By Tanya Plibersek

20 April 2021




SUBJECTS: Liberals’ cuts to TAFE; Visit to Tasmania; Tasmanian election. 
LEE DIXON, HOST: We’re seeing plenty of signs in people's front yards Jess. There must be an election on the way?
JESS BENNETT, HOST: Oh you think?
DIXON: I’m getting that feeling. It's a sea of green, blue and red at the moment and in the blue corner, oh in the red corner I should say, getting my colours mixed with my microphone socket, which confused me. Good morning to Tanya Plibersek, who is Shadow Education Minister, with us right now. Hello!
BENNETT: It's great to have you here.
DIXON: Welcome to Tasmania, the Apple Isle. 
PLIBERSEK: I love it here.
BENNETT: It's a busy time. And we're here today to talk specifically about TAFE which has been a big talking point in, not just this election, but past elections and past by-elections in this region in particular as well. What is Labor's plan to transform TAFE and make things that little bit easier?
PLIBERSEK: I was here outside Devonport TAFE three years ago. And the terrible thing about going back three years later is things have got worse, not better. So federally, of course, we've got a plan to make sure that one in ten jobs on big government contracts go to apprentices. This is the first step in reversing $3 billion of cuts to TAFE and training at the federal level - and 140,000 fewer apprentices and trainees. But here in Tasmania, you've got a really big difference between state Liberal and state Labor when it comes to TAFE as well. The Liberals obviously want to privatise TAFE and increase TAFE fees by up to 600 per cent. Whereas Bec White and Labor are talking about free TAFE in areas of skills shortage and big money to upgrade TAFEs and employ more trainers and teachers. 
DIXON: So during your visit here you paid a visit as you just said to the Devonport campus. What does it mean moving forward? I mean, you're using the example of where somebody was studying at TAFE and they were looking at expanding their repertoire and they just simply couldn't afford it under a plan going forward.
PLIBERSEK: It's just terrible isn't it? Right now, Tasmania has some of the highest unemployment rates in the country, and youth unemployment is particularly bad. More than half of young people when they leave school don't go to a job and they don't go to TAFE or uni either. At the same time as we've got this really terrible problem with unemployment. We've got skills shortages. We've got employers who say to me when I'm here in Tassie, we would love to put on someone. The last time I was in Devonport I spoke to a butcher who said he'd love to put someone on but he couldn't find the trained staff he needed to do it. We know there are shortages of nurses and social workers and plumbers and carpenters and sheet metal workers - there's a whole range of shortages - for goodness sake what we need to do is make sure that you can train affordably, that the TAFE facilities are up to scratch, they're not working on equipment that's 30 and 40 years old, and that the teachers are there. And most of all, that people can afford the fees. Now, it's bad enough now, you're quite right Lee, we spoke about a woman who wanted to do a retail certificate, sole parent, wanted to be able to support her young daughter. She couldn't afford the TAFE fees that went along with that. How bad is that? Locking people out of a job that way.
DIXON: So are you saying under Labor's plan, shot in the arm for TAFE, really hone in on those, the niche skills shortage?
PLIBERSEK: Absolutely. So here in Tasmania they're talking about free TAFE for those areas of skills shortages But they're also talking about extra teachers and upgrading the facilities. Because it's no good teaching someone to work in sheet metal fabrication or on computers or in a commercial kitchen if the equipment you're using is from the Stone Age.
BENNETT: What else have you been up to on the coast over the last couple days? 
PLIBERSEK: Well I visited a lovely school, Montello School in Burnie. And I spoke to parents and teachers there who love their school but are really worried that schools across Tasmania are pretty rundown. You see a lot of schools that haven't had any major work done since, well, last time there was a Federal Labor government when we did the big school upgrades then, which is a real shame.
DIXON: They kind of stand out like the proverbial, don't they? You've got the old weatherboard buildings and a brand-new duplex in one of the corners of the property.
PLIBERSEK: And every school I go to, they point out that new facility and they say that was the last time we had a major upgrade, that was under Kevin Rudd. 
DIXON: Dear oh dear.
PLIBERSEK: So we need to see better facilities for our kids because, you know, it sends a really strong message. If we as a society are investing in our kids' education, we're saying this is important, as a community we value this, we want to give you good facilities for your learning. And if we if we do the opposite, if we let these schools run down, what message are we sending our kids?
BENNETT: It is important for parents as well to be able to have that confidence to send … I always a sort of grew up feeling so proud of the fact that I went through a public school education. I loved it. I speak so highly of it and I have always had a lot of belief in that, that public system and now as a parent with a little girl going off to school next year, I'm making those big decisions and speaking to so many other parents about sort of their faith in the public education system here at the moment and there are concerns.
PLIBERSEK: Look I'm a proud product of the public education system as well.
BENNETT: We turned out OK!
PLIBERSEK: And I had fantastic teachers. You know, I had such inspiring teachers who put so much time and energy and work, above and beyond what they were paid to do. They were really committed to their students.  But we expect teachers to do more and more with less and less. We need to properly fund our schools as well.
DIXON: Good messages regardless of who people are deciding to tick for on Election Day. Have you got a message for voters listening this morning?
PLIBERSEK: Oh my message is always pay attention. Like, I know people get really sick of elections. This isn't a party, you know, I'm not saying Labor, Liberal, whatever now, I'm saying really, you know, really investigate what the parties have to offer you. If you care about investment in our schools and in our hospitals, in making sure our waiting lists for elective surgery aren't too long, that people aren't stuck in ambulances trying to get into a hospital, then I think the answer is obviously a Rebecca White majority Labor government. But regardless of that, please don't, please don't shut off to it. 
PLIBERSEK: Really get into the details because that's how democracies work best if people care.
BENNETT: And I think this time around it has seemed easier. And I will just mention Rebecca White specifically. With every post on social media there is a link to the full plan, to the full policy. There's always going to be keyboard warriors saying, yeah, but what if and if they can then be directed back to the actual item? What does that mean? 
DIXON: Well here's the thing, you can't say everything in the four minutes we've got you in the studio. You just can't. It's impossible. So people need to make an educated and informed choice come election day. 
PLIBERSEK: Absolutely, and you know, you look around the world and people fight and die for the right to vote and we get asked every Saturday a few times, you know, every few years.
DIXON: A small ask.
PLIBERSEK: To turn up and choose the people who make these decisions for you. I think our democracy works best when people put a bit of time and energy into thinking about what matters to them and who would best represent those values. 
DIXON: Tanya Plibersek, thank you. 
PLIBERSEK: It's a pleasure.