Release type: Transcript


Doorstop – Perth


The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP
Minister for Skills and Training
The Hon Patrick Gorman MP
Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister
The Hon Simone McGurk MLA
Western Australian Minister for Training


SUBJECTS: Clean Energy Apprenticeships; Cashless Debit Card; Superannuation; Silicosis; Voice to Parliament.

PATRICK GORMAN, ASSISTANT MINISTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER: I'm Patrick Gorman, the Federal Member for Perth. And it is wonderful to have not just the Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese, here in Perth, but also have the Minister Brendan O'Connor, and Minister Simone McGurk. And can I say a huge thank you to Michelle Hoad, the Managing Director of North Metro TAFE, for having us here today. We've just been speaking with the apprentices, the trainers, the educators, and indeed some people from Western Power, about all of the work that happens here to make sure that we train the next generation for the jobs and skills that we know are going to be those good, secure, well paying jobs. But we know that if we want to make that big transition, we've got to invest more. Here in North Metro TAFE, It's 30,000 students, it's 350 courses, it's 10 campuses, across the North Metro of Perth, and it's one big climate opportunity, a big opportunity for jobs. And that huge opportunity that comes with the transition to net zero. That's something that myself, everyone here really wants to back to make sure that we grab those opportunities for young West Australians for the next generation so people have those good, secure jobs that so many have been able to rely upon in the past. And that's a big part of Western Australia's and Australia's future.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, thanks very much, Patrick. And it's great to be back here in Perth on my 9th visit to Western Australia since I became Prime Minister nine months ago. I will continue to be a regular visitor here and we'll continue to make announcements here. And today is one of our key election announcements that we made. Once again fulfilling a commitment about Australia's future. One that understands the opportunities that are there from the clean energy transition. Opportunities for our national economy, but importantly as well, opportunities for our workforce. Opportunities for these young apprentices and people retraining as well to gain good, secure, well paid jobs. And that's why these 10,000 apprentices in new energy will make an enormous difference. Eligible apprentices will receive up to $10,000 over the course of their apprenticeship to encourage them to go into these fields. We know within Western Australia's list of top 20 occupations with skill shortages, there are a number of them that are in the clean energy field as there are right around Australia: motor mechanics, electricians, metal fitters and machinists, structural, steel and welding trades workers, all suffer from skill shortages. These new energy apprenticeships will make an enormous difference. An investment of just under $100 million over nine years for these 10,000 energy apprenticeships. And it's great to be able to work with TAFE. And I thank the North Metropolitan TAFE for welcoming us here today. And I thank the Minister, who I'll now ask to make some comments. Minister Brendan O'Connor and then Minister Simone McGurk. Jobs and Skills Australia was the first announcement I made as Labor Leader right here in Perth. So we have a vision for new clean energy driving manufacturing, driving new industries, powered and skilled-up by Australian workers making a difference. And this, together, is a part of how we grow our economy into the future and an economy that really works for people.

BRENDAN O'CONNOR, MINISTER FOR SKILLS AND TRAINING: As the Prime Minister's made very clear, it's fantastic to be here today at this fantastic TAFE facility to announce the Clean Energy Apprenticeships. These are really important investments in order to ensure that we have the right skills in a sector that's transforming rapidly. And this is not just an announcement. This takes, of course, a lot of work and a lot of cooperation with industry, with employers and unions, with state and territory governments. And I want to pay tribute to the efforts of the West Australian Government working with us on this very important initiative. As the Prime Minister made clear, we have made a decision to invest in areas of demand. And that includes, of course, the announcement made at the Jobs and Skills Summit to invest in 180,000 fee free TAFE places, 18,800 of which are invested in this state. And that comes about after having reached agreement with eight state and territory governments. So it really does take planning, focused cooperation, which leads to the outcomes we need. The Government is focused on ensuring that we can deliver on the Powering Australia Plan. The only way we can do that - I work very closely, of course, with Minister Bowen and other Ministers - is to ensure we have the skills that are in demand. Without the new energy apprenticeships, we could not deliver on that critical plan for this nation's future. And for that reason, today's announcement is absolutely critical, not just for young workers who are looking to acquire skills that are in demand so that they can have meaningful, decent, well-paid and secure jobs, not just for employers who are crying out for the skills that are in demand so that they can have businesses that not only survive but thrive, but for a country that needs to be set up for the future. And you need to have a plan and you need to deliver on that plan. And today, the announcement that has been made by the Prime Minister today is really about ensuring that we see an orderly and effective transformation of the energy sector so that we can have a strong, clean energy future. 

