RICHARD MARLES MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION, EMPLOYMENT, SKILLS AND SMALL BUSINESS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR SCIENCE
MEMBER FOR CORIO
KRISTY MCBAIN MP
MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO
TUESDAY, 15 FEBRUARY 2022
SUBJECTS: Skills shortages; apprenticeships and traineeship numbers plummet under Coalition; ASIO; national security; character test.
KRISTY MCBAIN, MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO: Thank you for joining me here this morning. I'm joined by Labor's Deputy Leader Richard Marles at Walsh's Hotel in Queanbeyan. Businesses right across the region are doing it really tough because of staff and skill shortages. At Walsh's Hotel today we've learned that we are looking for bar staff, for waitstaff, for chefs and kitchen staff. Queen Barista in Karabar is looking for baristas (and chefs). We know that Cobargo Hotel down the coast is desperate for chefs. Businesses right across this region are dealing with staff shortages. When Labor was last in Government, there were over 5500 apprenticeships completed across Eden-Monaro. Since the Liberal Government took power (there's been a) 47 per cent drop in apprenticeship completions. That's just in my electorate alone. We are dealing with staff and skill shortages right across this country. It is time we deal with the big issues in this country, and staff and skill shortages is one of them. And that's why I'm proud to represent the Labor Party. And Richard is going to talk more about what Labor wants to do to make sure that we deal with staff and skill shortages.
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks, it's fantastic to be here with Kristy McBain, Labor's fantastic Member for Eden-Monaro, and Kristy is doing a tremendous job in representing this part of the world in the Federal Parliament. I'd like to thank Michael and Walsh's - the iconic Walsh's Hotel - for hosting us here this morning and telling us their story in relation to the difficulties they've had in finding qualified staff. And as Kristy said, here at Walsh's they're looking for chefs, for bar staff. There is a real difficulty in finding people with the skills that they need to keep their business going at the maximum level. And that reflects the situation that we're seeing around the country.
And what we've learned in the last few days is that over the last six years under this Government about 500,000 people around Australia have been put through trainee(ships) and apprenticeships. That compares with a million people who went through trainee(ships) and apprenticeships in the six years of the Rudd and Gillard Government. Here in New South Wales, the numbers are the same - about 300,000 people went through when the Rudd and Gillard Government was in power. Over the last six years we've seen about 150,000 people go through in New South Wales. Now the reason for that is under the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government, we have seen $3 billion removed from the funding of TAFE. And when you do that, it has an impact - 70,000 less trainees and apprentices today, compared to 2013. And it's worth thinking about that - the economy has grown in that time, the population has grown in that time, but we are seeing a reduction in the number of trainees and apprentices in Australia. The international border being closed, the experience of that over the last couple of years has really illuminated the fact that we have a skills crisis in this country. It is the failure of this Government to invest in TAFE and the VET sector. And what Labor has made clear is that if we were elected at the forthcoming federal election, we would make TAFE free for people who are studying in areas of skill shortage. That’s so that we can get people completing their qualification, so that we get more chefs, get more people with trades so that we solve the skills crisis that is facing this country right now.
JOURNALIST: What else can the Government do? They've opened the border to skilled workers, why hasn't that made a dent in filling these gaps?
MARLES: Well the border is obviously part of the issue, and we want to see the border returned to normal as soon as possible, but the real lesson that we have to learn out of COVID is that we're simply not training enough of our own people. And the answer to that question is, this Government cut $3 billion out of the funding of TAFE over the last nine years - that's going to have an impact. By not properly funding the sector, and with the international border being closed, the Government has been found wanting. And the skills crisis that we are seeing in this country is now being felt by businesses big and small across the country.