difference in communities like the one I represent here on the Central Coast. We are at Ourimbah campus, which has the twin goals of equity and excellence. We have one of the most outstanding programs that graduates the most first-in-family students in Australia. And it is why it is so important to be here today to talk more about Labor’s announcements, which will really improve opportunities – not just for young people, but people across their life living outside the big cities, communities like the Central Coast. Under the Morrison Government, we have seen a big drop in skills and training and apprentices in communities like ours. We've also seen young people and people at different stages of their life struggling to be able to afford the opportunity to upskill or to retrain. And what Labor is particularly focused on is those sectors and industries that have been impacted significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic so that we can rebuild stronger for a better future for all Australians. I'm so pleased to welcome Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese. Thank you, Anthony.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks, very much Emma. And it is great to be here at this campus, a co-located university and TAFE, which is exactly what our announcement was about yesterday. And it's fantastic also to be joined by Tanya Plibersek, our passionate spokesperson for education, who is so committed to giving people the best opportunity in life. And that is what education is about. One of the big distinctions between Labor and the Government is that we understand that investment in education is not just an investment in an individual, it's an investment in Australia's future, in our whole society. Our whole society benefits when people get access to proper education, whether it be for a trade, whether it be through a university qualification, whether it be by ensuring that early learning is properly funded as well through our cheaper childcare package. One of the things that Labor is about is making sure that we take the opportunity that is there, from being co-located in the fastest growing region of the world in human history. We can either take that opportunity to be the smart country, to give people the skills, to give people the knowledge to grow high-value, high wage, good jobs, or we can try and compete by driving down wages, by seeing more insecure work, by not giving people the opportunity to be the best that they can.
Our announcement yesterday was about that. It was about giving all Australians the opportunity to aspire to a better life for themselves, whether that be through doing nursing or training or hospitality, or whether it be by doing engineering or other skills that are required. Our announcement of 20,000 additional university places and 465,000 free TAFE places in areas of skill shortage will make an enormous difference. Giving 465,000 people the opportunity to train for skills, for jobs that are required instead of just relying upon temporary labour and then being susceptible to the sort of shortages which are there in the labour market now, shows the benefit of planning going forward. It sits with our commitment to create Jobs and Skills Australia, to have proper planning, identify where the jobs of the future are and then make sure that Australians are skilled up for them. And our university sector has been so hard hit during the pandemic. This Government abandoned them. For reasons beyond my comprehension, they excluded universities from getting JobKeeper. They basically said, ‘You're on your own’, at a time when what we should be doing is valuing our university sector. Here at the campus, where I visited on multiple occasions now, we see the best of Australia. People who are committed, including the management of the university here, to making sure that people can get that access to skill up so that they can improve their lot in life.
Labor's commitment is clear. It's time that we actually plan going forward so that out of the pandemic we grow back stronger. The Treasurer began his budget speech last year by saying, ‘Oh, we just want to go back to what was there before’. Well, I think that Australians can aspire to better. We should be ambitious for our country. I want to lead a Government that's as optimistic, as positive, as determined, as hopeful as the Australian people are themselves. And here on the Central Coast, it is an area in which people do aspire to a better life. Our package we announced yesterday for universities and TAFE will do just that. More skills mean higher wages, means better jobs, means a stronger economy. That's what Labor is about.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Thanks so much, Anthony. And thank you Emma. Well, Labor wants Australians to have the education and training they need to get the job of their dreams. And under Scott Morrison, that's just got harder and harder. We see about 83,000 fewer apprentices and trainees today than when the Liberals first came to office. And universities, as Anthony has just said, have had two years from hell. with billions of dollars cut from their revenue. Scott Morrison's made it harder for young Australians to get to a university education by more than doubling the cost of thousands of degrees. And now, thousands more students are turned away every year. We got the highest turn away rates from universities than we have seen in many years. So, all those kids who have had the remote learning experience from hell are actually being turned away from university in their thousands, unable to get the education they need for the job of their dreams. Well, Labor, under Anthony Albanese, is committed to giving those young Australians the opportunity of getting a great education. That's good for them, it means that they get the benefit of going to university, the higher wages that come from that, but it's also good for our nation. We have got occupations on our skills shortage list that have been there for years. On the one hand, we have got more than two million Australians who don't have a job or want more hours of work. And on the other hand, we have got one in four employers who are saying they can't find the skilled staff that they need. Well, an Albanese Government has a solution for that. More places at TAFE and more places at university.
