Tuesday, 23 August 2022

SUBJECTS: Skills crisis; Solicitor-General’s Report on Morrison’s secret ministries; Opinion polls.


NATALIE BARR, HOST: Anthony Albanese will host a skills summit in Canberra next week which aims to address this problem. Joining me now is Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles. Good morning to you.


BARR: Tell us how the Government is going to address this current worker shortage.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think what we face right now is a skills crisis, and in order to deal with that we’ve got to reinvest in skills, fundamentally. I mean, it is important to get our migration flows back to where they were before the pandemic, and that will clearly be part of the solution. But the lesson that we have to learn from the last few years of having had the border closed is we’ve simply not been training enough of our own people. We’ve not been investing in skills enough, and that’s because under the former government billions of dollars was cut from the TAFE system. So, we’ve got some solutions here in terms of free TAFE for those studying in areas of skills shortage, 20,000 new university places. But not for a moment do we think we have every answer here, which is why the Skills Summit next week is going to be so important.

BARR: Yeah, and skilled migration is one thing that we obviously need. You know, we put out that list of the several – many – industries that need skilled workers. But also you walk into any cafe, any building site – you know, I could keep going on. A lot of people need unskilled workers too. How do we get people into this country or out into the workforce to solve that unskilled labour shortage as well?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, getting migration flows back to a normal level is part of it. But what we’re interested in doing is building a high‑skilled, high‑productive, high‑wage economy. And, in fact, we see lots of jobs which involve skills that particular businesses need, and I see this very much in terms of a skills crisis which needs to be addressed. And, as I say, that’s why we see the Summit next week as so important. And, yeah, there are some answers here which are pretty clear, like getting migration flows back to normal, making sure that we have free TAFE, but we really need to look at this from every angle so that from a whole‑of‑government, whole‑of‑country point of view, we can resolve this question, which is why the Summit is so important.

BARR: Yep, okay, because for a lot of people it’s just boots on the ground. They’re willing to train them. We’ve had them on. We’ve had many industries saying, “we will train you, we’ll give you extra money”, but they just can’t get people to apply, to actually stand in front of them. So good luck with the Summit.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think the system around ways in which employers are supported to train people is really important as well. And you’re right; there is a willingness I think out there from employers right now to engage in that training but that needs to be properly supported.

BARR: Yep. Okay. Let’s talk about the Scott Morrison ministerial job crisis. Have you – you’ve received that Solicitor‑General’s advice. Tell us what you found, what does it say?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I haven’t seen it yet. That will be presented to Cabinet this morning. Whatever is the legal situation here, and it’s very important that we do understand the legal situation, what’s clear is that Scott Morrison has firstly treated the whole Australian people with contempt by not acting in a transparent way. He’s treated his colleagues with contempt, but he’s undermined Cabinet process, which is at the heart of the Westminster system. And I think one of the issues here now is, what is going to be the political consequence for that? And we’ve got the Leader of the Opposition out there saying he’s basically fine with it, as long as Scott Morrison makes a few calls and says sorry. You’ve got Karen Andrews saying that’s not good enough and that Scott Morrison should resign from Parliament. There clearly needs to be a severe political consequence for someone who has so completely flouted our own system of government. It’s now on Peter Dutton to explain what he’s going to do about it.

BARR: And speaking of which, let’s look at the polls. The latest Resolve poll has been released and shows Anthony Albanese leads Opposition Leader Peter Dutton 55 to 17 per cent as preferred PM. That’s enough to maybe sit back and crack a beer, do you think?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: We are very focused on the task of government. And, you know, we’ve been asked polling questions a lot and before the last election we said we were focused on the election and now we’re very much focused on governing, and I think polls take care of themselves.

And I now see you’ve now got the footage of Anthony. This explains, of course, why I got the call I got from Anthony, it was very late last night after I’d gone to bed. I think he rang me about 9.30. Anyway, he’s a better man than I.

BARR: What was the call, Richard? Had he had a few more than just the one?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I woke up this morning and there was a missed call from the boss. As I say, he rang after my bedtime and clearly – I’ve now seen this morning. It explains everything.

BARR: Hang on, Richard, don’t you leave your phone on? You are Deputy at the moment.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I was dead to the world by 10 o’clock.

BARR: Right. We can understand, but just a suggestion, maybe leave your phone on when the boss calls – PM calling. It’s a big job now.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Maybe he wanted me to say something this morning, so I hope I haven’t got myself into trouble.

BARR: Okay. Well, let us know if he calls later.


BARR: Thank you, Richard Marles.


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