03 October 2019




SUBJECTS: Interest rate cut; Skills shortages; The economy.

LAURA JAYES, PRESENTER: Joining me now is the Shadow Education Minister, Tanya Plibersek. Thank you so much for your time. We just spoke to the Treasurer. He and the Prime Minister have been talking tough - the banks, as they always have, have ignored that language and have done what they want anyway. What would Labor do?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING:Well it is important that the banks pass on any savings to customers. The reason the Reserve Bank is dropping interest rates is to increase activity in the economy and if the banks don't pass on these savings to their customers, then you are not able to see that increase of activity in the economy. But the real question for the Government is why the Reserve Bank is having to cut rates to these absolutely historic lows. We're at three quarters of 1 per cent now, there is talk that there'll be further cuts. When interest rates were at 2.5 per cent during the Global Financial Crisis, Joe Hockey was saying that these emergency lows were because the economy was tanking. We see much lower rates today and it is no wonder. We've got 1.8 million Australians who are unemployed or underemployed. We've got low business investment, low productivity growth, declining living standards, wages going backwards. Our economy is in desperate trouble and instead of the Government trying to just focus on the banks, perhaps they should look at the role they themselves should be playing in supporting economic growth and jobs growth and wages growth and increasing consumer and business confidence in Australia.

JAYES: Well, one of those more concerning figures in recent times is the latest skills shortage data. This is for the last financial year and it shows since the year before that, there's actually been three added to that list, now 39 occupations that are on the skills shortage list. What do you put that down to?

PLIBERSEK: Well, Laura I am really glad you have picked up on this because this is a story of an economy in trouble. Three quarters of employers will tell you that they can't find the skilled workers they need, and yet as I said, we've got 1.8 million Australians who are unemployed or underemployed. The reason that we keep seeing occupations added to the skills shortage list is because there have been massive cuts to TAFE and training, $3 billion dollars cut from TAFE and training,150,000 fewer apprentices and trainees today than when the Liberals' came to office and instead of actually investing in TAFE and training, helping people into apprenticeships, encouraging people to take up a trade, we've got the Government blaming the kids for the fact that they're not going into apprenticeships. We need to invest in TAFE and training.

JAYES: Wouldn't one of the solutions here be to, wouldn't one of the solutions here be to encourage people, perhaps, from Year 10 to take up an apprenticeship rather than go onto Year 12?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think encouraging people to take up an apprenticeship is absolutely a great idea and I would be delighted if my kids - my dad was a plumber - I'd be very happy for my kids to go into plumbing or another trade. We've got shortages in plumbing, carpentry, electricians, mechanics, baking, hairdressing - right across the board - good jobs and we should be encouraging young people to take up those opportunities, where they exist. But, instead of just asking why they're not doing it, we need to look at the fact that $3 billion dollars has been cut from TAFE and training. There are fewer apprenticeships, 150,000 fewer apprenticeships and traineeships and, by the way, kids shouldn't be leaving in Year 10. They can go to Year 12. They have a better chance of getting an apprenticeship. Many schools offer schools-based traineeships and apprenticeships. More schools should be doing that, they should be working more closely with TAFE but when you cut funding from TAFE and training it's pretty hard for schools to offer those schools-based apprenticeships that make such a great difference for young people who are thinking about a trade.

JAYES: But what's the point in going on to Year 12 if you are going to end up in an apprenticeship anyway? Why not start that process two years earlier?

PLIBERSEK: You can start that process. You should start that process at school. The reason that we want kids to finish Year 12 is because all the evidence shows that they've got a better chance of getting a job, they've got a better chance of keeping a job if they've finished school to Year 12. And by the way, there's not a lot of employers out there who want a 16-year-old in preference to an 18-year-old. Making sure that kids stay at school, that they continue to work on their literacy and their numeracy, even their computing skills. If you want to be a mechanic today you need to know how to use a computer because so much of the diagnostic equipment in the mechanics workshop is computer-based.


PLIBERSEK: There's not many jobs out there, Laura, for people who leave in Year 10. In fact most jobs today require a TAFE qualification or a uni qualification on top of school and instead of Michaelia Cash, the Minister, the other day talking about people leaving in Year 10, I'm more with Bridget McKenzie, who's another Government Minister saying that kids should finish Year 12 but they can do an apprenticeship while they're at school or immediately after school. That's a great option too. The whole problem here is the Government's causing a skills crisis by under-investing in TAFE and apprenticeships and then they're looking around blaming the kids for it.

JAYES: Apparently Jim Chalmers has been blitzing boardrooms. Have you been doing the same and is that an acknowledgement that Labor has to repair the relationship with the business community?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think we've got a good relationship with the business community and I speak to business leaders all the time, particularly about this issue of skills shortages. Business does want to work cooperatively with the Government and with the Opposition on fixing the skills crisis in Australia and I've certainly been all ears when it comes to solutions on the skills crisis. But look, we've got a good relationship with the business community because we know that businesses create jobs.

JAYES: But not using 'top end of town' anymore?

PLIBERSEK: I think we've had a good and productive relationship with the business community and all we've ever asked is that businesses pay their taxes and treat their workforce well. I don't think that an unreasonable thing to ask at all.

JAYES: Tanya Plibersek, thank you for your time.

PLIBERSEK: Always a pleasure Laura, thank you.