12 September 2019




SUBJECTS: Low apprenticeship numbers; early childhood funding; Gladys Liu; Iran; Climate change.

TANYA PLIBERSEK MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Well two reports out this week show that what Labor has been saying about education in Australia is right. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare have released a report that shows that apprentice numbers today are lower than they were ten years ago. This report shows that there are more people dropping out of apprenticeships and traineeships than completing them, and that the number of people completing their apprenticeships is lower today than any time since 2001. This is a tragedy at a time when we have skills shortages across Australia, where businesses are telling us that they are crying out for skilled staff, and we have 1.8 million Australians that are unemployed or underemployed. We should be training those unemployed or underemployed Australians today to meet the skills shortages that businesses are identifying. There are 33 trades on the skills shortage list that we should be training Australians to do. Skills such as hairdressing, bricklaying, carpentry, motor mechanic, pastry chef - all of these are great jobs that we know are missing in our economy, holding up the pace of economic growth - and yet this Government has cut $3 billion from TAFE and training, so we're not training Australians to fill the vacancies. We've also seen an OECD report that shows that Australia spends about half of the average - OECD average - on early childhood education and care. And this report also points out that education continues to fall as a share of government spending. These are all very concerning statistics, going in exactly the wrong direction. The cuts that started in 2014 to education continue today and it's having a catastrophic impact on our economy. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Should Gladys Liu resign?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the position is very difficult indeed. For a start, Gladys Liu should front the Parliament and make a statement to the Parliament. Putting out a press release saying 'nothing to see here' is certainly not answering questions. The tradition is, if a Member of Parliament has serious questions to answer, that a statement she would make, or he would make - a statement to the Parliament. And the second thing to say is that the Prime Minister, who has made issues like this a test of leadership in the past, the Prime Minister should be answering questions. The reports today that suggest the Liberal Party were warned about Gladys Liu, were warned not to put her into the Parliament, that the former Prime Minister was warned not to attend a function that she organised, these things raise very serious questions indeed. They are questions that the Prime Minster has to answer.

JOURNALIST: How concerned should we be for the three Australians detained in Iran?

PLIBERSEK: I think it is very important to say that the Opposition gives full support to the Australian Government to negotiate the safe release of these Australians detained in Iran. We offer all our support and help. It would be an extremely difficult time for the families and friends of those who have been detained and I don't propose to comment any further on it.

JOURNALIST: Speaking of things changing direction, is Labor about to dump its emissions reduction target that it took to the last election and what kind of message does that send to people who campaigned so heavily on that platform?

PLIBERSEK: The Leader has made it very clear - Anthony has made it very clear - that all of our policies are up for re-examination at this time. But I would say Labor Party members are proud of our ambitious climate change agenda and it's really the Government that should be answering questions about what is happening with climate change policy in Australia. We have got a Government - I mean I have literally lost count of how many energy policies they've had, I don't know if we are up to 15 or 16 - and what we know about those policies is power prices are still going up, pollution is still going up, we are spending billions of dollars of taxpayers money and achieving none of the objectives that the Government has set itself. Energy prices are up, and pollution is up. We need in this country certainty for people to invest in new electricity generation capacity. We know that renewables are getting cheaper all the time. We need to act strongly in Australia to reduce our pollution, and that has the added benefit of reducing power prices for households. There is a reason that people are putting solar panels and batteries on their homes - renewables are becoming cheaper all the time.

JOURNALIST: So saying all of that, you would be opposed to changing the reductions target that Labor took to the last election?

PLIBERSEK: We are years out from the next election. Our Leader has made it very clear that we are looking at all of our policies and we are not in any rush to make these sorts of announcements. What I would say is that Australians understand that we need to act decisively on climate change or we are leaving our grandchildren a diminished planet. I'd also say it is up to the Government, that the Government actually needs to have an energy policy and a climate change policy. We have people in this Government today who are still saying that they're not really sure whether man-made climate change is actually a thing. I mean, truly, in 2019 we've got Government ministers who aren't really sure whether the overwhelming evidence, scientific evidence, the overwhelming scientific opinion around the world - they aren't really sure whether that's right or not. Come on.

Thanks everyone.