Fee-free TAFE

PRIVATE MEMBERS MOTION - FEDERATION CHAMBER

I'd like to thank the member for Holt for bringing forward this motion this morning, and I'm pleased to join the list of people to debate this motion. And I'd note for the member for Sturt's interest that under the previous government the number of occupations on the skills shortage list jumped from 153 to 286. I'd also like him to note that, since taking office, this government has seen the biggest job creation ever in Australia's history with over 465,000 jobs created in our first 12 months in office.

When we took government, when the Australian people gave us that responsibility and put their trust in our government, the first thing we did was check what were the challenges we were facing as a government. The poor economic management of the previous Liberal government left us not only with $1 trillion in debt but also a massive skills shortage. What did we do? We looked at those challenges and we put an action plan into place.

The first thing we did as a government was a Jobs and Skills Summit, where the member for Sturt might like to note industry were invited, and attended, alongside people across our civil community. They came together to talk about these challenges and how we might act on them. And what did we see there? We knew that we had a critical skills shortage in the care economy. That was raised. We had a problem in terms of women's participation. What we saw come out of that Jobs and Skills Summit is what this motion is about today—action on funding TAFE, action on fee-free TAFE for hundreds of thousands of Australians to ensure not only that they're getting the best opportunity, but also to ensure that those skills shortages are reduced.

On top of that, if you look at the care economy, we knew we had a skills shortage, but we also knew there was a reason for that skills shortage. We knew people weren't entering into that area of employment because, to put it bluntly, it was drastically underpaid. So, the combination of wage rises, fee-free TAFE and attacking those skills shortages has seen a dramatic increase in people in this country enrolled in TAFE. In fact, in this first term we've invested $400 million for a further 300,000 fee-free TAFE and VET places in high-need skills areas from 2024.

To address the skills shortage we've prioritised sectors, we've prioritised things that have been outlined for us. Last year the Commonwealth, state and territory governments signed a $1 billion 12-month national skills agreement delivering 180,000 fee-free TAFE and VET places for this year, and the take-up has been extraordinary. In the first quarter of 2023, 150,000 Australians enrolled in fee-free TAFE. This is about getting on with the job, about attacking those skills shortages and about making sure we have opportunities in our suburbs, in our regions, across our country for people to either get themselves qualified or retrained into areas where we need people to work and where they might find employment—not just employment for employment's sake, but good employment. So it all works together with fee-free TAFE as well as the increases to wages that have been seen in our first 12 months of government. This is incredibly important.

It's also part of the cost-of-living relief, because all those people enrolled in fee-free TAFE have avoided up to $10,000 in fees this year. That means they're being given the capacity to make different choices. You don't have to look far in my electorate to see how this is impacting because it's having an extraordinary impact in my electorate. The notion of going to TAFE had become something I would talk to young people about and they would say to me, 'What's the point?' When I'm engaging with young people now who are doing, in my electorate, lots of child care and lots of aged care, they've changed their minds about that. Particularly in aged care, they can see there's a career path. They can see they will get a fair day's pay for a fair day's work, and, therefore, it's worth them investing their time and their commitment to plan a future in that sector.

I thank the member for Holt for bringing on this debate, and I want to pay tribute to the member for Gorton for his great work in this space.

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