Release type: Transcript


Media conference - Meadowbank Applied Institute of TAFE, NSW


The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP
Minister for Skills and Training
The Hon Steve Whan MP
NSW Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education
Jerome Laxale MP
Member for Bennelong

JEROME LAXALE, MEMBER FOR BENNELONG: Good morning everyone. My name is Jerome Laxale, I'm the Member for Bennelong. I'd like to start by acknowledging the traditional custodians of land, the Wallumedegal people of the Darug nation and pay respects to elders past, present and emerging. Well, this is the second time in a matter of months that we've had some really major announcements here in Bennelong, and in particular, the Meadowbank Applied Institute of TAFE. This is an extraordinary facility. Tech jobs and tech apprenticeships upstairs, traditional trades and apprenticeships downstairs, a real part of reskilling our workforce to help grow our economy. It's fantastic to be at the centre of all that here in Bennelong and to help the Government achieve their targets of reskilling our workforce as we change and transition into new jobs that'll help families grow their family budget. So, it gives me great pleasure to have the Prime Minister here, the Minister for Skills, Brendan O’Connor, and the State Minister, Minister Whan, to make another announcement in regards to TAFE here in Bennelong. So, I'll introduce the Prime Minister. 

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Jerome. And it's terrific to be here at Meadowbank TAFE. And to have the opportunity to thank the wonderful teachers here at TAFE, but also to meet some of the students who are making a difference, who are undertaking skills so that they can get lifelong jobs. We met today people doing carpentry and the building trades. We know that there are significant skill shortages that are a handbrake on our economy. And that's why we committed to 180,000 Fee-Free TAFE places. This year we not only met that target, we exceeded it to the tune of many tens of thousands. And over 210,000 Australians are enjoying Fee-Free TAFE this year. From next year, we put in the Budget an additional 300,000 places. This is a part of our National Skills Agreement, the first National Skills Agreement that's been put in place for a decade. That's right, under the former Government they were never able to deliver any agreement, let alone a good one. Well, this is a cracker - $12 billion of investment going forward with 300,000 places beginning from next year. And today we're announcing that of those, 147,000 Fee-Free TAFE places will be here in New South Wales. Now, that can make an enormous practical difference. Just to give one example, a student studying Cert III in Early Childhood Education and Care will save around about $1,600. What we've seen already in TAFE in New South Wales, as a result of Fee-Free TAFE, is a 45 per cent increase in enrolment in early childhood learning. So, what we're doing is matching up the Fee-Free TAFE courses with the skills that Australia needs. Good for business, good for the economy, but importantly as well, part of our measures to drive down the cost of living. To provide support where it's needed, whilst not just not putting pressure on inflation, this actually puts downward pressure on inflation as well. So, this is a fantastic policy. I want to pay tribute to the Minister who's delivered this. And it's great too to see my old mate, Steve Whan, here as a Minister in a Labor Government here in New South Wales. This is working right across the country to make a difference. Every TAFE I've been into I've been speaking with individuals who it's making a difference to their lives. Just earlier today, I have been talking with Kyle and Jackie O in their studio up the road, Jackie O did a TAFE course. And one of the things that TAFE does is to add to people's education and learning, making a difference as well. Not just for people when they leave school but also for retraining, which is also an important aspect going forward. We're going to hear from Brendan, and then Steve, and then we're happy to take questions. 

BRENDAN O’CONNOR, MINISTER FOR SKILLS AND TRAINING: Thanks very much, Prime Minister. It's fantastic to be here at this magnificent TAFE, doing really what is needed to supply the skills to our economy. And I really do think that the Prime Minister calling the Jobs and Skills Summit last year, bringing together industry, bringing states and territory governments, universities and the VET sector. And with its first announcement, initiating 180,000 Fee-Free TAFE and VET places for this year alone, additional places. Removing cost barriers for students who can enrol in areas of demand has been a very significant success, both for, well in fact for the students, for the businesses who are crying out for these skills, and for our economy. And that's why, of course, we made a commitment to the Australian people and we are delivering now the additional 300,000 Fee-Free TAFE and VET places starting from January next year. Providing opportunities for students and workers to acquire skills in demand, removing the cost barriers, as the Prime Minister just said, which encourages people to enrol in the courses which will allow for those skills to be acquired, is the approach we need to take. Because when we came to office, the skill shortages were as deep as they were wide. Wherever you looked across the economy, there were shortages in skills. In fact, the occupations on the shortage list before we came to office went from 153 to 286, nearly doubling in twelve months - and we had to attend to it fast. Well today is, of course, another important step in the work the Albanese Government's doing, in this case with the Minns Government, providing 147,400 new places for New South Wales alone. I want to thank Minister Whan for working with me to deliver this part of the agreement for New South Wales specifically. And that's the other thing, you really have to not only have a national agreement, you then have to have state and territory agreements so you supply the skills that are needed for that part of our national economy. And I want to thank, as I said, Steve, for his support and cooperation and work and collaboration to date. We want to see young people acquire the skills so that they can have decent work. We want to see businesses who are crying out to schools across our economy to make sure that they get those opportunities. And we want to see students to be able to make those choices, so there are cost of living pressures relieved because of this Government policy. Ultimately, it is about supplying the skills to workers, to business and to our economy. It will see, of course, us in this very globally competitive world, not only maintain that quality of life, our standard of living, but indeed exceed where we are now. And it's due to these types of policies. And it is also ultimately due to the collaboration that is needed between governments and governments with industry to get this right. And today's a great day for New South Wales. Thank you. 

