SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s tradie crisis; Bushfires; Climate change and renewable energy.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Scott Morrison's national tradie crisis has deepened with new data today revealing that the number of apprentices and trainees starting in construction trade has plummeted by about 40 per cent since the same time last year. We're seeing about a 40 per cent drop in apprentices and trainees studying carpentry, plumbing, bricklaying - all of those trades we need if Australia is to build the infrastructure we need to get the economy going. This is particularly disturbing given we've got around two million Australians who are unemployed or underemployed and we've got businesses crying out for skilled workers. In fact three quarters of businesses in one recent survey told us they couldn't find the skilled staff they need. When you lock Australians out of an apprenticeship or traineeship, you are locking them out of a job. And we're also holding back our businesses. It means our businesses can't achieve the growth they want to achieve. Scott Morrison has cut around $3 billion from TAFE and training in recent years. We've got thousands and thousands fewer apprentices and trainees today than when the Liberals first came to office. When you lock Australians out of an education, you're locking them out of a job. That's just not good enough. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: What sort of effect will this 40 per cent drop have on infrastructure building?
PLIBERSEK: Well this 40 per cent drop in the number of apprentices and trainees in the construction trades will obviously hold back our construction sector. There are areas where we are already seeing skills shortages - this will exacerbate those skills shortages. If the Government is serious about seeing investment in infrastructure around Australia, we need to make sure that we're training the skilled workers that we'll need to build that infrastructure. This shows an alarming lack of planning from the Morrison Government and it's come about because of billions of dollars of cuts to TAFE and training.
JOURNALIST: Are workers from overseas perhaps making up for the shortfall?
PLIBERSEK: Well I'm not sure who's making up for the shortfall. We do hear both reports of very serious skills shortages in some areas and we hear about the exploitation of temporary workers from overseas on the other hand. But what we know for sure is that the Morrison Government has cut billions from TAFE and training. We've got close to two million Australians who are unemployed or underemployed. We've still got youth unemployment in some areas of one in four young people or one in five young people unemployed and we've got businesses who are telling us, who have been telling us for years now, that they can't find the skilled staff they need. These things just shouldn't happen. We've got skill shortages, unemployed people and cuts to TAFE and training at the same time. When we do this we are locking Australians out of a job and we're holding back our businesses.
JOURNALIST: Moving on, Scott Morrison says he remembers seeing a similar smoke haze to what we've sort-of experienced in the last couple of weeks when he was young and down at the beach. Do you ever remember it ever being this bad in Sydney before?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I don't know what it was like when Scott Morrison was growing up in Bronte, but when I was growing up in the Sutherland Shire we did occasionally see bush fires - of course we did - including in the Royal National Park. I certainly don't remember anything like we've seen in recent times and it's not just in Sydney, it's been in so many parts of Australia that we are now relying on firefighters from the United States and Canada and others to help us. We're very grateful to those people who have come to help, we're very grateful to our professional emergency services personnel and to the thousands and thousands of volunteers who have been helping at this incredibly difficult time. But let's face it you can see, you can smell, you can feel it in your lungs, that times are bad at the moment. There has never been a stronger case for strong action to reduce pollution in the atmosphere and keep global warming well below two degrees, which is what we should be doing as an international community. Australia has to be part of the international effort to keep warming at well below two degrees. It is so embarrassing that we are last out of 57 countries for action on climate change. We've got a government that's now on its eighteenth energy policy and we're still seeing pollution going up, power prices going up and reliability going down. Around the world, nations are getting together to reduce the pollution that they're pumping into the atmosphere. It's only Australia that seems to find this confusing.
JOURNALIST: Liberal MP Jason Falinski has backed Matt Kean's comments about climate change this morning. What do you make of that development?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it's very welcoming when any state government says they want to take stronger action to reduce pollution. It should be welcomed and it should be uncontroversial. Look around you, in recent weeks people have been struggling, kids have been stopped from going to school, stopped from playing in the playground. Anybody who's got difficulty breathing or a lung condition has been facing the impact of what’s been happening with these bushfires. Of course we want to see strong action from the state governments and when they say they're going to act we should welcome that. What's disappointing is that our national government is still struggling with this concept. We need national leadership because every country needs to do its share to keep global warming at well below two degrees.
JOURNALIST: Anthony Albanese has been trying to win back coal miners in Queensland and defending coal exports this week. Is that poor timing given the bushfires right now?
PLIBERSEK: Look I think that anybody who's realistic knows that coal mining and coal exports are going to be part of our economy for some time to come. Coal fired power generation will be part of our economy for some time to come. Coal exports will be an important export-earner for us for some time to come. However, what we also know is that around the world, more and more countries are moving to sourcing a greater share of their power generation from renewal energy because it's cleaner and it's cheaper. We see jobs in the renewable sector growing by about 30 per cent every year. We need to make the most of those job opportunities as well. We know that if the world is to keep global warming at below two degrees we have to take ambitious action domestically. And I think these things are absolutely compatible. Absolutely compatible. We need to be investing more in renewable energy generation here in Australia. We need to make sure we're investing more in battery storage, for example. We have the opportunity to do that, we've got the technology, we've got endless sunshine and wind. We need to do something about the pollution that we're generating  domestically - for our own benefit, for the planet, and also because it’s going to be cheaper and more reliable.
JOURNALIST: At what point does Labor have to decide between keeping coal mining votes and keeping environmental votes? I mean, you can't have both.
PLIBERSEK: Well I don't agree with that. I think it’s important to acknowledge that coal is part of our energy mix for the foreseeable future. That doesn't mean we're not going to invest more in renewables. We've got some of the best opportunities in the world to invest in renewable energy right here in Australia. Some of the best technology and know-how, some of the best people in Australia. There's going to be more jobs, more reliability, cheaper and cleaner energy from investing in renewables. We also need to do our part as a global citizen. We need to make sure we are reducing our pollution as a good global citizen. When it comes to exporting coal, there will be countries that are using coal as part of their energy mix. They will be taking other actions to reduce their pollution as well. When we import cars from South Korea or Japan or Germany, we're not saying that South Korea or Japan or Germany are responsible for the emissions of those vehicles. We are as Australians, because we've imported them, we're driving them. That’s how it works. Every country has to set the targets that are consistent with keeping global warming at well below two degrees. We do our part - we should do our part - as a nation. The trouble is we've got a government that's now on its 18th energy policy, that’s seen pollution going up, power prices going up, and reliability falling.
JOURNALIST: On that, but by defending coal exports, doesn't that contribute to the wider picture of these other countries that are using coal? Doesn't that lead to the recriminations of that?
PLIBERSEK: No, every country has to be responsible for its own emissions. The problem with Australia at the moment is that our targets are unambitious and we're not going to meet those pathetically low targets that the Liberals are aiming for. In fact, even on the Liberals' own calculations to meet their pathetically low targets at the slow rate they're going, it would take us 217 years to meet their pathetically low targets. The problem is we don't have a government in Australia that’s prepared to take action in Australia to reduce pollution, invest in renewables, bring down power prices, increase employment in the renewables sector and do our share globally. We don't have a national government that is bringing down pollution in Australia. The responsibility of other countries to do the same, we need to work internationally to make sure they do that. Thanks everyone.