By Tanya Plibersek

21 April 2021




SUBJECTS: Jobs; TasTAFE; Women’s homelessness; Tasmanian state election.

JOHN HAY, HOST: Welcome to 97.1.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION & SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: It's such a pleasure to be invited, and your listeners can't see what I can see but I'm looking out the window at the most beautiful view from any radio studio that I have ever seen in my life. 
HAY: That's wonderful. We think it's great but we get used to it. [inaudible]. Thank you for the compliment, and I must say you're probably pleased to get in out of the weather, too. 
PLIBERSEK: It's a bit chilly out there. 
HAY: We've got a few things we want to talk about and unfortunately we're a bit short on time, because we cut to the news at 12pm automatically, so it's out of my control. We'll lead in to whatever you want to bring up and talk about, and we'll follow it from there. 
PLIBERSEK: I'm really thrilled to be here with my federal colleague, Brian Mitchell, today, but was also a minute ago with Janet Lambert who's the state candidate for Lyons, and we went together to visit a fantastic program just down the road from you here - 'Rural Alive and Well' program. 
HAY: It's great, isn't it?
PLIBERSEK: Both Brian and Janet had been telling me what great work they do, and I wanted to see for myself first hand. Gee, I was impressed by the commitment they've got to this community, to the whole of Tassie actually - making sure that people who are having a bit of a tough time get the help they need to get through it. It was good seeing that. Yesterday I was up north, I was at Devonport visiting the Devonport TAFE, and hearing from some of the people who are students there or want to be students there, some of their teachers, how they're really struggling. The TasTAFE is pretty run down these days. It's had a lot of funding cuts over the years. People are really struggling, they'd love to get at TAFE education, but they're turning students away because they can't afford the TAFE course. That's a real tragedy. 
Tasmania's got very high unemployment by national standards. It's got very high youth unemployment. Too many young people are leaving high school, they're not going to a job and they're not going to TAFE or university to help them get a job. That's a real waste, and at the same time when I travel around Tassie, I talk to some employers who say: 'we'd love to put people on, but we don't have the skilled staff'. In particular, it feels like I've spoken to butchers, plumbers, carpenters; I know there's shortages of nurses and social workers, sheetmetal workers. There is a whole range of shortages across Tassie - we've got a great TAFE system, if we invest in it, we can train up people to do those jobs - it helps the individual, it helps employers who are looking for skilled staff. It's terrible that the Gutwein Government hasn't been doing it. And of course, there's been big federal government cuts to TAFE and training as well. 
HAY: Yeah, yeah. I used to run a training school for hospitality. And we were trying to, within one week, take people to an introduction to hospitality and get them ready to go into the workforce and get on the job training, but that was a quick shortcut to get people into the system because there was a lack of the skilled staff available. 
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, and that's great. Any introduction and that gets you through the front door and gets you a job is a really good start. 
HAY: That's right. 
PLIBERSEK: But what we see now in a lot of TAFE campuses is we're expecting people to train up for industries on equipment that's 20 and 30 and 40 years old - and the saddest stories actually, I've heard of ones from people who say: 'I really want to study a Retail Certificate III. I'm unemployed I want to get a foot in the door to be able to get a job so I can support my child, my kids. But I can't afford the few hundred bucks that it would cost.'  That breaks my heart because you see people who really want to do what we're all telling them to do, which is going to get a job. You've got employers saying we've got shortages of skilled staff in some fields. Putting the two together seems like a no-brainer. It's such a disappointment that we're letting so many people down. 
HAY: Well, I wish you all best. It's close to my heart with the training as I said. Once you get people into a job or doing something then they can do more further on, but getting it first job is so significant.
PLIBERSEK: It sure is and that gives you a whole lot of confidence, too. It's about employers knowing that you're able to do the work and you're up to it, but the self-esteem that people get from work is so important.
HAY: Anyway, that's just part of part of your aim - to get TAFE up and going and we're alive and well, going okay. Your other portfolio is for women, how does that relate to the Shadow Minister for Women?
PLIBERSEK: Well this morning, I was in Launceston talking to some of the organisations that work in and around Launceston about the sorts of challenges they're faced with. You know right across Tasmania at the moment, Iit's almost impossible to find an affordable rental. So we've got families where there's violence in the home, we're saying to women: 'stay safe, you and the kids need to leave'. And there's literally nowhere for them to go. 
HAY: That's exactly right. 
PLIBERSEK: And even emergency accommodation - the most critical categories of emergency accommodation, people are waiting up to year for housing. It's just completely unacceptable and it's unsafe. I think that's another area where we need to do much better not just in Tasmania, but around Australia. 
HAY: I've seen overseas at one stage, they've got these little virtually heated pods - a mini tent type of operation - they're giving to homeless people to get them sleeping safe and sleeping well. I mean there's a whole range of things that can be done to alleviate - I don't mean you’ve really got to build a three-bedroom house for everybody, but there are other avenues out there. 
PLIBERSEK: In Australia, we've got different programs that give out swags to people and so on but really I want to do better than that. I think that's absolutely the last resort, having more affordable rentals and making sure that we've got emergency accommodation for people to go to when they need help is really important. And of course, if you take a step back - actually changing our laws and our culture in our society to make it really clear that violence is never acceptable. It's not acceptable in the family home. It's not acceptable if someone's walking home late at night. It's never acceptable.  
