Senate debates

Thursday, 8 September 2022


Jobs And Skills Summit

5:48 pm

Photo of Catryna BilykCatryna Bilyk (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On Monday last week I was pleased to attend the Australian government's building community forum in Hobart, followed later in the day by the Hobart Jobs and Skills Summit. I was joined at the jobs and skills summit by my colleague Senator Brown and the member for Lyons, Brian Mitchell. The Assistant Treasurer as well as the Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury, Dr Andrew Leigh, attended both meetings.

Unlike the previous government, the Albanese Labor government has been listening to and consulting with a broad range of stakeholders on the issues confronting Australians. The Hobart Jobs and skills Summit was one of over 100 across Australia, including three in Tasmania, that fed in from local representatives of workers, businesses, training providers and other stakeholders to the national summit in Canberra. Tasmanian summits have also been held in Launceston and Devonport.

The Hobart building community forum was the sixth across Australia to hear from Australian charities and not-for-profits about the challenges they are facing, as well as where they are finding success. It's refreshing to have a federal Labor government that is ready and willing to work with Australian charities, rather than trying to gag them, restrain them and bury them in red tape. This government is a friend of charities, and the decade-long Liberal war on charities is finally over. The 100 representatives at the forum came from charities of all sizes and across a range of causes, including religion; environment; education; health, including mental health; poverty; homelessness; disability; public interest journalism; and even animal rescue. Many had suffered through the pandemic, with donation revenue having fallen, and they had struggled to re-engage disengaged volunteers while demand for their services went through the roof.

We heard from charities that regulation or red tape was a big issue for them, as was funding certainty. While the previous government dragged its feet on fixing Australia's outdated charity fundraising laws—and you might remember that I worked with Dr Leigh on pressuring them to adopt the recommendations of the Senate inquiry I chaired to relieve charities of this $15-million-a-year red tape burden—I was pleased to hear Dr Leigh say that the government will be looking at reporting requirements for grants and will provide longer funding agreements so organisations can focus more of their resources on service delivery. We also heard from charities that they would like more support to engage and recognise volunteers and to achieve deductible gift recipient status.

I would like to thank everyone who attended and contributed to the forum, and I thank Dr Leigh for his consistent work over many years consulting with and acting on the needs of charities.

Later in the same day, the jobs and skills round table, hosted by Dr Leigh, Mr Mitchell, Senator Brown and me, heard from more than 70 business, union, civil society and education leaders from across Tasmania. Among the feedback we heard were calls for incentives for businesses to host apprentices and the need to address the discrepancy between Tasmanian and mainland wages, a phenomenon known informally as the Tassie leisure tax. The lower average wages paid to Tasmanians provide an incentive for Tasmanian workers to leave for mainland jobs but they provide little incentive for in-demand workers to move to Tasmania. Attendees expressed fear over the risks the gig economy and labour hire currently pose to secure, safe and well-paying work.

There were strong expressions of disappointment over the previous government's gutting of vocational education and training, particularly TAFE, and there was broad agreement that TAFE needs to provide the skills that Tasmanians need in a changing economy. We also heard that there is a need to rethink how our education system delivers career education to young people. We were told that migrants need a simplified system for their overseas qualifications to be recognised in Australia. Sometimes skilled migrants are caught up in red tape, and this causes them to end up employed in a sector unrelated to their qualification. Also discussed was the need for housing and infrastructure supply close to where there is demand for work. All in all, it was a collegial and productive discussion, and the outcomes of the discussion, along with many others throughout the country, were fed into the national summit in Canberra.

Once again, I'd like to thank all the participants for coming together for such a wideranging conversation, and I thank Dr Leigh for being there for both forums and facilitating the building community forum. These events show how the Albanese Labor government seek to listen to and consult with the Australian community. It shows that we will bring people together, not divide them. This is in stark contrast to the politics of division which were practised by those opposite when they were in government and which they continue to practise to this day.