Release type: Transcript


Doorstop - TAFE NSW Ultimo


The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP
Minister for Skills and Training
The Hon Chris Bowen MP
Minister for Climate Change and Energy

BRENDAN O'CONNOR, MINISTER FOR SKILLS AND TRAINING: It’s great to be at Ultimo TAFE in Sydney with Minister Chris Bowen to announce an initiative of the Albanese Government to invest in the clean energy workforce. What we know is there are great demands for skills in this sector. We need to respond by investing in capital equipment, in education and training amenities so that we have the right investment, the right equipment for the apprentices, trainees and students to use so that they’re using contemporary equipment so when they’re in the labour market, when they’re in workplaces they are equipped with the right skills because they’ve been using the right equipment. And this investment will invest in what has been a depleted sector, a sector that needs replenishment through investment in capital equipment and also, we need to respond to the shortages of teachers and trainers that teach and train skills in the energy sector. A further $30 million investment to accelerate and intensify our teaching population so that we can have a sufficient number of teachers and trainers to impart skills that are needed for this massive transformation. A Future Made in Australia, the transformation of the energy sector is absolutely required. Now, we struck recently a National Skills Agreement with State and Territory Governments - $30 billion of investment in VET across the country over the next five years. But we do have to make sure we have sufficient initiatives – particularly in those sectors of the economy that are going through significant change. Well, this initiative, this announcement by the Albanese Government, by Minister Bowen and I, is about supplying the equipment, supplying the teaching required to supply the skills. We need, in fact, an additional 240,000 people in the energy sector by 2030, 32,000 of which have to be electricians. And the other thing I just wanted to mention is us broadening the eligibility for the Clean Energy Apprenticeship Program so that we broaden out those skill sets that are needed to decarbonise the economy. That’s also been welcomed by industry and it will allow gas fitters and plumbers and others who are working on clean energy matters to be able to enrol in this apprenticeship program. It’s providing $10,000 of support for each apprentice and provides support for employers at a time when we need to encourage and ensure we enlist a sufficient number of apprentices in this fast-changing sector of the economy. I might now hand over to Minister Bowen. Thank you. 

CHRIS BOWEN, MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: Thanks very much, Brendan. Well, making sure that we have enough workers for this massive energy transformation is a challenge, but a good challenge to have, because it’s jobs for Australians, particularly young Australians thinking about their future as a tradie. As Brendan said, we need 32,000 electricians by 2030, and that’s just one of the examples. And we want to make sure enough – as much of those as possible are trained here in Australia, providing good jobs for Australians looking to play their role in the energy transition. And so, this is a very important announcement that we’re making today. As Brendan said, $50 million in upgrades for TAFE and physical upgrades. I’ll give you an example of what that can achieve, not included in this package but already underway from an election commitment. In my own hometown, the Wetherill Park TAFE, we have funded a change where it’s been changed from – well, added to, the traditional motor mechanic training centre is now also EV enabled as well, making sure that jobs for the future are being trained in Australia. Also, as Brendan said, making sure that TAFE and the education system has enough resources to attract teachers. You can’t train 32,000 electricians without the types of great teachers that Brendan and I have met today. And also, we’re co-funding with the Allan Government in Victoria, a $10 million hydrogen centre, hydrogen training centre, these exist in Queensland and some other places. And Victoria is going to be part of that future as well, ensuring that plumbers and, you know, plumbing apprentices have the hydrogen skills necessary as we move to a green hydrogen future as well. So, all this is good news for the sector, good news for the transition underway, good news for people thinking about a trade in the energy revolution. We want to partner with states and territories to make this a reality. I’m delighted to partner with such a passionate minister as Brendan who brings real energy and skills to the Skills portfolio. Couldn’t do it without him. This is a really important partnership for our energy future. And we’re happy to take questions. 

JOURNALIST: I might start with Minister O’Connor, if that’s all right. I think you said 240,000 employees needed in the energy sector. $91 million, is that enough to achieve that? 

O’CONNOR: Well, of course not. This is an investment in capital, an investment in increasing teacher population to train apprentices in the energy sector. But there is further investment. As I outlined, we’ve got a $30 billion National Skills Agreement with State and Territory Governments. That investment will be investing in the energy sector. There are other things afoot. There are other things that will be developed and announced in due course. But we have Fee-Free TAFE, which is removing cost barriers for people to enrol in courses in the energy sector right now. We set ourselves a goal of 180,000 Fee-Free TAFE places last year; we hit 355,000, a significant proportion of which are in the energy sector. And there’s more to come. We have 300,000 further Fee-Free TAFE courses generally. Again, a significant allocation to the energy sector because of the demands that are required. So, we have other investment, and we are working, as Chris said, with State and Territory Governments because they need to work with us, as we work with industry, to deliver the skills that are needed. One of the ideas that we have about supplying teachers, for example, is talking to larger businesses in particular about seconding people with the skills into TAFEs and education and training providers, so they can teach other apprentices. It’s entirely in the industry’s interest that they find more skills, and they can help the government work our way through that. So, this is precisely an issue about capital investment and teacher population growth. Of course there are other investments as well. 