ALBANESE: Thanks, Tanya. We're happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: I guess, locally, what kind of a skill shortage is the Central Coast experiencing and how will specific courses at university and TAFE target this?
ALBANESE: Well, we know that one in four Australian businesses are short of skilled workers. We know this is something that goes right around the entire country, but here on the Coast as well, we have skill shortages in the traditional trades, but we also have skill shortages in areas like hospitality. Businesses I have spoken to are struggling as they have opened back up to get people who have the skills to work in their workplaces, particularly in those areas of hospitality. And we know also that some of the work here is seasonal. For the tourism sector here on the Coast, they're really struggling to fill those jobs because they have become quite reliant upon labour that has been short-term and has been imported. We need to make sure that we give Australians those skills. Here on the Coast, there's a real diverse economy. You have hospitality, you have food and agricultural production here on the Coast as well. You have significant construction as well here on the Coast. And all of those areas are suffering from skill shortages. What we need to do is to make sure that we identify where the job needs are and then train Australians up for them. That will be one of the tasks set at Jobs and Skills Australia, which will have private sector representatives, which will engage with businesses and unions to go forward as one. That's one of the things that I want to do. I want to unite the country. I want business to be able to work with unions, being able to go forward with the common interest which is there. A common interest for a strong economy with growing jobs, with higher wages. Because a failure to do that holds us all back. I might see if Emma wants to talk about some of the local issues.
MCBRIDE: Sure, yes. So, recently I was here with Deputy Leader, Richard Marles, and we met in the business incubator with local manufacturers. The Central Coast is home to some 24,000 small businesses. And we know that since the Morrison Government was elected, there are now 231 less apprentices in training then there were eight years ago. That's close to a drop of 10 per cent. And in a community like ours, that's significant. As Anthony said, these opportunities are for the young people, they're also for our economy. We really want to build strong on the Central Coast, particularly in manufacturing. Anthony has mentioned tourism, mentioned hospitality. Communities like ours, coastal communities like ours across Australia, have been really hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. And we need to make sure that businesses have the skilled workers that they're seeking. And at the same time make sure that young people, or people at different times in their life that need to retrain or upskill, have the opportunity to do that locally and affordably. We have spoken to so many manufacturers on the Central Coast who have said that they have got jobs available, apprenticeships available, but they can't fill them right now. So, this gives the opportunity to match the people seeking work with the skills that they need and the jobs now and into the future.
JOURNALIST: How many of those extra free courses will be allocated here on the Central Coast?
ALBANESE: Well, what we'll do is work with state and territory governments for the allocation of those extra places based upon the areas of need. And we know that the Central Coast will be a key priority for that.
JOURNALIST: Is 43 per cent by 2030 a minimum target for emissions reduction? Are you aiming to get closer to 50-60 per cent?
ALBANESE: No, that's our target. This Government have had more than 20 policies in the almost decade that they have been in office. And they haven't landed one. We have one policy that we have announced last Friday. It's fully costed. The modelling is all there. It is a one policy that we would implement in Government. And what the modelling shows is that we would reach 43 per cent by 2030 under the policies that we have announced which are comprehensive, which are clear.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible). There has been support for bolder action, yet your target is not showing that.
ALBANESE: What we have done is outline our policy approach. Our policy approach to fix electricity transmission through our Rewiring the Nation Program. Our policy approach using the Abbott Government's safeguard mechanism for higher emitting companies whilst making sure that companies that are trade-exposed are protected and don't have any more onerous duties than their competitors internationally. We have a plan for community batteries. We have a plan to make electric vehicles cheaper. We have a plan to make sure there are new energy apprenticeships. And importantly, we have our National Reconstruction Fund which will make funds available for the regions to make sure that existing industries can receive support to transform, but new industries can emerge as well. What we didn't do was set a target and work back. What we did was put forward a range of policies that are good policies, that are sound policies and achievable policies, and then have the modelling done at arm's length, independently of Labor, by RepuTex, who did the modelling for the Government in the lead-up to its adoption of its 26-28 per cent target by 2030. Our policies are very clear going forward and the modelling is there. We have released it. You might recall the Government had an announcement of a pamphlet, they didn't release any modelling for a month later, and when they did, it didn't add up and they said, ‘Oh, well, we're hoping and a-wishing new technology fills in the gaps’. We haven't done that. We're being very clear with the Australian people going forward. And that's why our plan has been endorsed by the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Industry Group, the ACTU and individual unions and such a broad range of community-based organisations have looked at the policy and they have said, ‘Yep, it stacks up, it's the right direction’.
