By Tanya Plibersek

19 April 2021



MONDAY, 19 APRIL 2021 

SUBJECTS: Cuts to TAFE; Consent advertisements; Afghanistan citations; Rebuilding after Covid; Royal Commission into Veteran and Serving Defence Forces Suicide. 
ANITA DOW, STATE MEMBER FOR BRADDON: Welcome everyone. I'm really pleased to be here outside the Devonport TAFE with the Shadow Minister for Education, the Honourable Tanya Plibersek, Michelle Rippon, Labor Candidate for Braddon, and Senator Anne Urquhart, Labor Senator for Tasmania. And I'm Anita Dow, I'm a local Labor member here in Braddon, but also the Shadow Minister for Regional Development in Tasmania. And I'm really pleased to be here today talking about Labor's plan, a majority Labor government's plan, to invest in regional TAFE. TAFE has been underfunded and undermined for seven years by the Tasmanian Liberal government, and it's time that we did something about it. TAFE has been a key focus for Tasmanian Labor over a number of years now with the announcement of our key policy around free TAFE across critical skills shortages areas right across Tasmania. That is something that we are absolutely committed to deliver, because we understand that cost is a significant barrier to many Tasmanians accessing skills and training. But we also understand the importance that, no matter where you live, right across the Tasmania, the importance of having access to skills and training. That's why our policy invests in regional TAFE also and we'll have a key focus on that. Regional TAFE has been diminished over the seven years of the Liberal government, and we've seen cuts to night courses across regional communities, there are a number of cuts here, that my colleague Michelle Rippon will speak about later, here at the Devonport TAFE campus. We want to see investment in TAFE. We're not attempting to privatise it like the Liberals. We will invest in it. We understand the importance of it and the importance of it to Tasmania's economy. Now I'd like to hand over to the Shadow Minister for Education, Tanya Plibersek.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Thank you so much Anita. And it's a pleasure to be here with you, Michelle Rippon, and of course my very good friend and colleague, Senator Anne Urquhart. I was right here with Anne and with Anita three years ago talking about cuts to TAFE. And the really sad thing for Devonport TAFE, and for TasTAFE, and for TAFE around Australia, is things have only got worse in the last three years. What we've seen at a federal level is more than $3 billion cut from TAFE and training. 140,000 fewer apprentices and trainees today than when the Liberals came to office. And you really see that here in the north of Tasmania. Hundreds fewer apprentices here in the north. And we know that more than half of kids who are graduating from high school here in Tasmania aren't going on to further education at TAFE or university. And they're not going on to a job either. We've got some of the highest unemployment in Australia, and we've got some of the highest youth unemployment, here, in Australia. Three years ago, when I was here, we were talking to people who desperately wanted an education at TAFE, but they couldn't afford the education that would help them get a job so they could support their family. Well things have just got worse. And now, here in Tasmania, there's this plan to privatise TAFE, that would see TAFE fees increase by up to 600 per cent. That would be a disaster for Tasmania. Even though Tasmania has high unemployment, and high youth unemployment, there are skills shortages across Tasmania. Shortages in nursing, in social work, in carpentry and plumbing, across a whole range of professions you see skills shortages. What we need to see is investment in TAFE and training. And that's what would happen if you saw Rebecca White elected on the first of May here in Tasmania with a majority Labor government. There's a commitment from Tasmanian Labor to invest in upgrading the facilities of TAFE that have become so run down because of the cuts. There's a commitment to bring more teachers, more free TAFE places in those areas of skills shortage. So if people want to see better investment in TAFE and training in Tasmania, they should vote for Rebecca White and Labor on the first of May. Because what I hear are people who've had a gutful. They've had a gutful of cuts to TAFE. They've had a gutful of cuts to apprenticeships. They've had a gutful of TAFE prices being out of reach for ordinary people desperate for a job. So if you've had a gutful of cuts to TAFE and training, then vote for Rebecca White and Labor on the first of May. Michelle, did you want to add anything?
MICHELLE RIPPON, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BRADDON: Yes I can tell you some specific circumstances about this TAFE campus. They've seen cuts, they've seen equipment downgraded, not repaired. The spray painting and panel beating section of the TAFE actually has equipment, an oven, that's used by TAFE students all over the state. That is not working, so our students all over the state do not have access to this facility. People tell me stories, they've been here for 13,14 years, and none of the equipment has been upgraded. If we have apprenticeships, and we hope to have that in our community, the equipment that the students use is out of date. We've got a great need in this community for skills, businesses are crying out, and a Rebecca White and a Labor majority government will provide 20,000 places for students in areas of need – in aged care, disability, agriculture, all of the building infrastructure, all of the needs that are strong in our community. We don't want to see privatisation of TAFE. We fear that it will mean the end of these campuses. It would be the most dreadful thing for our young people and for our community. 
PLIBERSEK: Any questions?
JOURNALIST: What do you think of the [inaudible] campaign for schools?
PLIBERSEK: Look I haven't seen the advertisements. But I have read the response of the sexual education experts who have slammed these ads. They've said that the ads are inappropriate, that they don't explain consent, that they are simplistic, that they don't meet the standards that have clearly been set out for good sexual assault education in our classrooms. What a wasted opportunity. Like, how is it that this Government continues to get it wrong every time? We have people throughout the Australian community who have spent years or decades working with young people on sexual assault prevention education in our classrooms. Why hasn't the Government gone to these people and asked for help in developing these resources for classrooms and to be shown on our TV screens? This is a moment in Australian history where people are crying out for better consent education for our young people, across our community. What a wasted opportunity. Once again, we've got a government with an advertising-led response, and they haven't even got the advertising right.
JOURNALIST: [inaudible]
