By Tanya Plibersek

02 September 2020


SUBJECTS: University fee hike, rebuilding the economy.

MURRAY JONES, HOST: Well yesterday in the Breakfast Show we were talking about what was happening in the JobSeeker, and of course some of the concerns for the younger people in our society who have been the ones who have paid the price. Interestingly, we want young Australians that are intelligent, that are informed, they’re questioning – but unfortunately if they don’t have that ability to get an education unfortunately we might just end up with a few too many of ScoMo’s “Quiet Australians”. Joining me this morning, Shadow Minister for Education and Training, Tanya Plibersek joins me this morning. Good morning Tanya, how are you today?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Good morning and it’s a pleasure to be with you Murray.

JONES: You too. Beginning of spring but of course some very, very different worlds we’re living in now, especially for our young people. Something we’ve discussed, and look I’m keen to talk about humanities because humanities I guess are so important in so many ways, some people think they’re a non-degree, but let’s talk about universities and the funding. And unfortunately psychology and quite a few of those, you know, child support workers and generally in humanities are the ones that are really getting extra cost put onto the students Tanya.

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, look the Government is trying to make it harder and more expensive for people to go to university at a time when really we should be making it easier to get an education. The dole queues are longer than they’ve ever been. We’ve got over a million unemployed Australians, and about 350,000 of them are young people. Wouldn’t it make more sense to help people get an education, or brush up their skills now, rather than go on the dole queue? Instead the Government is making it harder and more expensive to get into uni, and they’ve cut $3 billion from TAFE and training as well.

JONES: What we have seen from COVID-19 is a reliance on your local community. Let’s talk a little bit more about humanities and how humanities play such an important part in building and maintaining our strong communities.

PLIBERSEK: Well absolutely. Look, I think Murray the point here is that you need all types of graduates right? Of course we need science, maths and engineering – we’ve been relying on our doctors and our nurses and our researchers and our epidemiologists during this COVID crisis. But businesses themselves will tell you that they also want humanities graduates because those people with broad, general skills have a really important place in our businesses. Engineering companies, mining companies will tell you that they hire humanities graduates to communicate with the community that they’re working in, for example. So what’s interesting about this Bill is the Government’s pretending that they’re trying to get people to study maths and science, and stop people studying humanities because there are jobs in the first and there’s not jobs in humanities, but the truth is actually the employability of these graduates is about the same. After three years, about 87% of science and maths graduates have a job and about 87% of humanities graduates have a job. That’s because our society and our economy, we need people with a really broad range of skills. We need people who have gone to TAFE, we need people who have gone to uni. And it’s just silly for the Government to pretend that what they’re doing here is making it easier to study maths and science and harder to study humanities, they’re making it more expensive for all university students on average, and they’re taking $1 billion out of universities – that’s what this legislation does.

JONES: Now let’s just give history as an example, and it might not be an overly popular course, but students are likely to have an increase in their fees of 113%. So that effectively means that it actually costs more to do a degree in history than what it does in medicine or dentistry.

PLIBERSEK: It just makes no sense does it? If you really want good history teachers in high school why would you make it more expensive for someone to study history and to get that specialist skill, and then teach the next generation of young Australians our history? I’m really proud of our history, I love reading Australian history. My daughter is studying history at university along with her social work degree. I don’t think it makes any sense at all to be more than doubling the cost of knowing about our history, our Australian history.

JONES: And also as you know, you’ve been up here quite a few times. And one of the focuses you’ve had in recent years is getting aviation training up and happening which has been a very positive thing and dovetails well into our industries here in Cairns. COVID-19 has changed everything, so I guess there’s so many changes that need to occur with respect to education, what we’re doing with young people, and the training as well. But it seems like the Government is stuck in the past and not looking to the future as to the realities, as to the ways we really need to be going.

PLIBERSEK: Well Murray, you’ve probably forgotten but I remember last time I was visiting you it was to announce that Labor would’ve invested $10 million in Cairns to help CQ University’s Asia-Pacific aviation hub. We were going to put money into a new flight simulator and so on. Why wouldn’t we be doing that? I know that aviation’s taken a real hit at the moment, nobody’s flying anywhere at the moment. But it’s not going to stay like that forever and that aviation facility was going to be not just be training Australians for these jobs that were in high demand just a few months ago and will be again, it would’ve been training people from around the region, bringing money into Cairns. Well this government’s actually, they’ve not built the aviation hub, but their also trying to make it more expensive for those students to go and study aviation and get a job when the economy recovers. It just makes no sense.

JONES: Now this is a question that I have put to your leader. Obviously there’s some systemic changes that are needed. If Labor does get across the line at the next federal election are you in a position to bring people along on a ride and make the progressive changes? Bob Hawke, Paul Keating were responsible for some monumental changes in Australia. And we look back in history and I think, regardless of which side of politics you’re from, you can understand there were some important systemic changes. Is Labor up to the job of what’s ahead though?

PLIBERSEK: Well, not only are we up to the job, I think our country is crying out for it. Right now the most important thing we need to do is deal with the health crisis that’s enveloping our nation – we need to keep people healthy and safe. But we know that our economy has taken an enormous hit and we’re going to need to rebuild it stronger as we emerge from this pandemic. We’re in recession for the first time in 30 years. We need to reassure people that we can rebuild the economy, create jobs, give them the quality of life where they can put food on the table for their families and a roof over their heads, and we can do that. We absolutely can do that. You see what Australia has achieved during this difficult period, we can do it. But we need to do it by building things, that means infrastructure, the sort of infrastructure that makes our cities more liveable and our country more able to export to the world. We need to be making things, we need to get down our energy costs by investing in cheaper and cleaner renewables so that we can become a manufacturing country again. We need to be caring for people, actually employing people to do the work that needs doing, like in aged care. We’ve got than 100,000 people on home care waiting lists, who have been assessed as needing home care, that haven’t got it at the moment. We need to be putting money into jobs that are caring for people and we need to make sure that those jobs have decent pay and conditions because if people are insecure at work, if they don’t know when their next pay check is coming or how much they’re going to be earning, they don’t spend money, they don’t create jobs for other people. So we need to have good, secure employment so people can be confident to spend and invest. That’s how we rebuild our economy.

JONES: And look, I certainly accept what you’re saying about social issues. Because even with the state election here in Queensland, law and order has come up again as one of those issues – that is essentially a social issue so I accept what you’re saying that we need that background of humanities to have those strong social connections within our communities to deal with some of those social issues that may come up from time tot time with respect to law and order. Certainly some big changes in the air, and it’s interesting to see our Premier has announced about 55 million going to Landcare. So I think they’re some of the options, some of the realities that we need to look at in the not too distant future.

PLIBERSEK: Yeah. Let’s get people working. I mean Murray, seriously, I think for most people they get not just a pay check from work, they get self-esteem and discipline from work. And at a time like this when unemployment is going through the roof, we need to offer people hope – and a job and hope go absolutely hand in hand. And what Labor always says is that education and jobs go hand in hand too. If we want people to be employable, we need to make sure that we’re properly funding TAFE and universities.

JONES: Tanya Plibersek, she’s the Shadow Minister for Education and Training. Always great to talk to you, looking forward to seeing you back up in his part of the world, but thank you so much for your time this morning.

PLIBERSEK: I can’t wait to visit again Murray and see you in person.