By Tanya Plibersek

18 November 2020


SUBJECTS: Apprentices; Liberals’ TAFE cuts; Australians looking for work; Labor.

EMMA MCBRIDE, MEMBER FOR DOBELL *audio cuts in* …would like to bring on young people, they’d like to take on apprentices, but they've found that there just isn't the training available to be able to bring on a young person, get them the skills they need, so that they can be qualified and have a good start and a steady career right here on the coast. We know that on the coast unemployment, particularly for younger people, has often sat higher than the state and national average. We know that young people on the coast wanted to live here and work here and contribute to our local community, and they need to be given the best chance to have the best start locally to get the skills they need to start a steady career and be part of our community. We don't want to see them having to go to Newcastle or Sydney, to be able to get the skills they need. So Ray and Leanne are going to talk about their business, they employ 24 local people, and they really are keen to take on an apprentice, but they need the support to be able to do that. So Ray and Leanne if you would like to come up and just let us know a little bit about your business and what you do here at Ausiports and what you like to be able to do with the proper support.
RAY DAVIDSON, AUSIPORTS: Thanks Emma. Thanks for coming along. Thank you, Tanya, for your time this morning. We really appreciate it. As Emma said we are a locally owned company, family-owned business, that’s been operating for about 32 years now. We do employ 24, 25 local people as well as the number of subcontractors, and the biggest issue that we've had is that there is no set trade for what we do. There's are a number of trades that cover it. There's carpentry, there's roof plumbing, but it's really a combination of both. And not every carpenter can be a good home improvement, or patio installer, and not every roof plumber can do that either. So it's really hard to actually create our own type of tradesperson that we need. It would be great if there was a TAFE course that we can put these guys through to be able to learn the skills required to build these things, and then have a trade at the end of it. So that's the reason I actually contacted Emma in the first place, and why Emma recommended that Tanya come along and have a chat with us today.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING:  Terrific, thank you. Well, thanks so much for coming up today. And I want to first of all thank Ray and Leanne for having us as Ausiports. It's wonderful to see their family business. It's grown and thrived under their leadership, and it's terrific to hear them talking about what they'd like to see for this business in the future. I also want to thank my wonderful colleague, Emma McBride. We walked in the front door here and the ladies at reception said “oh everybody knows Emma”. That's what I love to hear. I know she's such a committed and active local member, and from even before her time in Parliament, when she was serving people as the pharmacist at the local hospital, everybody knew Emma. It's great to be here with you today.
Australians are really doing it tough. A lot of people are worried about their future. They don't have a job. They're worried about keeping their job. They're worried about hours at work. We've got close to two and a half million Australians who want a job or want more hours of work. What Australians want for themselves and their families is secure work, they want opportunity, they want the knowledge that there will be a job for them next week, and next month. And here we have this fantastic local business Ausiports, it's been around for three decades, family-run, they already employ two dozen people. They want to expand, you'd think that would be a good news story. Particularly on the Central Coast where youth unemployment, as Emma said, has been high, it was high even before the Covid-19 crisis. Isn't it a shame that our TAFE and training system is letting down the people who could take on those jobs, and businesses, like Ray and Leanne's, that want to expand. We know that more than $3 billion has been cut from TAFE and training since the Liberals came to government. We know that there are a 140,000 fewer Australian Apprentices today than when the Liberals took over. Here on the Central Coast it's 1,200 fewer Australian Apprentices than when the Liberals came to office. We want to see a TAFE and training system that offers people the opportunity of a job. You've got businesses that want to expand but say they can't find the skilled staff they need. You've got unemployed Australians desperate for work. What we need is a training system that makes sure that those unemployed people are trained for the jobs that are available. Instead all we've seen are cuts from the Liberals that means that TAFE is struggling and there are fewer apprentices than ever. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: How would Labor address this problem that’s been identified?
PLIBERSEK: We have to reinvest in TAFE, as a start. You can't keep cutting TAFE. We've seen more than $3 billion of cuts in TAFE and training, and the results of that are everywhere to be seen. Course closures, campus closures, people who'd love to do a training course, but can't find a place, courses that used to be offered that you can't do anymore. We need to reinvest in TAFE and strong public TAFE needs to be at the centre of that.
JOURNALIST: Were you aware of concerns about workplace culture inside Anthony Albanese's office, as is being reported at the moment?
