Transcript - ABC Illawarra - Apprentices, 15 June 2016

E&OE TRANSCRIPT ABC ILLAWARRA WEDNESDAY 15 JUNE, 2015   SUBJECT/S: Apprentices  JOURNALIST: In a way you can do that with you new career as some apprentices, or people who would like to do an apprenticeship can get a taster of several kinds of trades and finally choose the one that suits them and commit to it.  This is one of the ideas put forward by the Federal Labor Party and we have the Federal Member for Cunningham, who is also the Shadow Minister for Vocational Education, Sharon Bird, who joins us now here at ABC Illawarra, good morning…  BIRD:           Good morning Nick.  JOURNALIST: How’s this going to work?  BIRD:           This is a really important initiative I announced with Bill Shorten yesterday. What we have seen in the last, a bit over two years, under this government is the loss of about 120,000 apprentices across Australia. It is over a quarter of all apprentices and this is, we think, a really devastating outcome, we need apprenticeships. Firstly we know it’s a really good pathway to good jobs and good careers and secondly we need skilled workers. We need to make sure that we have those people in places that the economy and different sectors that have a demand for skilled workers.  What we announced was that, a lot of employers have said they would take on an apprentice but they have this problem they put them on, the apprentice is there for a couple of months, they discover it is not really what they wanted to do, it wasn’t what they thought it would be and they leave. Employers say this is very disruptive and they have been put off putting on apprentices. So the idea of this program is that young, unemployed people could go to TAFE for about 20 weeks and they would get some work ready skills and have some skills of being in the workplace but just as importantly they get a taste of a number of trades so they can work out which one they have a real talent for and a real interest in. At the end of the course when an employer puts them on they know that that apprentice already understands the basics of that sector and what will be required of them and we think that is a good way to provide, particularly in areas like ours with high youth unemployment, a good pathway for that young person and a good outcome for that employer who knows that they are getting somebody ready to go and commit to the apprenticeship.  JOURNALIST: So how does it work from the student’s point of view? What will the experience be like?  BIRD:           Its targeted at anybody who has been unemployed for more than six months, so probably already been out there trying to get a start, trying to get themselves an apprenticeship and haven’t been having any success. That may be because maybe their skill level is not quite ready or they haven’t indicated an understanding of the sector but they can apply to the local TAFE who can run the course.  They go along to TAFE for 20 weeks, they do a number of industry approved courses, things about being in the workplace, workplace health and safety and things like that and then they will do three or four different trades. Now we saw this, Bill and I were in Queensland last week and there was a school group doing this, a group of young women, because the TAFE up there was trying to get more women into trades. They did painting, tiling and they did plastering. They did those three trades and we met a couple of apprentices who had done that at school and were now in their second year of their apprenticeship.  That is how it would operate. Our idea is that it’s for people obviously who are unemployed, post school, and at the end of the course we fund a TAFE person to work with them and to then work with employers to get them placed into a full-time apprenticeship. So the employers will get an additional $1,000 incentive to take those young people on into the apprenticeship.  JOURNALIST: How can this work? Is this only going to work through TAFE or would private providers be able to do this kind of taster technique?  BIRD:           We’ve decided with this program only to run it through TAFE. The importance here is that you have to have the capacity to give access to a range of trades and so our TAFE’s are well set up with all their workshops, their different sections like hospitality, engineering and all the different sections in one place so that they can get that real range of experiences that they might be looking for.  JOURNALIST: I know as part of your announcements on TAFE you were saying you were going to rid the VET sector of dodgy operators and deliver a funding guarantee to ensure TAFE remains strong. How are you going to do that? Or at least any better than the Liberal party are doing?   BIRD:           We’ve made it very clear, in fact Bill announced on National TAFE Day last year and we are about to have National TAFE Day this year, so nearly a year ago that we feel the pendulum has swung much too far towards the private sector and it is impacting on our TAFE system. We think TAFE should be strong and a dominant provider in the sector because firstly it is a public provider, so it has additional responsibilities and communities need that and secondly it is a good standard setter because it’s a pubic provider, it’s not there to make a profit, it tells us a good idea of what quality looked like what a reasonable price looks like and so forth.  Our TAFE funding guarantee is based around the fact that the federal government’s and state government’s fund the sector. The federal government puts in about $3 billion a year in and the states combined about $4 billion and so we are going to use the COAG process to get a definition of what the role of TAFE is describe exactly what we expect it to do and then direct guaranteed funding to enable it to do that job and that is to make sure that we continue to see TAFE strong into the future.  In terms of the private sector there are some great private providers out there, there always has been, and they have our support but we do know that there has been some really shonky, unethical, rip offs going on and we are not willing to tolerate that continuing. JOURNALIST: OK but on the other hand have some reasonably reputable providers of education being punished by getting their funding taken away? Has the brush been too broad?  