Feb 17, 2021








SUBJECTS: Rebuild with TAFE campaign; Jobs and Skills Australia; importance of TAFE post-COVID.


CORRENA HAYTHORPE, FEDERAL PRESIDENT OF THE AUSTRALIAN EDUCATION UNION: Good morning everyone. My name is Correna Haythorpe. I’m the Federal President of the Australian Education Union. And firstly, I’d like to acknowledge that we are gathering here today on the lands of the Ngunnawal People and pay our respects to the elders past, present and emerging of this beautiful country. Always was and always will be their land. I’d like to acknowledge that we’ve got several parliamentarians with us today, Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese, we’ve got Mehreen Faruqi, education spokesperson for the Greens, and we’ve also got Louise Pratt and a number of other parliamentarians. So thank you and welcome. We’re also joined by Michele O’Neil from the ACTU in terms of helping us with our launch today. So we’re here to launch the Rebuild with TAFE campaign. Why Rebuild with TAFE? Well, it’s time that governments understood that it is TAFE that must be at the centre of any rebuild post-COVID. It is TAFE that creates the hope and opportunity for our students. It is TAFE that creates the hope and opportunity for workers as they seek to retrain and reskill for the future. But unfortunately, TAFE has suffered massive funding cuts, it has been part of, subject to, cuts of $3 billion in terms of vocational education. It’s also been party to a significant privatisation agenda. And this has had a devastating impact across the country in terms of courses and campuses and indeed on our students. But today’s about hope. Today is about establishing the importance of TAFE with the National Cabinet agenda of skills. And making sure that all political parties understand that it is by rebuilding with TAFE that we can address the national shortages of over 200,000 apprentices. It is by rebuilding with TAFE that we can create that hope and opportunity for our students. It’s by rebuilding with TAFE that we can create hope and opportunity for the workers of Australia who are seeking to retrain and reskill. And it is by rebuilding with TAFE that we can ensure that the social and economic benefits of Australia are felt by all. TAFE is trusted by industry, it’s trusted by the community and it must be trusted by the governments. That’s why we’re here to launch this campaign to make sure that governments and political parties understand that we will be in communities across Australia, building that message in the lead-up to the next election. Because if this election has a focus on how we prioritise funds and capital post-COVID, then it must do that by rebuilding with TAFE at its centre. I’d like to now welcome Michele O’Neil for a few words. Thank you, Michele.


MICHELE O’NEIL, PRESIDENT OF THE ACTU: Thanks, Correna. And I’m very pleased to join the Australian Education Union today with this important launch of Rebuild with TAFE. TAFE is so critical to the training and education needs of Australians. And what we know at the moment is that we have nearly two million Australians who are either out of work or don’t have enough work. And we’ve got another one and a half million people who are currently on JobKeeper facing the possible end of that, and with the actual end of that in a few short weeks, and the possibility of unemployment and not having a job to go to. TAFE is critical to this because it’s about how do we rebuild after COVID? And we believe that we need a national economic reconstruction plan. And when we announced that during 2020, we said one of the key components of that was education and training. And critical was our public TAFE system. Because this Government has seen $3 billion ripped out of TAFE. We’ve got 140,000 less apprentices than we used to have. And what we know is that industry is changing. And TAFE has such a proud history in Australia. People love TAFE. And they love TAFE because it’s been responsive in local communities. It’s given opportunities for people to get education who otherwise wouldn’t have had it. One of the great things about TAFE is it’s a leveller. It’s open and available to everyone. Good public education is about that. It is saying that it’s not about how much you earn, it’s not about where you come from, it’s not about whether English is your first language, it’s not about how well you did at school. It’s about the education and training you need to be able to get a job and get ahead. But it’s also about what industry needs, what business needs. And regional communities, local communities, where TAFE is working, sees that great collaboration of getting the skills that industry needs for the future. And we know jobs are going to change. We need to have highly skilled workers that are able to adapt to the sort of jobs that are going to be there in the future. And TAFE is critical to that. We’ve seen too many dodgy private providers move into the vocational education and training system. What this campaign is about is rebuilding with TAFE. Putting TAFE at the centre of economic recovery, and the training and skills needs that workers need but also business needs and also the economy needs. I’m really pleased to support the people here with me today. There are great educators in TAFE. We need to see money that goes into those educators, into those teachers. We need money that goes into rebuilding TAFE and making sure we reverse some of the worst cases of privatisation. Rebuild with TAFE is critical. Thank you.


