SUBJECTS: Federal government divided on energy; skills shortages in North Queensland; apprentice butcher and hairdresser shortages; weekend BBQ under threat; TAFE and training cuts from Morrison Government.

MURRAY JONES, HOST: Actually as we put this guy to air, I should probably suggest that he comes to Cairns, he knows the Botanic Gardens, maybe it’s time to renew the vows. We have the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Richard Marles. Good Morning, Richard.
Good morning, Murray. I know those gardens very well.

JONES: You do!

MARLES: It was where I was betrothed.

JONES: It’s true, and I was going to say – I am not suggesting you might need to renew your vows – but come north and spend some time in the tropical north and maybe renew your vows, while you are here.

MARLES: Well, my wife and I, we eloped – thinking we’re very cool – to Cairns to get married. And we had two witnesses, who were just random joggers who are running around the Botanic Gardens at the time! The celebrant literally grabbed them by the collar and ask them to witness our marriage, and so we’ve got wedding photos with two joggers, which hold pride of place for us now. But for Rachel and I, it is just about our favourite place in the world so we really wish we were there. And obviously, the way in which the country is kind of split up at the moment is very sad. But as soon as we can get back there, we will!

JONES: Look as you’ve just suggested, split up in so many ways, but also coming together in quite incredible ways. And I’m actually quoting from Sky News of all sources this morning. Can we just quickly talk about what’s happened with the New South Wales Coalition? Their new climate goal has been described as a win for the planet and Aussie prosperity by the Energy Minister Matt Kean. Now he’s told Sky News the new emissions target was an economic play, which would allow Australia to take advantage of the huge economic opportunities. It’s a plan that will create jobs, it will drive investment into New South Wales, it will lower people’s power bills, and it will underwrite the state’s prosperity in the future. This is directly out of the songbook of Labor, and the Greens but it’s been obviously embraced by John Barilaro, and of course, the Libs in New South Wales. This is a significant move by New South Wales.

MARLES: Well it’s interesting, Murray, that the Liberals in New South Wales get it, but Scott Morrison clearly doesn’t. And the point is right there, this is an economic play. I mean, it’s obviously important that Australia plays its part in reducing global emissions and dealing with the global challenge of climate change, but in a way, almost more significantly for the country is taking advantage of the enormous opportunity that it represents for us economically. I mean, we really do have incredible renewable energy sources in this country. Really, it’s just about the best of any country in the world; we’ve got the most consistent winds both south with coastline adjacent to the Roaring Forties, and north with the trade winds. But also, the quality of our solar radiation is as good as anywhere in the world other than the Sahara, and we’re probably in a better position to exploit that than the countries of that region. And so, you know, harnessing that and being the leaders in it, but also developing the cheap energy that comes from that to fuel our industry is a huge opportunity for Australia. And this is a point we’ve been making for some time. But what we’ve got with Scott Morrison and his team is a government that really just doesn’t understand this, and is missing an enormous economic opportunity as a result.

JONES: As we know, car makers right across the world, they’re not investing any technology, any research, with respect to the future of fossil fuel cars. All the big international car makers – they’re just going electric. Rolls Royce rolled out one this morning. Solar panels here in Australia, we’ve missed a big opportunity there. And we’ve got so many resources such as lithium. At the end of the day has the penny dropped that Australia’s future prosperity has basically just wasted away, as so many people have continued to argue – and we’ve had these issues particularly from the Nationals who just won’t accept the science – and Australia is the loser.

MARLES: Yeah, that’s absolutely right, I don’t think people will forget that Scott Morrison said that electric vehicles was going to destroy the weekend, that’s obviously rubbish. And we’re just missing a play here. And it’s not to say that a whole lot of really important industries for us, like coal in parts of Queensland, are really significant – they’re going to be – continue to be so for a long time to come. But it’s just that there is an opportunity with looking at renewable energy, the cheap energy that comes from that, the jobs that we can develop around that, the science that we can develop around that and be leaders in that field. And we can actually do both. And there is an enormous economic opportunity for us in respect of this, and it is what is being missed by Scott Morrison. And it’s interesting that his state counterparts in New South Wales seem to get it, he clearly doesn’t.

