10 October 2019





SUBJECTS: Liberals cuts to TAFE and training; Skills shortages; Scott Cam; Climate change policy; Newstart; US withdrawal from Syria.

GED KEARNEY MP, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR SKILLS:(audio cuts in) business and industry with their students and their employees and the TAFE sector to create a wonderful institution where we are training our auto mechanics and our automotive specialists for the future and making sure that they have skills that they can carry with them through life. Because that is what our vocational education and training sector should be about - giving people skills that give them decent jobs and a life where they can be assured of work. Unfortunately, our Federal government doesn't seem to see it that way because we know they have cut billions from this sector. They haven't invested in great institutions like our TAFEs. They are not really investing at all in young people. Just in this seat alone, the seat of Melbourne, since the Liberal Government has been in power, we have seen 900 apprenticeships lost. There are 900 less apprentices and traineeships in the seat of Melbourne alone, around 40,000 less apprentices across the state of Victoria. So it is really at a critical stage. We know young people are desperate for jobs, desperate for skills. Youth unemployment is at record highs in this country, and we are just very pleased to be here where an example of how you can actually do it properly and this is what Scott Morrison should be looking at. I'd like to hand over to Tanya Plibersek. Thank you.

TANYA PLIBERSEK MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Well, thanks very much Ged. It is fantastic to be here at the Kangan Institute today. This is a model of how a vocational education, apprenticeships and traineeships should be running in Australia. I want to congratulate Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister Tierney for the fantastic work and investment they've put into this facility - and to say to Scott Morrison, really, he should be looking at this sort of example as a model for what should be happening at a Federal level. What we've seen from the Commonwealth government is cut after cut after cut to vocational education and apprenticeships. We have 150,000 fewer apprentices and trainees today than when the Liberals first came to office. We have more people dropping out of apprenticeships today than completing them. We've got fewer apprentices and trainees today than 10 years ago and all that while we've got 1.9 million Australians looking for work or looking for more hours of work and we've got three quarters of Australian businesses saying they can't find the trained and skilled staff they need. How crazy is it that we are not training Australians for those jobs that are going begging? Scott Morrison's out today with Scott Cam saying that Scott Cam is going to be sort of ambassador for the trades in Australia. And you know, I've met Scott Cam, he's a good bloke, he used to live up the street from me. He is a good bloke but it's going to take more than one person to turn around the decline in apprenticeships and traineeships - the tradie shortage - that Scott Morrison has created in Australia. We've just seen recently the new list of occupations come out, the skills shortage list, and that list has got longer in the last year. In fact, it's increased by almost 10 per cent, the number of occupations on that skill shortage list. We've got shortages across the board - bricklaying, carpentry, joinery, automotive, aircraft maintenance, hairdressing, baking, pastry chefs - there are so many great jobs on that occupational shortage list that we could be training those 1.9 million Australians who are unemployed or underemployed for those jobs and instead the Federal government has cut $3 billion from TAFE and training. They've cut funding to TAFE. They've cut the tools for your trade program. They've cut support for group training. They have cut and cut and cut and the result of that is a shortage of tradies that Scott Morrison has created. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: On Scott Cam, the government hasn't actually said how much he's going to be paid, citing commercial confidence. Is that acceptable?

PLIBERSEK: Of course not. This is taxpayer money. If the government believes that this is a worthwhile investment they should be upfront about what they're spending. But this isn't about Scott Cam. He is a great bloke. This is actually about a Government that thinks you can cut $3 billion from TAFE and training and then turn around and hire someone to go on the telly and make it all better. You can't do that and our list of occupations on the skills shortage list is getting longer. We've got more skills shortages. We're running out of tradies. We're not training people for the jobs that are out there begging to be done, while we've got 1.9 million Australians who are unemployed or underemployed. How wrong is it that we've got people begging for a job, begging for an opportunity, desperate for more hours of work, desperate for the support they need to get a quality education and a trade and the Federal government's turned its back on those people. Here in Victoria, when Dan Andrews made TAFE free, 36,000 people enrolled this year in that program. Imagine if we had a Federal government that was prepared to invest in our people in the same way?

JOURNALIST: Minister, just a few climate change questions from my colleagues in Canberra. Do you back Joel Fitzgibbon's call to ditch the 45 per cent emissions reduction target in favour of the government's policy?

PLIBERSEK: Well, our leader Anthony Albanese has made it very clear that all of our policies are being renewed and reviewed at the moment and Joel Fitzgibbon is perfectly free to express his opinion during that process and I am perfectly free to disagree with him. Australia has an opportunity to see jobs growth and investment in renewables. Australians get it, you know, there's reason that when Labor came to government last time there were 7,000 households with solar rooftop panels and by the time we left office there was well over a million. People understand that investment in renewables will save money over the long term. Australians know that we can have strong action to promote investment in new renewable sources of energy and great jobs growth. Australians look around them, they see their country in drought, flood, bushfire and they know that the frequency and severity of these natural disasters will worsen if we don't take global action to limit climate change. In fact, the insurance industry says that the $18 billion a year that these disasters are costing us already is likely to double by 2038, unless we do something more substantial about these risks. What I want to see is Australia playing a role globally, seeing increased investment in renewable energy sources and some certainty and predictability in this sector. What we hear from energy providers is that there is a strike on investment in new energy sources because of the paralysis in government policy. What we want to see is more investment in renewable energy sources, more predictability, more certainty, more jobs that come from this. Australia can take action to reduce pollution and see great investment in new jobs. Instead, we have a Government that is presiding over increased pollution, increased power prices, decreased investment in energy and incredible insecurity and unpredictability in energy policy. There is no way that I would be taking this Government as a model for anything in energy policy.

