By Tanya Plibersek

13 August 2020




SUBJECTS: National TAFE Day; importance of TAFE to the economy; Scott Morrison’s cuts to education; student loans; skills crisis; wrongly translated health messages about the coronavirus; aged care crisis; Aged Care Royal Commission; Scott Morrison avoiding scrutiny at all costs.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks for joining us on National TAFE Day. And I'm here with my Shadow Minister, good friend and local member, Tanya Plibersek, here at the TAFE at Ultimo. And today is a day to celebrate how important TAFE is in enriching people's lives, providing opportunities, making sure that people are ready for future careers across such a range of industries. But it's also important to remember how important TAFE is for a national economy. And the report today underlines that importance. Now more than ever, TAFE will be vital for the economic recovery for this pandemic. And indeed, we've got to remember that Scott Morrison has been personally involved in the cuts to TAFE of some $3 billion. If Australia is going to be able to advance forward and get out of this recession, we need to identify what the jobs of the future are and give Australians, both young and older, the opportunity to get those skills and to get those jobs. And the natural fit for that is TAFE. That's why TAFE is so important. It's important for our cities, but it's even more important for our regions in making sure that people are job-ready, in making sure that our education sector is working with the business community to provide that skilled workforce. And that's why the Government's neglect of TAFE is such a tragedy for our national economy, as well as being a problem for individuals who've been left behind. It's about time that this Government recognised that whilst private providers can play a role, TAFE has to be at the core of the vocational education and training system here in Australia if we are going to be successful going forward.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Thanks very much, Anthony. And it's such a pleasure to join you and our representatives from TAFE on national TAFE day. Because Labor knows that the key to a great job and a great life is a great education. And TAFE gives you a great education. We know that if we lock people out of an education, we are effectively locking them out of a job. And that's why it's such a tragedy that this Government has cut around $3 billion from TAFE and training. At a time like this when there are hundreds of thousands of people joining the unemployment queues every month, we should be investing in skills and education so that those unemployed and underemployed Australians can get the jobs that become available as our economy recovers. We know that a great education is the key to a great job for individuals. But we know it's also the key to growing our economy. Even before coronavirus, employers told us that they couldn't find the skilled staff they needed. Scott Morrison was already presiding over a skill shortage in Australia. And instead of using this time to give unemployed and underemployed Australians the key to getting a job after coronavirus, after the economic crisis begins to repair itself, instead, he is locking people out of an education. So, Anthony, thanks so much for the support that you're giving TAFE today. Because I know that you know that great schools, great TAFE, great university is the key to a great future for individual Australians and also for the economy as a whole.

ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Tanya. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Just on the changes to student loans, is that something that you support, Tanya?

PLIBERSEK: Well, the Government's got this new university package. And the notable thing about this package is, first of all no one supports it, not even the National Party. You've got the Government at war with itself over the university changes. And employers don't support it. The professional associations like the scientists, the social workers, the psychologists that will be affected, they don't support it. And today's announcement that says that some people will be kicked out of uni if they fail, I think sadly, this is just a distraction from the fact that Scott Morrison is presiding over a system where 200,000 people will miss out on a university education. I think it's important that we call out the Government not on whether students who are failing are going to miss out on an education, but the fact that 200,000 people who would benefit from a university degree are being locked out because of Scott Morrison's funding cuts.

JOURNALIST: What else needs to be done to address some of these failing rates of students who are failing some of their subjects? Don't they need a bit of extra motivation?

PLIBERSEK: Well, this is the most frustrating distraction, because the Government's trying to pretend that there's this big problem with failing students. Of course, students who are failing should be given the encouragement and the opportunity to succeed at university. But the real problem here is that at a time when hundreds of thousands of people are joining the unemployment queues, this Government is locking people out of TAFE and locking them out of universities. And if we lock people out of education, we are locking them out of jobs. I'm not going to get caught up in the distractions that the Government would like you to be distracted by when the real issue here is that we had, even before the coronavirus crisis, we had a skills crisis here in Australia caused by Scott Morrison. He's doing nothing to fix it. He's running every distraction in the book. Instead of using these distractions, he should be properly funding TAFE and properly funding university and properly funding schools so that every Australian can get the skills and the education they need to get a job.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask about some of the concerns this morning about some of the health messages that have been translated for migrant communities? There's been some concern among Arabic speakers that a couple of their messages don't make sense. What do you make of that?

ALBANESE: Well, this just isn't good enough. We know that multicultural communities need information in their first language. And we know this is critical to the health outcomes of not just them, but everyone who they mix with in the community. So, this is an issue for everyone. And the fact that we've had, frankly, absurd translations that don't make sense in a range of languages is something that the Federal Government has to get on top of.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it is a lot more urgent given that a lot of those communities are a little bit more vulnerable to coronavirus?

ALBANESE: Well, they're particularly vulnerable if you don't know what the issues are, the issues that we're practicing here today of social distancing. If you haven't got those messages about washing your hands, about social distancing, about wearing a mask on public transport or other places where you can't engage in social distancing, then that creates a real problem for vulnerable communities. And what we've seen in many cases is that some of the outbreaks have been higher in those communities. And one of the factors there is that the information hasn't been translated properly. The Government needs to get on top of this, just like they need to get on top of the issue of aged care. It's not enough for this Government to simply pass the buck and say that they don't have responsibility. When Scott Morrison stood in the Parliament on that Thursday, earlier this year, and said that he had a plan, he waved it around in the Prime Minister's courtyard. That plan said the Federal Government was responsible for aged care. And what we know now from the Aged Care Royal Commission is that they didn't have a plan. And we know as well, from expert evidence, that many hundreds of aged care residents will have a premature death as a result of the failure to put in place an appropriate plan to give older Australians the respect, the care and the dignity that they deserve.

JOURNALIST: That commission has been going on for a couple of days now. How important do you think it is for someone to front up, so we can get some answers to those questions?

ALBANESE: Well, look, it's critical. But this Government avoids scrutiny wherever possible. We know the Aged Care Royal Commission began before the pandemic. Aged care was in crisis before the pandemic. The interim report of the Royal Commission documented just shocking revelations about older Australians lying in their own faeces, about older Australians not getting fed properly, there being a crisis of basic nutrition in aged care facilities. The Royal Commission is playing a vital role in opening up the information which should be of concern and is of concern to every Australian. But whether it's the Aged Care Royal Commission, whether it's the Federal Government actually stopping federal officials giving evidence before the Berejiklian Government's commission into the Ruby Princess, or whether it be the cancelling of Parliament and now the absurd argument that maybe the virtual participation of members won't be available on the first week of Parliament but will be available in the second week, all of this is about a Government that's determined to avoid scrutiny at every single turn. Thanks.