4CA BREAKFAST WITH MURRAY JONES
WEDNESDAY, 20 SEPTEMBER 2023
SUBJECTS: Skills training in the aviation sector, First Nations employment services, saying Yes to the upcoming referendum.
MURRAY JONES, HOST: 100 per cent Cairns, and the Tropical North, it's 846 4CA – ‘Crazy’, and crazy to hear a story from a teacher just in the last week or so, you know, so many Year 6 kids, for instance, they want to be TikTok influencers. We need lawyers, we need doctors, particularly in remote areas. So of course, some of the changes in society in recent years have basically meant that we've got some real challenges moving forward to basically fill employment positions.
Let's talk a little bit more about this, but some of the positives too, 'cause we've got a shortage of pilots after the pandemic, we need to, you know, fill some of those roles as well. Federal Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and the Arts, Tony Burke joins me this morning. Good morning, Tony, how are you today?
TONY BURKE MP, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS, MINISTER FOR THE ARTS: Good to be back on the program, it's been ages, Murray, so good to be able to hear your voice again.
JONES: It has been a while, and we've got some interesting stuff to talk to. I wouldn't mind talking about the referendum shortly as well.
JONES: Let's talk certainly about aviation, and of course Cairns, so well placed, we've got a shortage of pilots, and I think there's some real possibilities to actually, you know, make Cairns as an education hub, particularly when it comes to aviation.
BURKE: When I was last up there a few months ago, I went out to Cairns Aviation and one of the other shortages that they're facing is a shortage of engineers. I've now been telling the whole country, wherever I go I can't stop talking about what Cairns Aviation are doing, because to deal with any of these skilled jobs, the people you train now, you're looking five or six years before you've actually got them all skilled up and ready to go.
BURKE: What Cairns Aviation has done, which I just think is brilliant, is they've said, okay, what are the jobs that the engineers we've already got are doing that you don't need to be an engineer to do? And so, they've divided up the tasks, and said there's all this stuff that we've got the engineers doing at the moment that we could get someone with a much lower qualification to do, and that would free up the engineers for the stuff that only engineers can do.
And when I was there, I went into the training room, there were about a dozen young workers there, all being trained in skills to work in the aviation industry, but effectively they'll be doing stuff like removing the seats from an aircraft, doing the basic tasks that up until now engineers have done, but you didn't need to be an engineer to do. The genius of it, and I haven't seen much of it around the rest of the country, which is why I keep talking about what's happening in Cairns, is whenever we are having trouble connecting people to jobs, our starting point is always, how can we change the worker, how can we skill them up, how can we move them to another location, how can we change the worker's situation? What Cairns has said is, yeah, you want to do that, but sometimes you can change the job as well to be able to make better use of the workers you've got available.
I just think it's genius, and there's a message, I think, here for a whole lot of areas where you've got highly skilled workers where not every one of the tasks that they've got requires that level of skill, and it's a different way to be able to deal with skills shortage.
You wouldn't believe the pride in those young workers being trained though, because for them, they came in as largely unskilled workers, and they were going to go out with a career in the aviation sector. You could just imagine the pride. They were all local, and I think it's really Cairns giving a message to the rest of the country about what's possible.
JONES: And this means that there's going to be more people employed, so you know, at that lower level, so you don't have to be a highly qualified engineer. It actually means that there's basically more bums on seats.
BURKE: That's right. You win at every level. We still need to keep training more engineers, and so the work the Government's doing in education will make sure that that training's happening. For the engineers we've already got, they're more focused now on what they've been trained to do. For a whole lot of workers, many of whom were unemployed, they've now got a big career to look forward to in the aviation sector. And for the rest of us, you know, if we want to be able to travel, then we need there to be enough workers there, and so it's fixing the problem at every single level.
JONES: And look, you know, certainly when it comes to pilots, and of course the aviation sector, full stop, as it starts to recover from the pandemic, there's a lot of opportunities there. So, I guess, you know, giving these opportunities, you know, you don't have to go to the top of the pole and become a fully qualified engineer, but just opportunities for people to get out there, and we know for the younger generation it is becoming more difficult, so I guess putting these opportunities in front of them is a very positive thing.