SIMONE MCGURK, MINISTER FOR TRAINING: It's true that we need to have a mind to the jobs of the future. And we've heard today about this important announcement by the Federal Government, aery welcome announcement about clean energy jobs and training opportunities for people working in those areas. And we met some pre-apprentices before, young people who had changed industries, knowing that these are the jobs of the future. So they're investing in their future, knowing that there will be work in these areas. And it was heartening to meet them. And I think they feel heartened that the Government, both State and Federal Governments, are stepping up as well and recognising the need to train in those areas. Minister O'Connor mentioned the fee-free places. So in Western Australia, there's over 18,000 of those places that have been funded by an agreement between the State and Federal Government for 2023. So they're fee free in ‘23, these places. And I'm really pleased to announce that 13,000 of those places have now been taken up. 13,000 of those fee-free places have been taken up in Western Australia. What's particularly heartening is that two thirds of those places have been taken up by women. Two thirds. Now, this is an area that we know we need to tap into if we want to build our local workforce. We need women either increasing their hours, retraining, rejoining the workforce, and what's also pleasing in a very happy circular is that one of the most popular courses for fee-free was early education and care. So, in fact, we know that can often be a barrier to women and families making better use of the workforce or women returning to work is that they can't get childcare places. So we not only have a mind, we're not only looking at skills of the future, we also know that there are jobs out there now. People need to be trained up for areas like early education and care, early childhood education and care, the care sectors, health and education. And we've got our eye on that as well. So I welcome the cooperation of the Federal Government. It's an exciting time to be working in vocational training.

JOURNALIST: The Coalition argues that the removal of the cashless debit card has caused the rise in violence in WA, particularly in Leonora and Laverton. What's your response?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we responded to the reviews into the cashless debit card that showed some of the issues and flaws in the system that were there. When we're dealing with issues in some of these communities, we're dealing with inter-generational issues, ones that can't be solved in a day or a week, ones that require governments to work together with the community, to listen and to respond. I'm certainly committed to doing that, and so is my Government. The Smart Card that is available, of course, as well as providing income management will provide for greater support for people. That was one of the flaws that was there in the privatised system that the former Government introduced.

JOURNALIST: Has the McGowan Government ever expressed any support for that decision to remove the cashless debit card from WA communities?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we went to an election making clear what our position was. We've legislated it. And we work closely with the McGowan Government across a whole range of issues. But we have different responsibilities. I'm looking forward to spending tomorrow with the Premier in Port Hedland.

JOURNALIST: Many Shire Presidents in the northern parts of our state are calling for the card to be reinstated, would you consider that?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, we have our position which is that the smart card is available. I met with the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Mayor just today. And if you look at the people in WA, there are some bit over 2,400 participants in the CDC. Of those, over 1,700 were in that council area of Kalgoorlie-Boulder. 

JOURNALIST: Will you make changes on superannuation tax concessions in the budget?

PRIME MINISTER: On superannuation, Labor is the Party that introduced universal superannuation. What we've said today is that we want to put in place the purpose of superannuation, which is for people's retirement incomes. We saw during the pandemic, many Australians, particularly younger Australians, had their superannuation balances reduced to zero. That means further pressures on future budgets. But most importantly, it means less comfort, less income in retirement for Australians as we go forward. We'll continue to look at ways to strengthen superannuation. We know that the former Government played with stopping the increase in the superannuation guarantee that had been legislated. There was great debate on their side. And we know that every chance they have to undermine superannuation, the Coalition do so. We know that their one big announcement at the last minute when they got round to launching their campaign in last year's Budget, was again something that would have undermined people's superannuation balances and that was rejected at the election.

JOURNALIST: Will your Government bring the decision to ban engineered stone forward to this year?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, we will talk with our State and Territory counterparts. This is something that I've raised in the Parliament. I congratulate, frankly, those media outlets, I had a bit of an opportunity to read all the papers today on the way to Kalgoorlie. And the issue of silicosis is a really serious one and it is impacting on workers. That has got to be front and centre. We'll look at what can be done with state and territory governments in cooperation. This should not be a partisan issue. It should be an issue which is about occupational health and safety with the safety of those workers front and centre.

JOURNALIST: Would you bring forward the decision to this year?

PRIME MINISTER: We will talk with State and Territory Governments. This is something that requires cooperation. We will certainly be doing that. I think that today's reports that were covered in Nine Newspapers just reinforced the concern which is there. I have met with Dan Walton and the Australian Workers Union and people who have been impacted by this. That's what has led to further examination of action. And certainly I'm of the view that we should respond as quickly as we can. But we want to work this through with State and Territory Governments, with the industry as well, to make sure that there aren't any unintended consequences. My Government acts in an orderly fashion and we will be doing so on this as well.

JOURNALIST: Five people have been taken hostage in Papua New Guinea, Prime Minister, including one Australian. What information have you recieved about that?

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry, I've been on a plane here, so I'm happy to respond to that. I'll get a proper briefing and I'm happy to get back to you.

