Tuesday, 17 October 2023
Questions without Notice
My question is for the Minister for Finance and the Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Gallagher. Last month the Albanese Labor government delivered on its commitment to release the employment white paper Working future, outlining a roadmap to ensure more Australians who want jobs or more hours of work can get them. What key challenges did the paper identify, and what opportunities are ahead for individual Australians and the broader economy?
I thank Senator White for the question and for highlighting the importance of the employment white paper which the government released in late September. The employment white paper outlines our vision for a strong and inclusive labour market, one where everyone has the opportunity for secure, fairly paid work and where people, businesses and communities can be the beneficiaries of that. The white paper is about five things: delivering sustained and inclusive full employment; promoting job security and strong, sustainable wage growth; reigniting productivity growth; filling skills needs and building our future workforce; and overcoming barriers to employment and broadening opportunity. The white paper provides the roadmap to make sure that our labour market is in the best shape possible for the future.
We do face some challenges in the economy, including an aging population, rising demand for care and support services, technological and digital transformation, the climate change and net zero transformation that's occurring across our economy, and geopolitical risk and fragmentation. We have a plan to harness the opportunities for Australian workers. These include the areas that I've just outlined, like jobs in the net zero economy and jobs in the care economy, and reducing barriers to work for people from more diverse backgrounds, allowing greater participation for women in the economy, expanding our skills base, reforming the migration system and broadening access to foundational skills. These are all really important areas for us to focus on as we work together to ensure that everybody who wants a job across the economy can get that job and, more importantly, that they're given the skills and opportunities in the lead-up to that to be prepared for the jobs of the future.
National Cabinet met yesterday and endorsed the new National Skills Agreement, which reflects much of the thinking in the employment white paper. How will the agreement expand and transform access to the VET sector, support quality training and implement reforms to address critical skills shortages? How will the government's fee-free TAFE measure help industry while also helping Australians with the cost of living?
I thank Senator White for the supplementary. That's right: last night the Prime Minister and Minister for Skills and Training announced the landmark National Skills Agreement. This is evidence of a government and a Prime Minister that want to work with others to get results, instead of the wrecking and negativity that we've seen from those opposite.
The skills agreement will support a new way of the states and territories and the Commonwealth working together. The new agreement will see the Australian government invest up to an additional $3.7 billion in VET over five years, bringing total Commonwealth investment through the agreement to $12.6 billion. First ministers noted that the National Skills Agreement delivers on the vision and principles previously endorsed by National Cabinet. First ministers also recommitted to fee-free TAFE. This has been an incredibly popular government initiative, with almost 215,000 places delivered in the first six months of this year, far exceeding expectations. Remember TAFE? (Time expired)
The employment white paper outlines where some of the big changes in our economy will be in future decades and helps to guide how we can be prepared to harness the opportunities that come with them. This includes opportunities for women in the Australian economy. What are the opportunities for Australian women, and how will they help grow and strengthen our national economy?
One of the most fundamental changes in the Australian labour market over the past 50 years is the rise in female workplace participation, and we want to continue this trend. About 62.5 per cent of women participated in the labour market in August 2023 compared to 37 per cent in 1966. But we do have a highly gender-segregated labour market, and gender segregation is a major barrier to addressing skills shortages in critical occupations such as aged care, early childhood education and care, teaching and technicians and trade workers. We know that women dominate in sectors that pay less and are less secure, and male dominated sectors have less flexibility or access to paid parental leave. So these are both areas that we need to concentrate on to make sure that we can maximise the use of our labour market to deliver in those areas of skills shortage but also to make sure that we're using fully the skills across the economy.