By Tanya Plibersek

26 May 2020


TUESDAY, 26 MAY 2020

SUBJECTS: PM’s press club speech - TAFE and training

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Thanks very much for coming out this afternoon. I wanted to make a few comments today about the TAFE and training elements of the Prime Minister's press club address. Our Deputy Leader, Richard Marles, will be speaking more comprehensively about the speech itself. But, when it comes to TAFE and training, I did want to make a few comments, because I got quite excited when I heard that the Prime Minister was going to be talking about TAFE and training today. I thought this was an opportunity for Australia to see more of the positive bipartisanship that we have seen in many elements of the COVID-19 response. I thought it was a chance for the Prime Minister to admit that there were serious problems when it comes to TAFE and training in Australia, and lay out a plan to fix those problems, and if there was areas where we could cooperate, that would have been a good thing.

Sadly, I was very disappointed and I think many Australians will be very disappointed by what they heard today.

After seven years of creating a training crisis in Australia - a skills shortage in Australia - after seven years of creating a shortage of tradies in Australia, the Prime Minister admitted that there was a problem and at the same time, admitted that he has got no solution to it. We heard no plan today - no extra dollars, no time-frame, no detail. We heard a Prime Minister admit that there is a tradie crisis and admit that he has got no plan to fix it. We didn't see JobMaker today, we saw JobFaker. This Government has cut $3 billion from TAFE and training. They've also under-spent by another billion dollars, despite the fact that around Australia we are facing skills shortages. Since coming to office- there are 140,000 fewer apprentices today than when the Liberals first came to Government. Even in the early months of this year, we saw a 73 per cent drop in the number of apprentice jobs advertised between January and April - a 73 per cent drop. These shortages exist across a whole range of industries and they exist in every part of Australia. In fact, if you look at Eden Monaro, 600 fewer apprentices today than when the Liberals first came to office, a 34 per cent drop. And, right across Australia, we have had shortages of bricklayers, electricians, carpenters, sheet metal workers, mechanics, hairdressers, pastry chefs - all sorts of jobs right across the board, at the same time as we had, even before COVID-19, almost two million Australians desperate for work - either unemployed or underemployed. How can it be that a country like Australia can have skills shortages right across our community, holding back businesses that want to expand at the same time as we had almost two million Australians unemployed or underemployed? Now as the number of unemployed Australians increases we need to make sure those people have the skills to do the jobs that will make Australian businesses successful. I've spoken to too many businesses who've told me that they would love to expand if they had the skilled workforce to do it. What a tragedy it is for those millions of Australians who have lost work or want more hours at work that they aren't trained for those jobs. This announcement today was an admission by the Government of the tradie shortage they created and an admission that they've got no plan to fix that skills crisis. It wasn't JobMaker - it was JobFaker. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Ms Plibersek thank you very much for your time this afternoon. I just wanted to bring you to what the Prime Minister outlined in terms of industrial relations [inaudible], I suppose you'd call it. There were areas where effectively, particularly those [inaudible] issues that Labor took to the last election. What particular areas are you concerned about or should be concerned about for Australian workers out of what the Prime Minister outlined today?

PLIBERSEK: Look our Deputy Leader Richard Marles will be commenting more broadly on the speech so I'll leave the comment on industrial relations to him. What I would say is we have been looking for ways to be supportive, positive and cooperative during this unprecedented national crisis. We will continue to do that wherever we can. Our leader, Anthony Albanese, has spoken about compacts between government, unions, and employers to make sure that we are skilling Australians for the jobs that become available. Anthony has talked about Skills Australia, he's talked about rebuilding TAFE. We want to do all those things in a way that's cooperative with the Government. Sadly, the Government didn't offer any of those things today. They haven't offered any plan to rebuild TAFE, to re-skill Australians, to prepare them for the jobs that we want to see in a growing economy as our economy hopefully begins to recover after this crisis.

Any other questions? Okay, thanks everyone.