By Tanya Plibersek

21 February 2022


SUBJECTS: Visit to Central Queensland; Labor’s plans to help more people go to Uni and TAFE; The Liberals’ attack on TAFE and training.
MICHAEL J BAILEY, HOST: Let's cross over to Tanya Plibersek, of course Shadow Minister for Education and Shadow Minister for Women. She's coming into our area, first flying into Emerald, then of course into our home base here at Rockhampton with some pretty big announcements. It's all to do with education. Good morning to you Tanya, how are you? 
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Good morning, Michael. It's great to be with you. How are you? 
BAILEY: Good. Look I've followed you for years and years, I still do, and your heart just bleeds education. You've always been there for education, haven't you? 
PLIBERSEK: Oh look, I love this portfolio. I chose it because I know what a huge difference a great education can make for one kid, and I know that it's really important for our nation as well. We can't be a successful, prosperous nation if we're not educating and training our young people for the jobs that are going to be there in 5 years, 10 years, 30 years' time. 
BAILEY: Yeah look your gonna be very busy because you're about to fly into Emerald and then make some announcements, then flying here into a Rockhampton. And it's all about education and the lost opportunities to apprentices. Tell us this story. 
PLIBERSEK: Yeah. Well, I'm really looking forward to visiting Rockhampton and I'll be there visiting Central Queensland University and talking about University and TAFE opportunities. In the Rockhampton area there are almost 1000 fewer apprentices and trainees today than when the Liberals and Nationals came to government nationally. That's a real problem. In a place like Rockhampton we know that there are jobs available, employers are talking to us about the fact they can't find the skilled staff they need. We've got a plan to to fund 465,000 free TAFE places and also 20,000 extra University places, and we want to make sure that Rockhampton gets its fair share of those. So I'll be visiting CQU with Russell Robertson, our candidate for Capricornia, and talking to the University about the sort of places they can offer locals to get the job of their dreams. 
BAILEY: So how did we lose 900 apprentices?
PLIBERSEK: Well, the Liberals and Nationals have cut billions of dollars from TAFE and training. They've also turned their backs on University. So you can't find a place in TAFE and you can't find a place in University. And that's crazy because we've got a million and a half of Australians who have got no work or want more hours of work, and one in every four Australian employers tells us that they've got jobs that they can't fill because they can't find the skilled Australians to do the work. Now, this has been covered up before COVID because essentially we were flying in people to do these jobs, flying them in on short term employment contracts to cover up the skills shortages. But COVID has meant that those skills shortages are really obvious. We have to be training Australians today for the jobs that are going begging today, and the jobs that will be available in 5 years and ten years' time. 
BAILEY: Tanya, I notice 465,000 free TAFE places - are you saying that we're charging too much to get skilled up.
PLIBERSEK: Oh look I think for some people it is too expensive to go to TAFE and that's not particular to Queensland, that's happening right across Australia. People are saying I would go and study but I can't afford to do it now. I don't want any Australian to miss out on the opportunity of a good job because they can't afford the qualification they need to do the work. But it's also because the Federal Government has cut billions of dollars from TAFE and training. So all of the money that used to be there to help the states and territories to make sure that the TAFEs had the latest equipment, the latest facilities, so that people could learn in a way that was industry relevant, a lot of that's been put under real pressure in recent years
BAILEY: Doesn't it boil down to going back to basics and making sure that our kids get the proper education so that they know where they're going, to have a look at what TAFE place they'd like to go into. Because it seems to me that a lot of people do drop out in Grade 11, 12. And all of a sudden you know what happens, five or six years later the light turns on, they haven't got the education to get in. 
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, look I think it's really important that we get our school system right. And that's why Labor has committed to extra funding for schools for the day-to-day running of them and making sure that the facilities the right. Because you're absolutely right there Michael, kids need the basics under their belts. They need to be able to read, and write, and do maths and science, and these days knowing how to use a computer is as important as knowing how to use a pen. So they need to get the basics under their belt, and then they need really good careers advice saying, "these are your options: if you want to go to TAFE, if you want to be earning sooner this is the pathway for you, if you're interested in University these are the sort of courses that you might be interested in'. All of that needs to happen. None of that can happen when the Federal Government keeps cutting funding for schools, for TAFE, for universities.
BAILEY: And Tanya, how much is this going to cost us? Because you know, we see that figure 465,000 free TAFE places. I know in the long run we'll get our money back via taxes and everything, but the initial startup, what's it going to cost? 
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, that almost half a million places will cost $621 million, but we see this is this is an investment. It's an investment in individual people, because like you say, when you get a job, when you get a better job, you're paying more tax. But it's also an investment for our businesses. Australia can't be successful globally, we can't compete in our neighbourhood, if we're not skilling up our workforce. We know that there are businesses that are being held back from expanding. I have employers who meet me and tell me "I could put on half a dozen extra people if I could find them". And we are letting down those individuals who miss out on the job. And we're letting down our economy, we're letting down our businesses that want to grow if we're not skilling up Australians to do that work. 
BAILEY: Well, I reckon it's $630 million well spent. Bring it on, that's what I say.
PLIBERSEK: Bring it on. I agree. 
BAILEY: All right, bring it on. And welcome to CQ. And you know, you're always welcome here at 220 Quay Street, OK Tanya? 
PLIBERSEK: Thanks so much. It's lovely to talk to you, Michael. Have a good day.