Can we just touch on some of the things that are happening in Yarrabah? You know, as we know, in some of our Aboriginal Indigenous communities right across the country, employment opportunities are always thin, they're a bit hard to find, but some positive stuff coming out of Yarrabah as well.
BURKE: When I went to Yarrabah, the thing that's happened there, a lot of the tenders for all the employment services were all signed up just before the last election was called. So, I turn up as Employment Minister, and more than $7 billion worth of contracts already signed, already locked in, and so you know, that sort of thing can happen sometimes.
But a lot of the contracts have gone to very big companies, and some of them do a great job in different places. But Yarrabah's been a real example of a local organisation that's got the contract, where instead of the money that's coming through for the Commonwealth to help people find jobs constantly paying shareholders all around the world, you've got a situation where all the money's staying in the community, and the work that they did was just so practical.
I turned up on what I'm expecting to be an English language literacy course.
BURKE: Normally when you see a literacy course, you've got everyone in a classroom setting with a whiteboard where someone's writing words, and people are reading out loud and all of this. I walk into where they're doing the English literacy course, and it's a kitchen, and what they've got is people working with the instructor on the literacy of following the recipe.
JONES: Is that right?
BURKE: So immediately what you're watching is the most practical thing you ever do in life, connecting the literacy to the recipe, to the meal you get at the end of it.
BURKE: It's just that, once you see it, you think how obvious is that that's going to be a much more functional way of showing the significance of literacy than sitting in a formal classroom. But once again, it's your part of the world, this time Yarrabah, just sending a message to the rest of the country about how to do things in a practical way.
JONES: And you get a feed at the end of the day as well, so it's the synergy and a win win- win all around.
BURKE: That's right.
JONES: Look, I know you have to go, but I just want to quickly talk about, you know, some of the concerns, and you know, I had Tanya Plibersek in earlier this morning, and look, you know, I am concerned about the message, and you know, I think the Government's got to accept that some of the messages that, you know, could have come out about the Voice and what's happening with the referendum could have done better, because sadly it seems that there's a lot of misinformation and disinformation that's holding the day, Tony.
BURKE: I think this is where conversations like the one we're having now are so important. You go online, you don't know where the information you see is coming from, it's very difficult to separate what's factual and what's made up. A whole lot of the arguments that I've seen from the No campaign have nothing to do with what we're voting on; nothing to do with whether or not we'll have an advisory committee to help close the gap and help with other issues.
Where I think it's at, and it's one of the reasons why I was so glad that you were able to have the conversation with me this morning, conversations like your program, people know they're dealing with a trusted source, they know it's not going to be misinformation, they know the conversation's real.
These are the moments, I guess, where we just try to remind people every chance we get between now and when people vote, the reason we're having a referendum is governments – and it was both sides of politics – went to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and asked this question: "What would make constitutional recognition meaningful?"
And they came back with the most modest thing, just to say, "Recognise us by saying in the Constitution there will always be some sort of advisory committee, and the Parliament of the day can change what it will be, but there will always be something, and if you recognise us in that way, that will be a meaningful form of recognition."
It's a really generous, gracious thing to request of the Australian people, and there's a real opportunity for us to be able to respond in a generous, gracious way as well. There will be a whole lot of wild stuff that will be out there on the internet about people's properties and things like that.
JONES: Yeah, yeah.
BURKE: None of it's true. No advisory committee in history has been able to do that. This is simply not just about whether we have an advisory committee, but also about whether we respond to a request for the cultures that have been on this land all the way back to just be recognised in the Constitution with that really simple request.
JONES: Look, it would be great to see some of the fact to actually come to the surface, the misinformation, the disinformation about UNESCO, taking away businesses and houses as a result of this referendum and if it came to a Yes vote. I mean that is just wild craziness, and it's a shame, I think, in so many ways, for this country, and for our reputation worldwide that this has been fuelled by so much misinformation and disinformation. It's been great to talk to you this morning, and I think you've actually summed it up very well this morning, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Tony Burke. Have a fantastic day. Cheers.
BURKE: You too, Murray, see ya.