HAYTHORPE: Thank you very much, Michele. And I’d also just like to acknowledge the presidents and leaders of TAFE that we have here today and TAFE teachers. And I know that people will be available if you’re seeking comments from them afterwards. Can I welcome Anthony? Thank you.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Correna and Michele. And I also want to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. I have Louise Pratt, who’s doing a fantastic job as the Assistant Shadow Minister for Manufacturing. really concentrating on that absolutely critical issue that we need to rebuild into the years ahead. And I acknowledge Senator Faruqi who’s here with us this morning. Can I say that I’m very proud to be a part of the Rebuild TAFE campaign? The first announcement I made as Labor Leader was the creation of Jobs and Skills Australia. A body reflecting for labour planning exactly what Infrastructure Australia does for planning of investment in capital. The fact is, we need to invest in people. We need to identify what the jobs are needed in the future and then train people for them. Just last week, I was in Queensland. And whether it is Downer EDI in Maryborough, building trains here in Australia with 42 apprenticeships on site, whether it be the Cross River Rail project employing 4,000 Queenslanders, whether it be up in Cairns, where of course we know the tourism sector is in dire straits. But guess what? They still have a skill shortage for cooks in Cairns right now. The fact is that people in TAFE is about training people for their first job, but also retraining people for their next job. It does a remarkable job across the country. But it’s been starved of funds by this Federal Government. $3 billion cut to TAFE. 140,000 less apprentices and trainees today than when this Government came to office in 2013. And when you go into a TAFE, what you see is dedicated men and women passing on their skills to their fellow Australians. Doing it not for the money, doing it out of satisfaction and out of doing something for their fellow Australian and indeed for the national economy. As we reconstruct post-pandemic, giving Australians the skills that they need so that we don’t import labour rather than train our own when there are so many Australians looking for work. There’s two million Australians who are either unemployed or underemployed, want more hours, want more jobs. TAFE has to be at the absolute centre of our training system. It is TAFE that works. We know that there are many good private training providers. But we also know there’s been a lot of dodginess involved in the private sector, something that you can’t say about TAFE. But this Government, with its ideological blinkers on, with its view about the public sector that the private is always better, has got it wrong. We need to have TAFE at the very centre of our training system here in Australia. And as we recover, training and skills has to be at the centre of how we grow back our economy, how we plan for the jobs of the future, and make sure that Australians can fill them.


HAYTHORPE: Thank you very much, Anthony. I’d now like to invite Mehreen to say a few words.


MEHREEN FARUQI, GREENS SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES: Thanks, Correna. And thank you, Michele. And thanks to all the TAFE workers, staff and teachers who have done incredible over the years. The reality is that for decades, our TAFE system has been ripped apart by federal and state governments. It’s been ripped apart through privatisation, through a real lack of funding, and through sheer neglect. And that has been destructive. But it is also incredibly short-sighted. I mean, I love the idea of the building blocks to rebuild TAFE as a civil engineer. And I know that TAFE educates and trains skilled workers who communities, businesses and industries depend on. TAFE is the backbone of so many communities across Australia. Having lived and worked in regional New South Wales, I know that the TAFE in Port Macquarie was the heart and soul of the community there. What we need is TAFE to be at the centre of rebuilding from the pandemic, for tackling the climate crisis and for transitioning to 100 per cent renewable energy. High quality, publicly owned, well-funded, and free TAFE is our way through a more socially economically just and equal society. Everyone has a right to educate themselves, no matter what they want to study or no matter what stage of life they’re in. And that’s why public education has to be one which is freely available for everyone and of the highest quality. Thanks so much.


ALBANESE: If I can do a quick shout-out to members of my team who are here, we’ve got Kristy McBain, Susan Templeman, Helen Polley, we’ve got Dave Smith, Pat Conroy, Tony Zappia. And I think that says something about the commitment that my team have to this issue. And thank you for participating here. And Louise Pratt is going to say a few words.


LOUISE PRATT, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR MANUFACTURING: Good morning. As the Shadow Assistant Minister for Manufacturing and Skills, I wanted to share with you just one example of the kind of challenge our nation faces, which is why rebuilding TAFE and Labor’s policy for Jobs and Skills in Australia are so central. We have with a shortage of imported labour, now because of COVID, a real challenge in meeting the skill shortage in areas like metal trades and engineering. TAFE is the only quality provider that can drive the provision of these skills to the industries that we need to grow now in our nation. It is all very well for the Government to talk about a manufacturing-led recovery and a gas-led recovery when it doesn’t invest in the institutions and the funding of those institutions that can deliver those outcomes. As a West Australian I know how critical those industries are to our mining and every other sector, as are all of the skills that are represented here in TAFE’s campaign. Thank you.


HAYTHORPE: Thanks very much, Louise. That brings to a close our section. I do know that Anthony will be here for some other matters or some questions. But I really would like to just reinforce the message about Rebuilding with TAFE and the importance of making sure that governments understand that we need to invest in TAFE. Every Australian has the right to a public vocational education. And the place where they can get that education is at TAFE. Thank you very much.