STEVE WHAN, NEW SOUTH WALES MINISTER FOR SKILLS, TAFE AND TERTIARY EDUCATION: Thanks, Minister and Prime Minister. It's great to be here for this announcement today. 147,000 places in New South Wales over the next three years. We're going to be focusing those places on 105 courses which are in the highest demand for schools around our state. It's really important to use this money wisely. And we'll be doing that to make sure that we're addressing the areas of the highest skills shortage. Our Fee-Free places are a really important part of helping people to access our training system, and that was really driven home to me when I visited the Griffith TAFE a few weeks ago. And I spoke to a number of working mums who were doing courses in the health and aged care sector. And those are the sort of courses which we're making available through these Fee-Free places. Those women told me that they simply wouldn't be doing that upskilling, they wouldn't be able to move into those vital areas in aged care if they weren't getting that fee relief because their family budgets were so tight. So it's something where governments working together can make a real difference to people's lives and a real difference to addressing the skill shortages that we face in New South Wales, and that's something which is great. I want to thank the Federal Government for their work in this area. It is terrific to have like-minded governments which are focused on supplying the training that our community needs and are able to do it together. So, thank you to the Federal Government for that work. 

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Steve. Happy to take questions. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, two dead in a car explosion on the US-Canada border, looked at as a possible terrorist incident. What's your reaction to that? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we're awaiting proper security advice. We are aware of the incident. The briefing I had short while ago was that it was still unclear the circumstances of this explosion. But I will be seeking a briefing about this later this morning. But it is of real concern. 

JOURNALIST: The Opposition has raised concerns about the vetting process for Palestinian temporary visa recipients. How have a few short weeks been enough time to properly security check? And do you know these people aren’t linked to or could be linked with Hamas? 

PRIME MINISTER: Australia has appropriate security checks for our visas and there have been some 800 granted to Palestinians, and something like 1,800 granted to Israelis. We have an appropriate visa system and security system in place. It's the same that has been in place for some time. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, has the Australian Government been told by some of the men in Gaza who have been granted Australian visas are not being allowed to leave through the Rafah crossing with their families? 

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry, you're now going to a level of detail – 

JOURNALIST: Who's responsible for those decisions if people have been granted Australian visas in terms of actually getting through there? 

PRIME MINISTER: There's actually - a conflict has been going on there. There has been issues with people crossing out of Rafah and I'm sure that you're aware of those issues. 

JOURNALIST: Just following up that question. How do you ensure these people are aligned to Australian values and not anti-Semitic. 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, these are not permanent visas, these are temporary visas. There are the same security checks that are in place for people, for Australians that have been in place, this regime, for a long period of time.

JOURNALIST: Just when we hear the construction sector is part of the fee free TAFE, are there going to be as many jobs available since the Federal Government isn’t going to be funding so many projects in New South Wales? 

PRIME MINISTER: There certainly are. And there's no cuts to our infrastructure investment that is at record levels - $120 billion infrastructure pipeline. What we need to do is to make sure that one of the reasons why there have been cost increases in infrastructure delivery is because of the failure of the former Government when it comes to skills. You can't build projects without having workers to build them. And one of the reasons why we are investing is that this is a part of putting downward pressure, dealing with the supply chain issues, which are causing an inflationary pressure.

JOURNALIST: Have you had assurances from agencies that the six weeks is enough for the security checks to be done? There have been some suggestions that it could take months. 

PRIME MINISTER: Standard procedures have been put in place. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on the emergency laws rushed through Parliament last week to do with immigration detention, are you confident that those laws to impose tough conditions on people relief from immigration detention are constitutionally sound? 


JOURNALIST: While we've got you, Prime Minister, on energy, will expanding the Capital Investment Scheme be enough to put Australia back on track to hit 82 per cent renewables by 2030? 

PRIME MINISTER: The capacity investment scheme is an important mechanism to drive the change through the economy. We'll be giving the climate change statement, annual statement to the Parliament next week. The capacity investment scheme is something that has been in place for some time. What we're doing though, is actually delivering it. And Chris Bowen will have an important announcement today about that. It will be welcomed by industry and it's about making sure that we have reliability in the system that is so important.

JOURNALIST: The RBA Governor says inflation is becoming an increasingly home-grown issue rather than being driven by overseas factors. Does your Government take any responsibility for this? 

PRIME MINISTER: One of the things we're doing right here is dealing with supply chain issues. Dealing with putting down those costs on things like infrastructure investment by having a skilled workforce, by making sure that we have planning done. But also, of course, if you make something free you are by definition, putting downward pressure on costs. That is one of the things that my Government has done. Is identify what are the areas where we can put provide cost of living relief, whether it be the energy price relief plan, cheaper child care, Fee-Free TAFE, the decrease in the costs of medicines, Medicare Urgent Care Clinics are all designed to take pressure off families, whilst also not putting pressure on inflation. That's what we're doing. But, of course, inflation is also a global phenomenon. Last night, I attended a meeting of the G20 leaders, which began at 11pm Australian time and went through to 2am. And a consistent message from global leaders there was dealing with inflation being a global issue that the world is tackling. I thanked Prime Minister Modi for hosting last night's event as part of the G20 to have the virtual Leaders’ Summit. 

JOURNALIST: Oil prices are falling overseas, so can we expect petrol prices to come down in Australia? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, of course, there are a range of variables that factor into the price of petrol. But one of them is international prices. Of course, these things can be volatile and events in the Middle East, of course, continue to have a potential impact there as well. Thanks very much.