Really, the party room of the government nationally is just completely divided about all of this. They can’t get an energy policy together. They don’t really know what they’re going to take to Glasgow. And the most basic commitment, which is that of seeking to have net zero emissions by 2050, which really is the key that underpins the Paris Accord, is one that should be easy for the Prime Minister to say, but he can’t. And that is putting Australia behind, and we’re going to miss out on the opportunity with that, and we’re going to miss out on a whole lot of jobs with that,  and it’s a big mistake.

JONES: Well, let’s move on to something else that should also be concerning the National Party as well. Queensland has 65 percent fewer butcher apprentices compared to eight years ago, and that raises the question with respect to the humble Aussie barbecue. Also hairdressers – hairdressers have dropped dramatically here in Queensland, and right across the nation. So basically, lots of raw steaks and possibly lots of long hair by the sound of things, Richard?

MARLES: Well, that’s right. And in Cairns alone, we’ve seen a drop of 39% in the number of trainee butchers today compared to what it was eight years ago, when Scott Morrison and the  Liberals came to power. And ultimately what that’s about is a failure to fund TAFE.

Scott Morrison and his team have cut $3 billion out of TAFE over that period of time, and that has a consequence. And it’s having a consequence across a whole range of occupations, skills and trades, but it does affect butchers. And this is a really critical trade, as you say. It is actually the trade that underpins the weekend barbecue. And when you see that there is a drop of those numbers in Cairns alone, a drop of 10% in the number of hairdressers across Queensland alone, this really is speaking to the larger issue of the skills crisis which is facing the country right now.

We simply have to get our kids trained and into trades, so that – I mean, it’s a great opportunity for them, but our economy desperately needs it. And, you know, I do business forums around Queensland and around the country, and wherever you go and literally in almost any field, the number one issue is that people can’t find the skilled employees they need to do the jobs that they have going. And our economy is paying a price for that.

JONES: Particularly when it comes to butchery, obviously things have changed quite dramatically in the last 20 years or so as you’ve seen a bit of a flow towards supermarkets, but it seems like there’s been a bit of a kickback against that. But you know, as some of these older butchers retire, and when it comes to the jokes that they tell and some of the songs that they sing, there’s just simply not the young people to take over and actually fill that role in the future. Because I mean, this need is not going to go away, so I guess it’s a ticking time bomb when it comes to our barbecue.

MARLES: Well that’s right, and also butchers are used in terms of those supermarkets as well, so it’s across the board. And you’re dead right. I think there is something here about promoting trades, in this case, promoting the opportunity that comes from being a trainee butcher. People earn good money here, this is a really good career. And I think we do need to be telling the story to our kids in schools that, you know, going to university is fantastic but it’s not for everyone, and there are really good trades out there. And being a butcher is one of those – you’ll earn decent money, have a great life and it is a trade that is really essential to our way of life. In one way or another all of us, well, lots of us, I should say, almost every day are relying on that trade, in terms of the food that we eat, in terms of having a barbecue on the weekend. And it’s really important that we get those skilled numbers up, and that we are encouraging people to pursue those trades.

JONES: A real opportunity for young men, and for young women, to get into such trades. And it beggars belief that, you know, certainly the Nationals part of our our federal government obviously, would be actually looking after some of these agricultural industries and I guess the impact flowing right through to those agricultural industries as a result of this issue. And it seems like they’re just unable to do anything about it.

MARLES: Totally right. I mean, it’s a really important kind of downstream trade from an industry which is really significant in Queensland. And right through the economy we are just seeing, you know, not enough people with the trades required. I mean, you can look at chefs which is a real issue across Queensland, other trades required in hospitality, IT, you know, a lot of the traditional trades. We’re just not training our kids enough. And I think this is not because of COVID-19, but I think COVID-19 has taught us a lesson here with the international border closed, and we don’t have the same number of people from overseas here on temporary work visas doing this kind of work. It really has highlighted that we are not training our own people enough and we just don’t have the level of skills that we need. And when you strip it all back, that’s because Scott Morrison has carved an enormous amount of money out of the TAFE sector over the last eight years.

And I should say, I think the state Labor government has done a really good job in reinvesting in TAFE, but this is an area which is really a partnership between the state and Commonwealth levels of government. The state government’s doing its bit, but it doesn’t have a Commonwealth partner.

JONES: Richard Marles, not only was he married here in Cairns, Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for National Reconstruction, Employment, Skills, Small Business and Science, it’s been great to talk to you this morning. We’re looking forward to seeing you, particularly down there are the Gardens. Have a great day and we’ll catch up soon.


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