PLIBERSEK: I saw that that Sabina Husic has said she is moving on, and I wish her all the very best. She is a very experienced, very hardworking person, and I wish her all the best. But the last thing I'm going to do is start commenting on staffing issues in one Member of Parliament's office - doesn't matter who that Member of Parliament is. We need to provide a safe workplace, but my focus, Anthony Albanese's focus, the focus of all of our Parliamentarians needs to be on the 2.4 million Australians that are looking for a job or looking for more hours of work. We're in the worst recession we've been in for almost a century. We know that there are Australians who are desperate for security, for opportunity, for hope for their kids. That's our focus. That has to be our focus. 
JOURNALIST: I note that you wish Sabina Husic all the best, but do you welcome her resignation? 
PLIBERSEK: I just said I'm not going to be focusing on staffing issues in one Parliamentarian's office when we're in the middle of a recession. Of course Parliament house has to be a healthy, safe, workplace like every other workplace in Australia. But our focus has to be on ordinary people who are worried about losing their job, who've lost their job, who need more hours of work. We've got close to two and a half million Australians who want a job or more hours of work. That that has to be our focus. 
JOURNALIST: Does the Labor Party need to better articulate its vision for Australia? 
PLIBERSEK: I think we've got a very clear vision for Australia. I think Anthony Albanese's Budget Reply speech was a terrific opportunity to talk about our investment in childcare, making early childhood education and care much more affordable for families. I never want to see someone say no to an extra day of work because they can't afford the child care. Anthony also articulated a really important investment in electricity transmission, our grid, that would take the extra renewable energy - cheaper, cleaner renewable energy that's being generated around our country and make sure that that's available to businesses, to homes so that you see family bills more affordable, you see businesses able to do more manufacturing like this, as their electricity bills come down. We also heard from Anthony during his Budget Reply that large government funded projects, like big infrastructure projects, would see one in 10 of the new jobs created on those projects going to apprentices. We've just heard from Ray and Leanne how they would love to expand if they could have the trained apprentices and the TAFE support to do that. And Anthony articulated a vision for that in his Budget Reply as well. 
JOURNALIST: Is your commitment to the parliamentary party long term? 
PLIBERSEK: Is my commitment long term? It certainly is. I love my job, and I love being able to work with my colleagues to make this a better country. I'm a very proud Australian, but it doesn't stop me wanting to see, in particular for young people, more opportunity. Really top quality affordable TAFE education. Later on we're going to the Ourimbah campus of the university. Right now in the middle of a recession you're hearing that you can't get the TAFE qualifications you need and on the other hand the Liberals have more than doubled the cost of thousands of university degrees and made it harder to get an enabling place at university, made it harder for people who’ve struggled in education previously to get their foot in the door of university. What a crazy time to be making it harder and less affordable to get an education, when we've got the highest unemployment and underemployment that we've seen in generations. We should be making it possible for people who aren't earning to be learning, so that they're ready for the jobs that will hopefully be created as our economy recovers. 
JOURNALIST: It's been a rough couple weeks for the Labor Party, do you think they are match fit for an election next year?
PLIBERSEK: I think it's been a rough couple weeks for the Government too. We are absolutely focused on what we need to do for the next election, whenever that will be, which is reassure Australians that our top priority, always has been, and always will be jobs. At a time like this in Australia, where we've got close to two and a half million people who are out of work or need more hours of work, that has to be a 100 per cent our focus, and it is. 
JOURNALIST: Just going back to the adviser who has resigned, are you disappointed that she resigned due to the anonymous letter she received?
PLIBERSEK: I don't know how many times I have to say it, and how many different ways I have to say it - I'm not going to get drawn in to commenting on one employment relationship, in one office, when we've got two and a half million Australians who are looking for a job or looking for more hours of work. How self-indulgent would it be for me to be standing around talking about us, again, when people are crying out for a job, or more hours of work, who are worried that they've gone to a zero hours contract, who don't know if they're going to have a job next week or next month, or who for the first time in their lives, for the first time in decades in the workforce have found themselves unemployed? That is my focus.
JOURNALIST: Are you worried about when JobKeeper finishes possibly in March next year what will happen to the employment rate? 
PLIBERSEK: I'm very worried that this Government will withdraw support from our workforce too early. We know that the first decrease in the support for unemployed Australians or underemployed Australians, that the first cuts have already seen unemployment increase. We know that when supports are cut again in March, it's very likely that unemployment will increase again. I fear that this Government is withdrawing support too quickly. The Australian economy is not back on its feet. We've still got too many people who don't have a job or don't have enough hours of work. This recession will be longer and deeper than it needs to be because this Government is withdrawing support too quickly.