SUBJECTS: George Christensen; Skills shortages in Victoria; Free TAFE; Labor’s skills announcement; Scott Morrison’s party room woes; online trolls.
JOSH BURNS, MEMBER FOR MACNAMARA: Over the last 24 hours we’ve seen George Christensen appear, or it’s been revealed that George Christensen appeared, on a far-right conspiracy show. And it is only because Scott Morrison hasn’t taken any action from the previous times when George Christensen has made offensive remarks and offensive comparisons with the Holocaust, that George feels it’s appropriate to go on this show in the first place.
Make no mistake, this is not the first time that George Christensen has made offensive and ugly remarks about the Holocaust. And for my family- my grandmother fled Nazi Germany and the family that she left behind wasn’t so lucky. And George Christensen time and time again, thinks it’s appropriate to compare the pandemic health response with the worst single atrocity in the history of mankind.
And the problem is, is the reason why he’s willing to do it time and time again is because there are no consequences. There are no consequences for this man making these comparisons under this prime minister. And it’s about time Scott Morrison stopped being soft on George Christensen and actually held him to account for the offensive things that he’s been saying time and time again.
Now on a much happier note, welcome everyone to Youth2Industry, it is a great local place. What a great local independent school. I’m really proud to be here with Richard Marles, our Deputy Leader of the Labor Party. This independent school captures kids who are not necessarily flourishing in mainstream school, but are flourishing right here. And they are making a wonderful life for themselves by upskilling themselves and getting them ready for the workplace, and I thank the team for hosting us today.
Because here in the Labor Party, we are about making sure students get the skills that they need for long-term good, secure jobs, that’s what we’re about. And in Macnamara it is really important because the number of apprentices and traineeships have dramatically fallen under this Government, by almost half. In 2013 there were around 3500 apprentices and trainees, that number is now about half of that in Macnamara. We need to tackle this problem. We need to make sure that young people have a future with skills and good jobs. And it happens right here in places like Youth2Industry. And on that note, I’m going to hand over to Richard Marles to say a few words.
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks, Josh and it’s fantastic to be here this morning with Josh Burns, our wonderful Member for Macnamara. And Josh does such a great job representing the people of Macnamara in our federal parliament, and we’re really lucky to have Josh, and the quality of Josh, in our team.
Australia is facing a skills crisis. You can speak to any business around the country and they will be talking about the difficulties that they are facing in finding the people they need for the jobs that they have. It is a crisis which is enveloping the country. And it’s because under Scott Morrison we have seen billions of dollars cut from TAFE funding over the last eight years, such that today there are 85,000 less trainees and apprentices around the country than there were in 2013. Think about that, the economy’s grown, the labour force has grown, but trainees and apprenticeship numbers have gone backwards. In Victoria there are 23,000 less trainees and apprentices today than there were in 2013 – that’s a drop of 24 per cent. It’s even worse, as Josh has said, in the electorate of Macnamara.
So Labor, on Sunday, announced that we would work with the states to provide free TAFE to any student who is studying in an area of skills shortage. That’s what we’ve got to do to get more trainees and apprentices through the system so that we are generating more apprentices in this country to meet the skills crisis that we currently have. And this is the plan which will fix the problem.
I think there’s also an issue around mindset – we need to be encouraging kids to pursue a trade. And that’s why this school, Youth2Industry, is such an important school, providing VCAL and providing kids with the pathways and the opportunities to pursue a TAFE course and pursue a trade. If you go to university that’s fantastic, but getting a trade is fantastic as well. And at the other end of getting that trade is a really good job which will pay decent money and you can have a great life. And it’s so important that we are celebrating the acquisition of trades and that we’re encouraging kids to pursue that path.
I’d like to just make a couple of other comments. Today Dominic Perrottet, the Premier of New South Wales will be speaking at the National Press Club. He has called on an end to the divide and conquer way of managing the country. He is right. Scott Morrison is very good at creating division which works in his own interest. But that division does not work in the interests of Australia, particularly as we face challenges, like the pandemic. This is a failure of leadership on the part of Scott Morrison, we need a prime minister who unites the country rather than divides us. We need a prime minister who will bring the country back together again. And Scott Morrison has completely failed to do that during the pandemic. He sees every relationship as an opportunity to have a political fight, and we have seen the way in which he has done that with premiers over the last 18 months. And I think Australians are sick of this and are desperate for a different style of leadership, which brings the country together. And this is a complete failure of leadership on the part of the Prime Minister.
And we see that failure of leadership within his own party room as well. The Prime Minister talks about wanting to end trolling online, and yet within his own party room he has Members of his Government – George Christensen, Senator Rennick – who are busily spreading misinformation about state public health measures. They’re spreading misinformation which undermines the vaccine rollout in this country. The standards that Scott Morrison wants to apply to Australia, he is unable to apply to his own party room. Again, this is a complete failure of leadership.