House debates

Monday, 14 February 2022

Private Members' Business


5:12 pm

Photo of Susan TemplemanSusan Templeman (Macquarie, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

MAN () (): Access to high-quality public education is a fundamental right, particularly when you're training to work in a dangerous job. Working with horses is one of those jobs. The equine industry is a pillar of the Hawkesbury, estimated to be worth around $160 million per year. Formal training for those working in the industry helps to make sure everyone comes home safely at the end of their day—from the races, from shows or simply from holding horses for the farrier or leading them from the stables to the paddock.

The New South Wales government is undermining this valuable industry in the Hawkesbury by axing equine studies from Richmond TAFE. Under the Liberal's plan, a total of three racing industry courses and performance horse studies will go, and farriery will move into animal studies. It also means 12 dedicated TAFE teachers will lose their jobs. Slashing equine courses from Richmond TAFE has caused deep concern among the horse community in the Hawkesbury, from employers to students to teachers to former Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Darren Beadman, now working with global racing giant Godolphin. But I've also heard from people who might have a horse or two in the Hawkesbury who are simply worried about what the cuts will mean for the future of the region.

A rally held at the campus last Friday added many more voices calling for an end to these ridiculous proposed cuts. Among those was Brooke, a trainer at Hawkesbury Race Club who is responsible for 25 horses. She did her accreditation through TAFE. She said the closure of the equine course will not only mean it'll be harder to find workers to fill roles in her stables; it could also make the workplace more dangerous. Brooke says that TAFE teaches students horse management, how to manage wounds and how to spot injuries. There's a riding program so that students can also safely learn how to manage different horse temperaments. She told me that, if the course doesn't exist, they're going to have to learn on the job, but she fears that will lead to more workplace accidents, describing it as 'a strong possibility'. That's the fear from someone in the industry. Tara, who co-trains horses in the Hawkesbury, has employed students from Richmond TAFE. She just can't believe that the equine courses are being abandoned.

Graduate Montana tells me that, when she was 16, she travelled an hour each way by car with her mum to attend Richmond TAFE. She gained a valuable set of skills that landed her a job she loved in the racing industry. Here's what she says:

It gave me so many opportunities in the industry and if they stop the courses it's going to take those opportunities away from so many kids.

Sixteen-year-old Brianna is one of those kids. She's been riding since she was five and wants to turn her passion into a career. She was devastated when her application to study at Richmond this year was unsuccessful, and she came to the rally with her mum to support reinstating the courses. All students at the rally spoke of the extraordinary dedication of the TAFE staff—people who love sharing their passion for the animals and passing on their knowledge.

What's also concerning is what these cuts will mean for the future of the area. There are so many unanswered questions surrounding this move. With the viability of Richmond TAFE undermined, what is the future of that campus? What effect will the cuts have on the future of the local equine industry? And, if the industry heads elsewhere, will we see more development and the loss of what is now a prized rural lifestyle?

Access to quality vocational job training and education should be expanded, not dismantled. It's what an Albanese government would deliver, providing 465,000 free TAFE places. That's including 45,000 new places under our free TAFE plan. The Liberal-National government has cut TAFE and slashed apprenticeships for nearly a decade now, and we have 85,000 fewer apprenticeships and traineeships compared to 2013. That's what the government has done. Cuts like those happening in Richmond are part of the Liberals' privatisation by stealth, something we want to end by ensuring that at least 70 per cent of Commonwealth funding and Commonwealth vocational educational funding is dedicated to our public TAFE. Free TAFE will help rebuild industries hit hardest by the pandemic, like hospitality and tourism, as well as meet current and future needs in the care economy—things like child care, aged care, disability care, nursing and community services. Free TAFE will provide opportunities for school leavers in the new energy jobs and advanced manufacturing of the future, and only Labor will deliver that. (Time expired)

5:17 pm

Photo of Gladys LiuGladys Liu (Chisholm, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As the member for Chisholm I want people in my community, from Box Hill to Wheelers Hill, to get ahead, whether that is through developing a new skill or pursuing further study. Today I am proud to say that Australia's education and training system is strong, with guaranteed choices for Australians looking into a job.