BIRD:           What we have announced is that we will have a cap on the amount of the loan that students can access so, at the moment there is no cap, other than a lifetime one of about $97,000. What you have seen is some course priced simply because that cap is not there so, for example to do a Diploma in Hairdressing at a TAFE under $7,000 it was being provided by some private providers at over $25,000. We just think that is price gouging and that is not fair and reasonable so we have put a cap of $8,000 per student, per year on the loan and if there is a course that is genuinely very expensive to run the providers can put a case and can get an exemption.  We think that is really important because people, quite honestly, sometimes these organisations, their completion rate is less than five percent but the vast majority of those 95 per cent of those that didn’t complete still had a big debt but that is not a good system and we can’t continue to allow that to happen.  JOURNALIST: Alright. Sharon Bird thanks for talking to us this morning.  BIRD:           Thanks Nick.    ENDS

Bill Shorten - Transcript - Doorstop - Perth - Tuesday, 14 June 2016

E&OE TRANSCRIPT DOORSTOP PERTH TUESDAY, 14 JUNE 2016 SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan for good jobs through apprenticeships; GST; Constitutional recognition; media access for offshore facilities; Liberal Party donations; health funding; renewable energy. BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody. It's great to be at EMC, Emergency Made Clean. This company is a real success story. I came here one and a half years ago and there were eight people, now there is 64. They are delivering jobs of the future and employing apprenticeships. In many ways, this remarkable company and its remarkable staff join the dots of the Labor story in this election about jobs. It's a combination of backing renewable energy, making sure you have great access to world class NBN, it’s also about making sure we stand up for apprenticeships and a strong TAFE system. So today I and Sharon Bird are very keen to announce extra expansion for the training of pre-apprentice positions and for assisting mature age workers to take up apprenticeships in relevant occupations. In the last three years under the Liberal Government, there has been 120,000 apprenticeships lost. I don’t think most Australians realise that we are in danger of losing our apprenticeship system in Australia. There is a crisis. Now more than ever, we need to back in apprenticeships. Under the Liberals they simply don't care about apprenticeships. Under Labor, we do care about apprenticeships, and we are willing to show leadership. You cannot be a party of jobs unless you are a party of apprenticeships. You cannot be serious about jobs unless you are serious about apprenticeships and Labor is most definitely serious about apprenticeships, TAFE and our training system for apprentices. That's why Labor is going to increas e by 10,000 the number of pre-apprenticeship training spots and we are going to provide another 5000 mature age workers with a chance to take up an interest in an apprenticeship. For me it's all about jobs, but it's about practical decisions which help deliver jobs. Australian apprenticeships are actually great at two levels - they benefit the apprentice, the individual, but they benefit industry. We cannot afford another three years of Liberal neglect on apprenticeships because we may well have nothing left at the end of that time. I should also say before I hand over to Sharon and Jason to talk about aspects of today's great news on apprenticeships, that our pre-poll starts right across Australia. It is estimated perhaps between 30-40 per cent of Australians may vote between now and 2 July. I will be down at Tim Hammond’s pre-poll position. Tim Hammond is Labor’s candidate for Perth. This election is clearly, as I've said from day one, is a matter of choices, and now Australians start to choose. They can choose Mr Turnbull's $50 billion tax giveaway to large companies, banks and foreign shareholders, or they can choose Labor's great plans for jobs, for education, for Medicare. Today I'll be saying to people at the pre-poll, vote Labor if you want to protect Medicare, vote Labor if you want a royal commissions into our banking sector, vote Labor if you want to make sure we have well-funded childcare, vote Lab or if you want to make sure our schools are well resourced, that kids can go to TAFE and university, and mature age workers can get a chance to re-train. Vote Labor if you want to promote Australian jobs and Australian apprenticeships. Thank you very much. Now I would like to hand over to Sharon and then Jason. SHARON BIRD, SHADOW MINISTER FOR VOCATIONAL EDUCATION: Thanks, Bill. Look, I want to start today by thanking the very many apprentices, employers, and unions across Australia who have taken time over the last two years to talk to me about what we need to do to support our wonderful, internationally recognised apprenticeship system. It was clear in the first Abbott Budget when you saw the axe taken to apprentice programs, a billion dollars cut out and the implications  of that flow through over the two years with the loss, as Bill said, of over 120,000 apprenticeship in training opportunities. So one of the things that a lot of employers have said to me is that they are keen to take on an apprentice but often they find the person is not ready for an apprenticeship. For one reason or another they've missed out on skills or have a vague idea about what the apprenticeship is but don't understand it in detail. For employers it's a big ask to put somebody on and disappointing, as happens too often, if after a couple of months they say this is not for me and not what I want to be doing. I've seen good programs run in places where people go along and get in effect a trade taste of program. They do