JOURNALIST: We've seen some polling in the last week that shows support for the Voice has dropped just below 50 per cent here in WA. A month ago support was just over 50 per cent. What are you doing to boost the Yes numbers?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what's we're doing is going out there and campaigning along with members of the community, faith groups, sporting organisations, the business community and so many others. Led, of course, by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves, who are making it very clear that this is about two things. It's about recognition and consultation. Recognition of Aboriginal Australians in our nation's birth certificate and the fact that they should be consulted on matters that affect them and will get better results if that occurs. Now, there's a lot of disinformation out there, but what we're seeing more and more as people coming out. And I note Michael Chaney's contribution today from Wesfarmers and that that company will be joining others in getting on board and campaigning for Constitutional Recognition with a Voice to Parliament. This is unfinished business in our Constitution. This is a generous and gracious request that should be accepted. We'll continue to campaign for it and continue to counter some of the misinformation which is out there. It is not a body that will be funding. It is not a body that will run programs. It is not a body that will have the right of veto. It's not a third chamber of Parliament. And I'm very confident that when Australians get to consider this, they will regard this as something that won't impact on the lives of most Australians, won't impact on most Australians who are non-Indigenous, but it just might make a positive difference for some of the most disadvantaged people in our community.

JOURNALIST: Should the attendees at your dinner tonight declare the money paid for that attendance to the AEC.

PRIME MINISTER: We declare donations according to AEC provisions. And people should comply with the provisions of the Australian Electoral Commission.

JOURNALIST: Nationals Leader David Littleproud is also in WA and he's also talking about the Voice saying that you will add an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. Will it do that?

PRIME MINISTER: No, it won't. And the Voice makes clear, in terms of the eight principles that they have outlined through the Referendum Working Group, one of those is that it would not usurp or contradict existing organisations. It would compliment them as well. The Nationals made a decision well before further detail was out there. And that was a decision that they made that led Andrew Gee to leave the National Party and to join the crossbenches. But we will have legislation in March. That legislation will be open to further suggestions that people want to make, if they want to be constructive and actually be participants rather than observers in this process that is open to them. That legislation will be there. There will be a parliamentary process for people to make submissions. It will then be considered in June at the budget sittings. And then Australians will get to vote sometime between late September and December because it has to lay on the table for two months and 33 days. But it's unlikely it'll be on AFL Grand Final Day.

JOURNALIST: There are communities in WA that have been struggling with crime: Laverton, Leonora, Canarvon. Why has it not been a priority to visit those communities?

PRIME MINISTER: I've been to WA nine times since I've been the Prime Minister. I have been to Albany. Tomorrow I'll be meeting with Indigenous groups from the Pilbara, along with 150 people who are joining the community consultation that we have put in place. I gave a commitment that we would come to Port Hedland to have a Cabinet meeting. And the reason why that was delayed was, firstly, the very sad passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth meant that that was delayed. And then in December, we set the date again and I got COVID and the National Cabinet meeting was deferred until the day in which we would have been in Port Hedland. So we gave the commitment to be in Port Hedland. I'm someone who meets commitments, and I'm really looking forward to tomorrow.

JOURNALIST: In those remote towns like Laverton etc, how would the Voice help address issues like youth crime, but also link to issues like intergenerational trauma and disadvantage?

PRIME MINISTER: You in part, have answered the question by referring to intergenerational trauma. The fact is that Indigenous Australians since 1788 when the First Fleet arrived, were dispossessed. That occurred. For a long time until 1967, we didn't even count Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders in the census as people. That intergenerational trauma, the fact that in my lifetime and your lifetime, children were taken from parents not because of bad parenting, not because of anything that had been done wrong to those children, but because of the colour of their skin. That causes trauma, that lack of respect. Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our Constitution is, firstly, about respect to them. Secondly, it's about responding in a way in which they have asked. The what is constitutional recognition. The how that they asked for, through an extensive process of consultation with literally thousands of meetings, forums, engagements culminating in the Constitutional Convention of First Nations People at Uluru in 2017. They asked for a Voice. The Uluru Statement from the Heart finishes with words, to paraphrase, 'That in 1967 we were counted. Now we seek to be heard'. That is what they are asking for. To me - and maybe I accept that not everyone agrees with this position - but to me, if you look at that intergenerational trauma, and you have per people who aren't asking for a great deal. They're asking for recognition in our nation's birth certificate. That when it was written, it had major gaps in it. It refers to the Defence Force. It doesn't refer to the air force because there wasn't an air force and there weren't planes when it was written. It doesn't mean we don't have planes. Parliament sets that out. But the Constitution is about the template, it is the birth certificate. It's a gap which is there. They're saying that they want to fill the gap. I don't think that's an unreasonable request. And I also don't think it's unreasonable that we listen to them as a first step in the form in which they want that recognition to take. They're not asking for a right of veto. They're not asking for a right to have laws. They're not asking for reserved positions in Parliament. This is a very generous and gracious request. And I say to those who couldn't comprehend the idea of having a child taken from you or some of the other hurt and real ramifications for real people, that this is a moment whereby people should think with their head, of course. But also there's a reason why it was called a 'Statement from the Heart' because that's what it's asking for. It's asking for some generosity. I don't think it's too much to give. And I hope Australians do just that.