JOURNALIST: Some of your colleagues are agreeing with Fitzgibbon. Is there now a clear split in your party over climate change?

PLIBERSEK: No. There is a discussion and discussion is very healthy. We actually have made it very clear that our policies are being reviewed. We're having that discussion as a Party at the moment, but I can tell you that this is not a choice between renewables and jobs. Renewables and jobs go absolutely hand in hand. This government has had sixteen different energy policies. They're still unclear about what they want to do to solve the problem of increasing power prices and increasing pollution that they have created.

JOURNALIST: Minister, what would you like the target to be?

PLIBERSEK: I'm not going to pluck a figure out of the air. That would be completely irresponsible. It's absolutely vital that we have a thoughtful, mature discussion that recognises that we in a perfect storm of inaction and unpredictability at the moment. We've got a government that has seen power prices increase, pollution increase and the government should actually be setting a course to resolve those twin problems of increasing pollution and increasing power prices. We have been happy to back them on the National Energy Guarantee and several of their previous policies. It's been the government's inability to land on a policy that has been the delay in Australia. It's healthy for us to have a discussion, but let's see some real action and some real pressure on the government to answer the question of what they're going to do about increasing power prices and increasing pollution.

JOURNALIST: Wouldn't it be pragmatic to agree to work with the government on 28 per cent and then once that's reached, set a more ambitious target from there?

PLIBERSEK: Seriously, this government isn't going to even meet the pathetic targets that it has. We have a government that is seeing pollution increase year after year and, at the same time, power prices increase. Like you would not think it would be possible for a government to get it so completely wrong and yet they have. Labor has shown more than once that we are happy to work with the government on sensible policies, you know, the National Energy Guarantee - the last proposal that the government had - the last big proposal they had, we said we would work with them. We didn't think it was the ideal policy. We didn't think it was the best thing ever suggested in this area, but we were prepared to work with the government to see some certainty and predictability in this sector. It's the government that couldn't get its act together despite the fact that the National Energy Guarantee passed through the government Party room. The revolt from the backbench scuttled that last policy. Honestly, this is the government that is all at sea when it comes to energy policy.

JOURNALIST:Minister, do you believe that Labor's ambitious target cost you the election or was it just Bill Shorten's failure to sell it?

PLIBERSEK: Well, there'll be plenty of analysis of why we lost the election. I would certainly say that a strong policy to drive new investment in energy generation and distribution networks that provided certainty and security, that had great programs like our solar schools program, was an asset during the campaign and I will be arguing that Australia should see increased investment in renewables and that will go hand-in-hand with jobs, with lower pollution and lower power prices overtime.

JOURNALIST: Back on employment and on Newstart in particular, a lot of debate in Canberra at the moment. One of your colleagues has accused the government of demonising people on Newstart and Holly Hughes has fired back saying that your policy which was rejected at the last election was just a review of a review with no budget. What do you say to that?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it's interesting that both the business community and even National Party MPs are saying how important it is to increase Newstart. The level of Newstart now is so low that it is locking people out of work. It means you can't afford the transport to get to the job interview. You can't afford a new shirt every now and again to present well at an interview. We've got 1.9 million Australians that are either unemployed or underemployed who want more work. We've got employers saying, three quarters of employers saying, that they can't find the skilled workforce they need and we've got desperate unemployed people that are struggling to get into the workforce because of the under investment in new training opportunities for them. I mean, this government, really, has a lot of questions to answer in this area, on Newstart in particular, business groups, National Party MPs, right across the board, there is acknowledgement that an increase in Newstart would not only make it easier for people to find work, it would make it a lot better in those regional communities where people are really, really struggling, right across the whole community.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister has defended Donald Trump's decision to withdraw troops from Syria. Do you think that's the right approach?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think all Australians and right around the world now, people are looking at the situation in Northern Syria with grave concern. The Kurdish fighters who stood up against Daesh or Islamic State - whatever you want to call the murderous group of thugs - those Kurdish fighters fought very bravely to protect their home, land and protect their people. Syria now is entering into a period where we hope there will be greater peace and stability and it is very difficult to see how this latest decision improves the likelihood of peace and stability. What we want for all of the communities across Syria now is the opportunity to live in their home country of Syria, in peace, side by side. That's what we hope for Syria today.

JOURNALIST:What concerns does Labor have about foreign fighters returning home from Syria?

PLIBERSEK: Well, of course, we are very concerned, as all nations are, about foreign fighters potentially returning home, and we would be very keen to work with the government to ensure that we take the best advice from our security and intelligence agencies to keep Australia safe.

JOURNALIST: The PM has said that the government is deeply concerned about Turkey's actions in all of this and says the Turks are responsible for that unstable situation. Do you agree?

PLIBERSEK:Look I'm not going to get into a hypothetical discussion about what might happen in coming days. What I would say is that Syria has seen so much violence and bloodshed that it is the hope of every Australian, and I believe the whole international community, that that ends. That there is peace and stability, that the diverse communities of Syria are able to live side by side together. It is critical that the international community sends a very strong message that that's our hope and that all of the actors in the region work towards that outcome

JOURNALIST: Do you have a very strong message to send to Turkey's President Erdogan aboutthis?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the global community is saying that what we all hope for Syria is peace and stability. That this is a time to work towards that aim.

Thank you all.