HAY: Unfortunately, the culture needs big change in that area - in some areas, a lot of us have adapted to it very well. But there are areas where ‘man is king, and you do what I say’. 
PLIBERSEK: We have to think about how we're raising our kids, right? They mimic what they see, and too many kids with their mobile phones or devices are accessing pornography too early. The average age of first viewing pornography in Australia today is 10 years old. It's terrible because kids get completely the wrong idea about what relationships are about, and what healthy and respectful relationships look like. So we do have to make sure that the resources are there, that our legal system is suitable, we've got emergency accommodation - that the system isn't stacked against victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment. We've also got a really big job of changing our culture when there's all these negative influences. 
HAY: Well, I hope you've got some avenue to do that in the Federal Parliament of course.
PLIBERSEK: I do and I'm lucky I've got great people like Brian Mitchell to help me do it. 
BRIAN MITCHELL, MEMBER FOR LYONS: The issue about homelessness, in particular, the emergency list has grown from just over 2,000 to more than 3,000 now, John. So, we're going the wrong way. We need to build more public housing. We need to get more people into affordable rentals. It starts with identifying the problem and then doing something about it. And we're heading the wrong way at the moment.
HAY: It's no good waiting for the short-term solutions, they're not a positive or ultimate solution, but there's got to be other steps you can take to get through the transition - to get into this, rather than say: 'wait until we've got 400 homes, and then we'll get people in them'. 
MITCHELL: Yeah, as Tanya says though, those emergency measures are very important, but we are better than that as a country. We never used to be like this and I think as we've seen, it's not just a better roof over people's heads, if we can get people into homes. It's about education, it's about nutrition and it sets people up for a better future if they can have a safe roof over their head - for their kids, then they have better schooling, they have better opportunities at life. So we've got a housing crisis in the state and we absolutely need to be doing much more to address it.
PLIBERSEK: In a country like Australia, you shouldn't see a Mum sleeping in the car with her kids. But it's happening too often. The organisations I was talking to this morning were saying that they are regularly dealing with families in absolute crisis. They're running from the home with only the clothes they're wearing, and Mum is sleeping in the car with the couple of kids - and they're told they have to wait months or a year for accommodation. It's completely unacceptable. 
HAY: I spent one night in a car in Queensland, and I couldn't get accomodation. I was lucky I had my son's car available to me up there. I slept in the car for one night, and that was absolutely horrendous. Imagine if it was you living in it with your goods and chattels. I just can't fathom. 
MITCHELL: That's right.
HAY: Moving on, you've got to really try and do something with it. How long are you in the state for?
PLIBERSEK: I arrived yesterday and I'm off tomorrow. So three days. And it's been a funny time with COVID hasn't it? Because of course the travel's been on and off and you've been able to, then not able to. It's the first time I've been in Tassie for three days for a while now, but I love it here. I absolutely love it here. We've had quite a few fantastic family holidays in Tasmania, and just being in Oatlands reminded me how much my daughter, in particular, loves the historic buildings you've got here. There's really something for everyone. My husband's looking forward to coming down and doing a bit of surfing. I can't keep asking whether he can stand the water temperature, he reckons he's got a thick enough steamer so he'll be alright. My middle son, he's big fanatic for the food you've got down here. Every time I get back, he says: 'did you bring me any raspberries, did you bring me some of the great chocolate?'. 
HAY: We've that got a reputation for some of that food and beverage.
MITCHELL: Unfortunately, Tanya, you won't be here in about two weeks. They're opening up the new big distillery here in Oatlands. Which has been a massive project - more than $30 million. It will really reinvigorate the town here.
PLIBERSEK: I thought that announcement I saw from Tasmanian Labor for the state election about upgrading main streets and investing in tourism infrastructure is so important in Tasmania. And particularly where you've got lots of little towns that are perfect for visitors and crying out for visitors, it will create jobs - and it's so beautiful. Like honestly the buildings in this town, they could be a film set. 
HAY: Well they have been. 
MITCHELL: Rosehaven. 
PLIBERSEK: Rosehaven's one of my favourite shows. I love it. They're all jobs.
HAY: We've had a few feature films made here. 
PLIBERSEK: I'm a bit Jane Austen fan, and I can just imagine Oatlands as the village of Meryton in the next Jane Austen dramatisation. 
HAY: We'd welcome it if you could do it. We're very proud of the place. We get a bit blasé about it at the time because we're here and it's here all around us and we don't realise what we've got until you go away and see other places but we're very, very lucky in that way, that they are isolated. We haven't had the full effect of COVID down here that you had in the mainland. We were supposedly the best in a lot of ways. 
PLIBERSEK: I think Australia has done well in keeping COVID out, but I am a bit worried about Tassie. You can't use COVID as an excuse for everything, and Tasmania's still got higher unemployment than the national average. It's got higher youth unemployment. There's a $12,000 gap in the average wage and that's got $1,000 worse under the Gutwein Government. You've got emergency waiting times blowing out. You've got surgical waiting lists blowing out. You've got ambulances waiting outside hospitals because you've got no bed to discharge the person. The housing situation here is really dire for a lot of families. I know you've got a State election coming up shortly and Rebecca White and her team have got a lot of plans to fix some of these issues. I understand that people feel Australia's been lucky and Tassie's been lucky at keeping the COVID out, but we've got to really look at some of those other underlying issues that were there before COVID started and have just got worse. 
HAY: They'll be here after COVID's gone too. Thank you so much for coming in and being part of it show. I wish you all the best and hope everything goes well for you. 
PLIBERSEK: It's always a pleasure being here. I can't wait to get back here on a proper holiday with the family.