PLIBERSEK: Well there are really clear standards for how to do good sexual assault education, good sexual assault education that would reduce the likelihood of sexual assault happening. Those standards have been worked on by experts, people who have spent years standing up in front of teenagers, talking to them about consent and sexual assault and healthy relationships - actually working in classrooms and in the community to get this right. For goodness sake why don't we listen to the people who have been doing it right for so long, with so few resources, instead of throwing money at a campaign that the experts say simply won't work because the messages are too confusing.
JOURNALIST: What's your response to the news that the Special Operations task group as a whole won't lose its meritorious unit citation?
PLIBERSEK: I think it's very important that this has been cleared up. We know that thousands of Australians have served with great bravery and with distinction in Afghanistan. And of course people who have served with bravery and have served their country shouldn't be tarnished by the actions of people who are found to have behaved wrongly. 
JOURNALIST: Was the Chief of the Defence Force wrong to recommend stripping that merit in the first place? 
PLIBERSEK: I'm not going to comment on that. The Chief of Defence does a fantastic job.
JOURNALIST: When we look at TAFE where we are today how can we make training more specific for industry needs? Obviously we are trying to build our way out of the coronavirus pandemic here in Tasmania. 
PLIBERSEK: That is such an excellent question, because we know right around Australia there are particular industries that are crying out for skilled workers. They are desperate to partner with their local TAFE to say, we've got these skills gaps in our community. We want to train people in the local community, let’s work together. And because of the cuts to TAFE, more than $3 billion cut from TAFE and training federally. Because of the neglect of TAFE by the Gutwein Government here in Tasmania, industry and TAFE have really struggled to work together. Industry and TAFE can't partner when governments keep cutting funding. Industry and TAFE can't partner when apprenticeships and traineeships are being unfounded or defunded by the federal and state governments. And industry and TAFE won't be able to work together if a cost recovery model is pursued for TasTAFE. We know that where industry and TAFE work together the results are magnificent. Any other questions?
JOURNALIST: I just want to understand the cuts that you were referring to - you talked about outdated equipment and broken equipment. What cuts have happened at this TAFE? 
RIPPON: Well things like the equipment that the apprentices use. I hear stories about that all the time, that it’s not the industry standard equipment. Things are not funded. Teachers, we need more teachers, and things like the metal fabrication course used to a night course that was offered. There was always a waiting list, it was a popular course, that has been cut. They’re are some of the things that I have heard about. 
JOURNALIST: Should their be income support for young people to upskill?
PLIBERSEK: We absolutely need to make sure that when students are graduating from high school, and more than half of them aren't going to a job or further education, either TAFE or university, that those students have a pathway into work. We would much rather see students at TAFE, at university, than sitting at home on the dole, which is effectively what's happening for a lot of young Tasmanians at the moment. It is such a tragedy to know that more than half of our high school graduates aren't going on to work or further study when Tasmania continues to have skills shortages in so many critical areas. Skills shortages in nursing, in social work, in plumbing and carpentry, in metal fabrication. We know that these skills are necessary in our community and they’re necessary in our economy. How can it make sense to be paying unemployment benefits to young people to sit at home instead of having them go to TAFE to get an education that would help them get a job.
JOURNALIST: Why is it so important to have this hands on style training?
PLIBERSEK: We know that TAFE provides a really good practical education. And most often people are combining working with training when they're going to TAFE. If you're learning a trade, if you're learning any of the trades where we've got skills shortages - in fact last time I was in Devonport I spoke to a butcher, another great example. He was desperate to put on a young person in his shop, and he said he couldn't find the training that person would need to do their apprenticeship in the butchers that he ran. How crazy is it that we've got employers saying, I want to put someone on, but we don't have the training available in our local community to give that person the job and the training required to go on to be a butcher, or a plumber, or a carpenter, or an electrician, a metal fabricator, a social worker, a nurse, a hairdresser. How crazy is it that we've got this TAFE behind us that could be training these people for the jobs that are available in our communities, and yet the lack of funding from the federal Government, the cuts from the state Government, the threat of privatisation, the threat to go for a cost recovery model for TAFE education - all of this conspires to lock people out of a job. It conspires to lock people out of a job.
I really do have to say, whenever I've been in Tasmania I've met with people desperate to upgrade their skills. When we were last here we met with a mum who wanted to upgrade her retail qualifications to support her young daughter. I remember talking to her and how hard it was for her to contemplate what she would have to pay to upgrade her skills on the income that she was on. She felt locked out of work because she couldn't afford to go to TAFE. What a tragedy that is. And right across the economy, when you've got employers saying we want to put skilled staff on but we can't find the skilled staff, that's holding back the whole economy. 
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has just announced a Royal Commission into veteran and serving defence forces suicide. What's your response to that? 
PLIBERSEK: Well it's well overdue. This is well overdue. Labor has been saying, for the longest time, that nothing less than a full Royal Commission is appropriate. We have young Australians who go overseas to fight for their country. They do it with bravery. They do it with distinction. They come home, take their own lives, and their families are asking why?  How did our country fail these young people, after they served so bravely? Their parents, their partners, their families and friends, have been demanding a Royal Commission. And Labor has said all along that that is the only appropriate way to respond to the epidemic of veterans’ suicide that we've seen. This is a well overdue announcement from the Government.  It's so disappointing that it has taken Scott Morrison so long to admit he was wrong in the first place.