House debates

Thursday, 16 November 2023

Questions without Notice

Vocational Education and Training

2:31 pm

Photo of Sam RaeSam Rae (Hawke, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Skills and Training. How is the Albanese Labor government increasing access to skills and training for Australians, after a decade of neglect?

2:32 pm

Photo of Brendan O'ConnorBrendan O'Connor (Gorton, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Skills and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Hawke for his question and his very strong advocacy for the VET sector. Indeed, I look forward to being with him at the Melton campus that is soon to be established. Creating a TAFE centre in Melton is really important for that community.

Providing access to the VET sector is critical for the entire nation, and that's why, of course, this government has been ensuring that we invest in the VET sector and we provide the skills that are needed for workers to gain decent employment and career progression. We're also ensuring that businesses that are crying out for skills find those skills, through the efforts of this government, working with other state and territory governments and working with industry, to ensure that happens.

When we came to office, the Jobs and Skills Summit was established by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, which was a very good idea because it set the tone for collaboration, which is absolutely required to supply the skills to our economy. Last week I happened to be with the Victorian Premier and my counterpart minister at Kangan TAFE and we were announcing 60,000 fee-free TAFE places starting next year for Victorians. That's part of the new initiative of the Albanese government to have an additional 300,000 fee-free TAFE and VET places, starting next year. That will mean that workers in this country will be able to enter into courses, enrol in courses, and acquire the skills that they need to actually get meaningful work. It will also mean, of course, that businesses will be able to find the skilled workforce that's important. We inherited not only a trillion dollars of Liberal Party debt; we were bequeathed the worst skills shortage in five decades in this country, and that's the reason we're attending to it.

Of course, the other thing we needed to do—and we have been doing so—is to bring the states and territories along with us on this very important initiative. That's why we negotiated a national skills agreement between state and territory governments and the Commonwealth government. This is the first National Skills Agreement in a decade.

For the entire nine years of those opposite in government, they did not enter into one national compact with states or territories or with industry. That probably explains, in many ways, why there are shortages in the construction sector, in the energy sector, in the care economy and in many other sectors of our labour market.

This government is getting on with the business of supplying the skills that are needed, and the National Skills Agreement will actually provide the vehicle for reform for the VET sector. It's not just about ensuring we have courses now that are in areas of demand but also about reforming the VET sector so that it's fit for purpose and working closer with universities and with industry to supply the skills for a modern economy. That's what the Albanese government is doing and will continue to do, regardless of the failure and incompetence of those opposite. (Time expired)