JOURNALIST: Just quickly, while 300,000 free TAFE places, are those all filled or are those just available? 

O’CONNOR: No, so we aimed for 180,000 – we almost doubled it last year. 355,000 across the labour market. There’s a further 300,000 from this year, Fee-Free TAFE courses in the energy sector and other sectors of the economy. On top of that, recently, Julie Collins, the Minister for Housing, and I announced 20,000 Fee-Free TAFE places for construction, to increase the housing stock. So, this government works strategically on investment. I’m working with the Minister for Energy to make sure we supply the skills needed for the transformation of the energy sector. I’m working with the Minister for Housing to make sure we supply the skills to build the housing stock in this country. This is good leadership. We’re not acting as a funding body to TAFE for states alone to make decisions; this is a federal government working strategically on investment to supply the skills that are in demand today and tomorrow. 

JOURNALIST: Just to clarify, places that are available or places – those enrolments have been filled? 

O’CONNOR: 300,000 are available. Some have been taken up because they’ve commenced this year. But there are hundreds of thousands that will be over the next three years available for people to take up. Right now, if people are interested in taking up - and remember this: these are courses where you’re acquiring skills in demand. If you get an accredited course through Fee-Free TAFE it is very, very likely that the skills you’ve acquired are in demand in the economy today and will be in demand – in greater demand – tomorrow. 

JOURNALIST: Do you know how many have been taken up? 

O’CONNOR: We get data provided to us, and I’ll probably get a more definitive set of data in a few weeks. But I know there’s tens of thousands of that 300,000 that have been taken up. That means there’s plenty of places available for people in Sydney, New South Wales and across the country to enrol. What our message is to those people, what Chris and I want to say is, if you want a future which guarantees good work, high-skilled jobs, well-paid jobs, then enrol in areas of demand, not just for today but, indeed, for the future. 

JOURNALIST: Some questions for Minister Bowen, if that’s all right. Will extending Eraring in New South Wales, will that make it harder for Australia to meet its 2030 carbon emission reduction targets? 

BOWEN: No. I’ll say the same thing as I said in the lead-up to yesterday’s announcement, as I said for weeks, as I said in Adelaide two days ago and as I said in Toowoomba yesterday, I agree with Minister Sharpe’s analysis – we don’t want to see the Eraring Power Station operate for a day longer than it should or close a day earlier than it needs to. I think the New South Wales Government has struck a balance here. There were some people who thought Eraring would be extended for five years or four units. They’ve effectively extended two units for two years. I think that’s a reasonable approach to take in light of the statement of electricity opportunities which is designed to guide these sorts of decisions and provide advice on energy and electricity investments. The transition, energy transition, in New South Wales is well underway. The New South Wales Government and I worked together on the Capacity Investment Scheme auction, which will open next week, supporting 6 gigawatts across the country with a specific allocation for New South Wales, which is very, very important. And we’ve struck a Renewable Energy Transformation Agreement as well. So, this change from 2025 to 2027 will not endanger in any way the 2030 target. 

JOURNALIST: I mean, personally as the Minister for Energy and Climate Change, is it disappointing to see that coal will be a part of the power grid for longer than expected? 

BOWEN: Well, this particular two units, and, look, the Eraring Power Station closure was brought forward considerably. Now you’re seeing a smaller delay supported by government for two units. You’re going to see coal-fired power stations closures brought forward or extended as part of this transition. That’s just inevitably part of the recalibration as we undertake and engineer this massive energy transformation. It’s not a linear line where everything, you know, all happens in accordance with a central plan. There is a process in lots of – we’re on track for 82 per cent renewables by 2030. Lots of new investment coming forward. Massively oversubscribed in the first two Capacity Investment Scheme auctions, including in New South Wales. That’s a very good sign. And that transition will continue in partnership between the two governments. 

JOURNALIST: You said you don’t want to see it open a day longer than it needs to be. That’s a pretty – it’s not very clear what is needed and what’s not needed. We could get to August 2027 and that needs to be extended – 

BOWEN: No – 

JOURNALIST: Would you say the same thing then? 

BOWEN: No, Origin has notified AEMO of the intended closure and I expect that. It’s important that that be complied with, and it will be. That sends a signal to the market that investment is necessary between now and 2027 to generate new renewable energy and dispatchable energy, and that will happen. 

JOURNALIST: Was it a good decision to sell off Eraring in 2013 for just $50 million, considering now we’re subsidising losses of potentially up to $450 million – 

BOWEN: I didn’t support electricity privatisation at the time, and I wouldn’t have supported it now. Unfortunately, that decision has passed. 

JOURNALIST: Independents and some economists have argued for some time for a federal loan scheme for household solar and batteries. Can you see any merit in that idea? 

BOWEN: More than can I see merit – we’ve done it. With a billion dollars in the last budget, the CFC. It’s already been allocated and there’ll be more announcements about that in the very near future. But we agree – low-interest loans for families electrifying and switching to renewable energy is an important government initiative, and that’s exactly why we’ve allocated a billion dollars for it. 

JOURNALIST: Thank you. 

BOWEN: Great, all good? Thanks.