18 September 2019




SUBJECTS: Low apprenticeship numbers; Cuts to TAFE and training; Family law inquiry; Homelessness; Gladys Liu.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Labor leader Anthony Albanese is speaking with the Business Council of Australia today, talking about Labor's relationship with the business community and one of things he will be talking about is the training gap in this country today. In a recent survey, three quarters of businesses said that they couldn't find a suitable workforce they need. We have got 1.8 million Australians who are unemployed or underemployed, and apprentice and trainee numbers have fallen of a cliff. There are 150,000 fewer apprentices and trainees today than there were when the Liberals came to office. There are fewer apprentices and trainees today than there were ten years ago. There are more people who are dropping out of their apprenticeships than completing them today. We have seen billions of dollars cut from TAFE and training and this is leading to the extinction of the Australian tradie. We've got shortages in areas - hairdressing, pastry chefs, motor mechanics, electricians, carpenters, builders - shortages right across the skilled trades. We could be training those 1.8 million unemployed and underemployed Australians for those great jobs but Scott Morrison, on his watch, has turned his back on training those people and filling the skills shortages that business are complaining about. There should never be a time in Australia where skill shortages co-exist with unemployed and underemployed young people, particularly as we are cutting investment in training up those people. It just doesn't make sense. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Just on a separate matter, in relation to the Family Court inquiry. Do you think that, I mean, advocates have been saying we've been waiting too long for this system to be fit for purpose. Do you think that that is fair?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it is very fair for people who interact with the family law system to say that change is long overdue. We've seen a very comprehensive report from the Australian Law Reform Commission - we can absolutely begin to implement the recommendations of that report before waiting for this new report to be completed. There are some very sensible suggestions that have been made after a deep study of the family law system - we don't need to wait to implement those recommendations. That doesn't mean that it's not also beneficial to hear from people who are interacting with the family law system about issues like the impact of family violence in the family law system and the impact that long delays and expensive procedures have on getting justice through the family law system.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the Government should shelve it's legislation to merge the Family and Federal Courts until this inquiry is done?

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely, this is a deeply troubling move. We should be looking for more specialisation in dealing with family law, not less specialisation. Where we have seen, for example, domestic violence courts set up in the states, we've seen the benefit that having judicial officers who are familiar with the impact of domestic violence. Having that speciality in the court has been very beneficial for the victims of violence.

JOURNALIST: We've got a number of mayors coming from around the country today to talk to the Government about homelessness and highlight the issue of capital cities. As Member for Sydney, do you think that more should be done (inaudible)?

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely. This Government has completely dropped the ball on homelessness. It is so disappointing that when the Liberals first came to office, they gave up on the previous Labor Government's target of halving the rate of homelessness in Australia. And we have seen the impact of that - in funding decisions, in the lack of attention to homelessness. It is completely unacceptable that in a country as wealthy as Australia, we have - I think at last count about 16,000 rough sleepers on any given night, maybe 160,000 in Australia all up are homeless. It is completely unacceptable and when Labor was last in Government we invested in about 80 new homelessness services, including in my electorate - terrific services like the new Common Ground facility and Annie Green Court in Redfern for frail, aged homeless people. We invested in new services, assertive outreach services that would go to where homeless people were congregating and offer them a pathway into housing. We invested in tens of thousands of new units of public housing and affordable housing through the National Rental Affordability Scheme. That's the kind of investment we should be seeing from this Federal Government. Instead they have turned their backs on homeless Australians.

JOURNALIST: Just on the latest with Gladys Liu, Scott Morrison received praise in a highly nationalist Chinese newspaper, is that (inaudible)?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I'm not going to comment on the business of opinion written in overseas newspapers but I would say this it is only ever been Scott Morrison that has pretended that these questions are about the whole Chinese community in Australia. They are absolutely not. They are about one Member of Parliament who should go into the Parliament, into the House of Representatives Chamber and explain her view, explain and answer the questions that have been asked about her donations and donations to her campaigns and so on. This is about one Member of Parliament. Scott Morrison is happy to go full bore when it's one of ours and he wants to run a protection racket when it's one of his. It's unacceptable. This is a test of leadership for Scott Morrison. He should insist that Gladys Liu go into the House of Representatives chamber and answer the questions that have been raised.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) volunteers during the campaign, when there was the prospect of internships in her office?

PLIBERSEK: Yes. I'm not going to comment on individual questions that have been asked about allegations relating to volunteers, relating to fundraising activities and so on, and membership of organisations. It is for Ms Liu to explain her position in the House of Representatives chamber. These are very serious questions that have been raised not, in fact, by Labor but through the media and it's important that Gladys Liu has the respect for the House of Representatives, or the Parliament, to go into the chamber and make clear her position on these allegations. Thanks everyone.