Parliamentary Speeches

BILLS - Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021 - Consideration in Detail

09 November 2020

Well, wasn't this budget the most Morrison budget going around! In terms of the critically important skills sector, it was all headline and no follow-through. We saw the big, splashy headline 'JobMaker and JobTrainer saves the day', and photos of the Prime Minister in hard hat and hi-vis vest, but then the detail slowly drips out and it turns out the policy has far more bark than bite. Don't get me wrong, after spending seven years creating a tradie crisis in Australia we would welcome the Liberals cleaning up some of their mess. Since COVID-19 hit, the need for help has been more urgent than ever. Many apprentices lost work because of the Prime Minister's slow response to COVID-19, and the number of people starting apprenticeships and traineeships this year is down by 22 per cent. The Liberals promised an extra 300,000 apprentices and trainees, yet the reality is that more than 140,000 apprentices and trainees have been lost on their watch. Let's see if Scott Morrison actually delivers anything.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Wallace ): Order! The member will use the—


Ms. KEARNEY: Sorry! It's in my notes! I apologise, Deputy Speaker. The Prime Minister. Their budget commitments don't go close to making up for seven years of Liberal Party failure that has seen more than $3 billion cut from TAFE and training, more than 140,000 apprentices and trainees gone and widespread tradie shortages, including carpenters, plumbers and metalworkers.


As part of their budget, the government announced wage subsidies for 100,000 new apprentices, but have since said that employers will be able to collect the wage subsidies for existing employees. My question to those who sit opposite is: how many new jobs will actually be created? The gap between the wage subsidy schemes means businesses that hired apprentices or trainees between June and October are excluded from the support. Why don't those businesses that took a risk and created jobs for new apprentices and trainees in the middle of a pandemic get a helping hand? The program is meant to support 180,000 apprentices and trainees, but, almost halfway through, only 90,000 or so are receiving support. Is this government expecting there to be another 90,000 recipients? Undelivering is where the Prime Minister has form. We know from previous budgets that the Liberals have failed to spend over $1 billion of their own TAFE and training budget over the past five years. The Liberal government's $1 billion underspend included incentives for businesses to take on apprentices, support to help people finish their apprenticeships and a fund designed to train Australians in areas of need. It's no wonder the skills sector is crying out for funding and reform.


Onto a second point I'd like some answers on: the Liberal Party's much promoted industry training hubs. In the 2019-20 budget, the government announced funding for 10 industry training hubs supporting school based vocational education in regions where there is high youth unemployment. Unsurprisingly, they've only managed to get cracking on two hubs. My colleague the member for Burt would love to have an update as to where his hub is, I'm sure. So, I have some questions. What is the current status of the establishment of each of the 10 industry training hubs announced ahead of the last federal election? The 2019 federal budget announced $50.9 million for 10 training hubs. How much of this has been spent to date? Why have there been such significant delays in getting the hubs up and running? Now is the time for the federal government to invest in training and jobs in suburbs and areas which need extra investment to assist our kids to get jobs, but there's nothing in this year's budget for these hubs. Their only track record on the skills sector is less money, fewer apprenticeships and traineeships, and less money for TAFE. They love a good headline, but they don't seem to ever actually deliver on their promises.


There was not a cent in the budget for TAFE. They have spent seven years neglecting our TAFE and training system, ignoring the vital role TAFE plays in the growth of our young people and the vital role it plays in the growth of our economy. They have spent seven years cutting funding while also underspending the meagre amount of promise to the sector. Rebuilding our skills and training sector will be crucial to getting the economy going again. At a time when we as a nation are screaming out for skilled workers, it is a travesty that this government has neglected the VET sector and neglected our youth. If all that is delivered is a headline and we see billions in unspent funds, we will be here to hold this government to account.