The Morrison government remains steadfast in its commitment to ensuring that Australians have the right skills for the workforce of today and the future. That's why we are providing a record $7.7 billion in skills and training this year—that is more than double the pre-COVID levels—to support students and apprentices, training organisations, and employers. As part of our economic response to COVID-19, we are providing free or low-fee training courses across the nation through the $2 billion JobTrainer fund so Australians can upskill or reskill in areas of identified skills need.

This is a fantastic program, and less than two weeks ago it was great to be able to talk about JobTrainer with the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison; and the Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, Stuart Robert. The setting was KOR Equipment Solutions in Mulgrave, an amazing local trucking company and a fitting place to share the news that JobTrainer has now seen more than 300,000 enrolments across the country, with nearly 100,000 course completions in areas of employment growth. I want to take this opportunity to thank KOR managing director Stephen Pewtress for hosting us on site and for talking us through some of the company's own fantastic training programs.

In contrast to this record of achievement, you have the Labor Party. When it comes to helping Australians get the skills they need to get into a job, Anthony Albanese's record is pretty clear, and it's a record of failure. The last time Labor was in government, in 2012-13, the number of apprentices and trainees in training collapsed by 22 per cent, or 110,000. Between 2011 and 2013, when Anthony Albanese sat at the cabinet table, Labor cut employer incentives to businesses that employ apprentices nine times, totalling $1.2 billion. And let's not forget the failed VET FEE-HELP system, which resulted in thousands of Australians being lured into dodgy courses with free iPads and dubious career opportunities.

Now you have to feel for the member for Dunkley, who has been sent out to attack our skills and training policies, when it is those same policies that have delivered record numbers of trade apprentices in her own electorate. Departmental program data demonstrates that trade apprenticeships hit over 1,540 in Dunkley in September 2021, the highest number on record, and an increase of 41 per cent since Labor left office. So it is clear that Australia's skills system is firing ahead, both in the member for Dunkley's electorate and across the nation. It is not, as the Labor Party would argue, a system in crisis. The only people talking down skills and training in Australia seem to be Anthony Albanese and the rest of the Labor Party. Well, they're entitled to do it, but we'll just keep getting on with the job of delivering more jobs and more opportunities for the people of Chisholm and the people of Australia. (Time expired)

5:22 pm

Photo of Luke GoslingLuke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I don't know quite what to make of the member for Chisholm's contribution just then. We do have very different values and priorities. I put my name down to speak on this motion because it's incredibly important. We often hear the catchcry that Liberal and Labor are both the same. There's that bloke that keeps putting those ads on the front of the newspapers saying that we're the same. But I'm sure those opposite would agree that we're not the same. We have different values when it comes to different policy settings. I think it's just become the catchcry of opportunists, the cynical, the disengaged or others who have different motives altogether. But it is true—and I tell people this when I'm in my electorate—that we work together across the aisle most of the time, but from time to time we have differences in policy because we attach a different value to things. I'm proud that, when it comes to education, it is really important in our mob, and that's what I'll talk about. I won't be like the member for Chisholm, just having a crack at the Leader of the Opposition, with some ridiculous stats she's plucked from somewhere. But I agree with the member for Dunkley. I think she was completely right when she said, in her motion:

… the inequity in education, skills and training opportunities has been exacerbated by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Government's decisions to, amongst other things, increase the cost of higher education, refuse to fund free access to public TAFE and neglect of the needs of the school system …

The facts are that the universities weren't supported, there has been a disregard for the building of skills among young Australians and the opportunities that they need—

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 17:25 t o 17:36

I was just saying how committed federal Labor is to education and I was painting a picture of what had happened prior to the COVID pandemic arriving. I guess the dangers were there for all to see. Before the pandemic we had an overreliance on international students. We assumed that they would always be travelling here. Once the pandemic hit, the federal government excluded higher education from its JobKeeper package, providing a further and completely unnecessary hit to the bottom line of universities. We all know that some companies and organisations with rising revenue—they were doing well and didn't need JobKeeper—got it. The unis really struggled.

The federal government did drop the ball when it came to supporting unis. We on this side will not and have not. We have a series of plans that will put the sector back on track, with real benefits for every level of education in this country. We'll start by rebuilding the tertiary education sector, which was so badly hit during the pandemic, by creating up to 20,000 new university places across the country, including at Charles Darwin University in my electorate. We're also going to stop the rort in the skills and training being provided, by providing a massive 465,000 free TAFE places, which will give every Aussie kid an opportunity to learn at TAFE or a VET training provider. We will take advantage of the opportunity presented by the climate crisis and will support 10,000 new energy apprenticeships. All of this is underpinned by the Australian Skills Guarantee.