JOURNALIST: You have said your climate policy will create 60,000 jobs by 2030. But former Labor MP Jennie George says that's unbelievable because of the high multiplier effect being used. How can you prove these numbers?
ALBANESE: We have modelling that's out there, that's very clear. 604,000 jobs created between now and 2030. Our electricity prices on average falling by $275 per household. $52 billion of additional investment from the private sector as a result of the policies that we have put forward. It's been modelled. It's been modelled at arm's length. And what's interesting is that the Treasurer, with all of the capacity that he has, a whole department, thousands of really smart people in Treasury, did Insiders yesterday, didn't lay a glove on the policy. That's the truth. And Scott Morrison, when he was out there at another photo op, he condemned it before it was announced, of course. And said when we did that on Friday, he said, ‘Oh, well, Labor won't have costings for their policies’. We have very precise costings. We have precise analysis. The most detailed policy analysis and modelling of any policy put forward by any opposition in any area since Federation
JOURNALIST: On borders, if Labor states like Queensland don't open up at 80 per cent before Christmas, isn't there a risk of people becoming frustrated, potentially undermining compliance given the national plan?
ALBANESE: Well, the national plan, of course, provides for the opening up of borders when it's safe to do so. And the Queensland Government have done a fantastic job in keeping Queenslanders safe. And they have done that. I do note the only changes I have seen, unless there have been changes while we have been in there, have been from the South Australian Liberal Government. But once again, the Federal Government seems to always pick out just Labor governments. The only changes I have seen to borders that are significant changes have been from South Australia. And I respect the decision of the South Australian Premier. He's entitled to do what he thinks is necessary based upon the health advice.
JOURNALIST: Would Gladys Berejiklian make a good member for Warringah?
ALBANESE: I note this ongoing obsession by the media with a Premier who is still subject to proceedings under the Independent Commission Against Corruption. I think people should allow those processes to take their course. They are processes in which we have seen some public hearings. I'm not going to comment on the outcomes of those, but they're there for all to see. But I make this point: The former Premier before the former Premier was also talked about a candidate for Warringah for some period of time, Mike Baird, and the speculation has changed there. I await the speculation about Nick Greiner running for Warringah because he could come back from the New York Consul General position. Like, it's getting a bit absurd, isn't it? The fact is that people of Warringah rejected Tony Abbott at the last election. I have got my differences with Tony, but he lived in that electorate, he is someone who was passionate about that electorate. And they rejected him because of the policies. And it doesn't matter who the candidate is for Warringah. The policies of climate denialism, the lack of funding for universities, the lack of support for TAFE, the failure on health, the failure on so many policy areas, the failure to have an anticorruption commission at a national level will not be assisted, no matter who the candidate is.
This is a bad Government. Which is why Scott Morrison is campaigning today in Wentworth. Because he's worried not about winning seats back off an independent, he's worried about more seats going independent. And why are more seats potentially going independent from the former Liberal heartland? Because the Liberal heartland has abandoned business, has abandoned good policy on climate. And the fact that you have the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group and ACCI supporting Labor's plan rather than the Government's position says it all. The Liberal Party used to stand up for business. Now, they hate unions and they marginalise business on key fundamental policy areas which will be crucial to what happens in our economy in future years. So, they don't stand up with business, they don't stand for action on climate, they stand against a national anticorruption commission. That's why it's likely more seats, not less seats, will reject them in their former heartland at the coming election.
JOURNALIST: Your pitch yesterday was about renewal, not revolution. But if you're saying most things aren't going to change after the election, why should people vote for a change in government?
ALBANESE: We're going to change. But what we're going to do is have safe change. And I make no apologies for that. Australia's a great country. The question is - can we be better? I say, yes, we can. This is a great campus. I don't want to bulldoze it. I want to improve it. I want to give it more funding, I want to give its students more support, I want to give its teachers more support. I want to link in the TAFE with the university here on this great campus. I want to make sure that we build on what we currently have and build back stronger. That's the key. That's the key. Australia is a great country. I think we can be even better in the future. And what the next election is about is Labor that has the capacity to have a vision for a better future and then set about creating one with practical, affordable, realistic plans. That's what Australians want going forward. It's what I want to deliver as Prime Minister. I want Tanya Plibersek as my Education Minister, delivering. And I want Emma McBride as a major part of our team, already on the frontbench, bigger things ahead of her, I'm sure, over the years, to be able to contribute. And I want Robertson to join the Labor fold as well after the next election. Thanks very much.