Tuesday, 2 August 2022
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Skills and Training, Senator Watt. According to the OECD, Australia is experiencing the second-most-severe labour shortage in the developed world. Can the minister update the Senate on the government's progress in implementing its commitment to hold a jobs and skills summit and outline what measures the Albanese government has already taken to address the skills shortage?
Thank you, Senator O'Neill. I know this is an issue you've worked on for many years, particularly in your committee roles. As every employer and worker in Australia knows, our country is facing a skill shortage crisis. This is the workplace legacy of a decade of training cuts and inaction from an incompetent coalition government, and projections are that nine out of every 10 new jobs over the next five years will need a post-school qualification, heightening the need for greater investment in our training system. The failure former government—which they're upset to be reminded of—to invest in skills is one of the key causes of our economy's capacity constraints and the higher inflation that's resulted. That's why the Albanese Labor government is taking action right now. The Jobs and Skills Summit in September is part of delivering on our election promise to bring people together—something the last government was incapable of doing—and find common ground on some of our tough economic challenges. Of course, as Senator Gallagher has pointed out, we have inherited a budget with a trillion dollars of debt, so the government will ensure that any measures taken will provide a good economic return.
Australians voted in May for a government that looks ahead and makes real plans for the future, so we can shape our future instead of just reacting to events and missing opportunities—something that we had to endure nearly 10 years of from those opposite. We know a lot of Australians are doing it tough, so a key focus of the summit will be how we can improve lives and livelihoods, raising incomes, creating good jobs and getting Australians the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow. The summit will bring Australians together, including employers, unions, civil society and governments, to address our shared economic challenges. We need all sorts of skills in our country, whether they be traditional or new skills, and it's this government's actions, including the Jobs and Skills Summit, which will be good for jobs, good— (Time expired)
Thank you, Senator O'Neill; I aim to please with my answers, and I'll try and please you with this new one as well! The Albanese government took office at a time of rising inflation and interest rates, falling real wages and a trillion dollars of debt which is now more expensive to service. It really does take some effort for a government to deliver at the same time falling wages and a skills shortage because orthodox economic theory would suggest that if you have a skill shortage wages would go up, but at a time of skills shortages in this country the ex-government sent them down.
We know a lot of Australians are doing it tough, so a key focus of the Jobs and Skills Summit will be how we improve lives and livelihoods, raising incomes, creating good jobs and getting Australians the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow. Delivering the skills that our employers, our workers and our economy need is a key step towards growing our economic capacity and dampening inflationary pressures. That's why the Albanese government is hitting the ground running on this. (Time expired)
Thank you very much, Minister. It's nice to get an answer full of hope and opportunity! Minister, what are the risks to the current skills shortage crisis if we don't have a government committed to investing in and reforming the skills and training sector?
Thank you again, Senator O'Neill. Unfortunately, after a decade of training cuts and inaction, we are now experiencing a coalition-led skills shortage crisis—a situation made worse by the previous government's decision to abandon migrant workers during pandemic—
I remember by week two it was starting to sink in for me as well, so I can understand the reaction we've had this week!
This situation was of course made worse by the previous government's decision to abandon migrant workers during pandemic lockdowns, heightening the skills shortages we saw across industries. It's also true the previous government failed to make an agreement with the state and territory governments on skills funding. Not one state or territory government signed up to the previous government's approach, whether they were Labor or coalition. So it's no surprise the previous government neglected TAFEs, the lifeblood of the vocational, educational and training system, and failed to do the work needed for our skills sector. Unlike the former government, we're hitting the ground running, we're taking responsibility and we're— (Time expired)