Younger Australians in primary and high schools have faced so much disruption. We'll invest $440 million to improve ventilation in classrooms and to provide more counselling and psychological support. I have a couple of young kids at primary school. All the staff have been fantastic. Up in the Northern Territory we've done better than most with the pandemic in terms of having the kids at school for longer, but I want to give a shout-out to all of our educators, principals and staff, who have done such a wonderful job. We'll keep backing them. (Time expired)

5:39 pm

Photo of Terry YoungTerry Young (Longman, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] Australia's education, skills and training systems are important for our country's foundation. Education and training lays the groundwork for strong economic growth and creates pathways for more jobs, skilled and experienced workers, and stability across the nation. The Morrison government recognises that young Australians have been heavily impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns, creating increased levels of stress and anxiety, disrupted school routines, restricted face-to-face contact and difficulties associated with social relationships. But the resilience and adaptability of each and every school system and each and every teacher is to be applauded. It is great to see that more than four million students have returned to the classroom for 2022.

The education and training of young Australians is paramount. Choosing to invest in the time it takes to hone the skills you need to get into a job is one of the most important decisions you will ever make, because the skills you develop can help you get your dream job. I want people in my community of Longman to get ahead, whether that's through developing a new skills or pursuing further study. I'm proud to say that today's Australian education and training systems are strong, with guaranteed choices for Australians looking to get into a job or wanting to start a trade or their dream career.

The Australian government remains steadfast in its commitment to ensuring that people have the right skills for the workforce today and in the future, and I expect the future of education and training to be even stronger under the Morrison government. Through record funding, $7.1 billion in this financial year alone, the Morrison government is ensuring that Australians, whether they live in a city, on the outskirts of a city, or in a rural or regional area, can get into high-quality jobs in their local area.

Today, our $2 billion JobTrainer Fund is supporting up to 463,000 placements in free or low-fee courses in areas of skill shortage through TAFE and registered training organisations. We are seeing results. We started 2022 on the right track, with almost half a million job-ready Australians skilled up, with over 300,000 Job Trainer enrolments and the highest level of trade apprentices on record, with 220,000 in training. That is why the government is providing a record $7.7 billion investment in skills and training this year, 2021-22, more than double pre-COVID levels, to support students, apprentices, training organisations and employers.

As part of its economic response to COVID-19, the Australian government is providing free or low-fee training courses across the nation through its $2 billion JobTrainer Fund so that Australians can upskill or reskill in areas of identified skills need. This investment has seen more than 300,000 JobTrainer enrolments across the country, with nearly 100,000 course completions in areas of employment growth. As part of the 2021-22 budget, the Australian government extended the JobTrainer Fund until 31 December 2022 and expanded it to fund a further 163,000 placements—great news indeed. Under the extension, any Australian who wants to enrol in aged care, digital skills, disability care or childcare qualifications can access a JobTrainer place, regardless of their age, employment status, or prior qualifications.

In addition to JobTrainer, the Australian government has invested $4.8 billion over four years from 2020-21 through the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy to support businesses and group training organisations to take on new apprentices and trainees. This includes $1.2 billion announced in the 2020-21 budget, $2.7 billion announced in the 2021-22 budget, and a further $900 million through the portfolio additional estimates statements 2021-22. There are already more than 1,300 apprentices in Longman, and these new measures will lead to even more opportunities for apprentices and trainees in my electorate and around the country, with expanded wage subsidies. The number of Australians taking up a trade apprenticeship is at its highest level since data was first collected in 1963.

When it comes to school funding, this government invested a record $23.4 billion in all Australian schools last year and will invest a further record $24.8 billion this year. Since we first came to government, funding across all schools has increased by 80 per cent and will increase by a further 40 per cent by 2029. Commonwealth funding for government schools has doubled—it's grown by 100.7 per cent—since 2013 and will see a further 46 per cent increase to 2029. We've locked in record school funding that provides fairer funding for Australian schools, agreed to by all state and territories and approved school authorities. The success of these— (Time expired)

Photo of Steve IronsSteve Irons (Swan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There being no further speakers, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.