SUBJECTS: Critical skills shortage; Scott Morrison’s bungled booster rollout.
RICHARD MARLES, ACTING LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, another day and there is another story about the skills crisis in Australia. This morning, we read about businesses on the Mornington Penisula who are in the hospitality sector who are going to extraordinary lengths in order to attract the talent that they need. If you speak to businesses around the country, you get the same story; that they simply cannot find the people with the skills that they need, and that’s because there is a skills crisis in Australia today. And that, in turn is because Scott Morrison’s government has cut $3 billion out of TAFE over the last eight years. Today, we have 85,000 less trainees and apprentices than we did back in 2013. The economy’s grown in that time, the labour force has grown in that time, but the number of apprentices and trainees has gone backwards. So, Labor has announced that we will work with the states to ensure that people who study in areas of a skill shortage at TAFE will do so for free.
Today, there are also reports about growing COVID case numbers, particularly in Victoria and New South Wales. Those numbers are pretty confronting. The states are doing the heavy lifting here, and they’re doing a great job. It’s clearly important that they continue to listen to the medical advice in terms of the measures that they put in place to keep us safe. But the key now is to make sure that the rollout of the booster shot- the third jab- is done in an efficient way. Already, the rollout of the booster shot is being delayed because of the initial vaccine rollout being not done in a timely way by Scott Morrison. We also see Scott Morrison now cutting funding to the GPs and the pharmacists – the very people who are doing the rollout of the booster shot. Scott Morrison stuffed up the roll out of the vaccine earlier in the year. He’s now busily stuffing up the rollout of the booster shot.
Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: If there’s no one else in the room, I’ll go. Richard, given how transmissible Omicron is proving to be, should New South Wales bring back its mask mandates and QR code? Do we need some of these measures to control the spread given the case numbers we’re seeing now?
MARLES: Well, the states are doing the heavy lifting in the measures that they have put in place really since the pandemic began. It’s important that they continue to listen to the best medical advice in terms of what measures they put in place to keep us safe. And I’ve got no doubt that that’s what the New South Wales Government will do.
JOURNALIST: And in terms of the lockdowns we’re seeing again in Europe, the Netherlands has announced they’re going back into lockdown for Christmas. If the states start to see hospitals become under increasing pressure from new case numbers and they see restrictions and lockdowns as the only course of action, do you think that that is, you know, a course that they should take?
MARLES: Well I don’t think any of us want to be in an extra day of lockdown. Certainly, for those of us who live in Victoria, we’ve gone through a lot of lockdown over the last 18 months. It’s really important that the states listen to the best medical advice in terms of whatever measures they put in place to keep us safe, but the key is the rollout of the booster shot. And what we see is that the rollout is delayed now because of Scott Morrison’s failure during the year to have the initial vaccine rollout done in a timely way. We also now see Scott Morrison cutting funding to GPs and pharmacists – the very people who are doing the booster rollout now. This is astonishing. We saw Scott Morrison stuff the vaccine rollout during the year. We are now seeing Scott Morrison stuff the booster rollout now. And this is a real problem.
JOURNALIST: What do you say to people who are anxious about the soaring case numbers, particularly in safe states that aren’t used to seeing any cases and their borders are now open?
MARLES: Well, we have the very best medical advice in this country. The states have done a fantastic job in keeping people safe. They’re listening to the best medical advice and I’ve got no doubt that they will inform their decisions based on that advice going forward and we should take confidence in that.