some training around work-ready skills and what the workplace will be like, but they also have a taste of a variety of trades within an industry sector. In fact Bill and I, last week in Brisbane, met a great group of young women who were doing a range of trades in the construction sector. They were doing plastering, tiling and painting. We met an apprentice who had come directly out of that program, a young woman in her second year. These are really important programs for giving all of those young people an opportunity to assess what they should be doing, what would be a good career for them, but they also give the employer confidence that when they put them on that they really understand what it is they're undertaking and they're ready to go. Part of this announcement today with the 10,000 apprenticeship placement program being run through our TAFE system, is that we will also have an incentive to employers of an additional $1000 incentive payment to take those people on when they've finished their course. And put another 10,000 young people on a really great path to a good career and a good job. The second announcement we're making also reflects what people have told me. I've just met an apprentice here today, he's a mature age apprentice who has done a career change. It's really common now, and the reality is that many people in areas across the country where there's significant restructuring happening in industry, you've got people who have got years if not decades of great skills and knowledge working as trades assistants or production workers, and then when they get retrenched, they'd really like to retrain into a trades career.< /span> So what this program does is feed into that an opportunity for them to have their skills and knowledge assessed, so we have a good idea of what they're already capable of doing, to talk to them about where the emerging opportunities are, great facilities like we're at today, and to get them the apprenticeship that would match that and set them up for those jobs on a fast track. And we did this in the previous Labor government, we ran a pilot exactly doing this, retraining workers. Most of them were able retrain within 18 months. That's an important thing for mature age people because they're probably paying rent and mortgages and they have families. A 4-year apprenticeship can be an impost, able to do that in a shorter time period is a good initiative. There will be 5000 of those positions targeted across areas that really need that support. I know it will be really well subscribed by mature age worker s who are really keen to get into the new fields. Labor is backing apprenticeships and our announcement last year of leveraging infrastructure to have one in ten of those jobs be an apprenticeship and making sure the pipeline works for those apprenticeships for young people and for mature workers who are being restructured. I think it is a fantastic indication that we are serious about trades training. We understand innovation, jobs and growth actually mean something for people in the trades and vocational areas which has been completely neglected by this government. They've done nothing new in it but reduce funding and take money out each time. That is failing a whole lot of not just young people, but mature age people as well. JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Thank you. Fast broadband creates jobs. We saw that yesterday in Western Sydney. See that today in Western Australia. For many businesses broadband is now as important as electricity is. Imagine if you are running a business and you don't have access to electricity. For many businesses not having access to broadband is exactly the same thing. It makes it harder to do business. Malcolm Turnbull promised at the last election that everyone in Australia, all businesses in Australia, would have access to the NBN by the end of in year. The sad fact is he's failed miserably. Less than 20 per cent of Australia has access to the NBN right now. Here in the seat of Cowan, you will find that the rollout of Malcolm Turnbull's second-rate fibre to the node hasn't started yet. In the seat of Hasluck, only a handful of people have access at all. In the seat of Swan,&n bsp;people who live in Ascott, more than 10,000 residences and businesses there again don't have access to the NBN. Malcolm Turnbull has failed the people of Perth, failed the people of Western Australia and failed the people of Australia miserably on the NBN. But there is a silver lining here because the announcement we made yesterday that we would roll out fibre to the home to up to two million more homes and businesses, means that tens of thousands of premises in those electorates and electorates like them in Australia now stand to get fibre to the home, instead of Malcolm Turnbull's slower copper version of the NBN, if Bill Shorten and Labor win the election on 2nd July. SHORTEN: Thanks Jason, any questions? I might go local first. JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, there's been a difference of opinion between the Premier and the Prime Minister today on how GST is carved up. The Premier says that the Government alone can just decide to make a change to how GST is distributed and the Prime Minister says it requires an agreement among the states. What's your understanding as to how that works? Do you agree that WA is getting a raw deal on GST and what would you do to fix that? SHORTEN: Thank you for the three questions, mate. Firstly I don't know what the disagreements are between Colin Barnett and Malcolm Turnbull, but I have no doubt that Malcolm Turnbull doesn't want to be seen with Colin Barnett, because there are issues here in Western Australia which show Liberal neglect, both at the state and the national level. In terms of the GST allocation, it is far preferable to do it through the agreement of the states, but if the Federal Government wanted to do something, well, I can see what Colin Barnett is saying as well. So really, in the case of the blame game, here we have a Liberal Prime Minister and a Liberal Premier trying to blame each other. I think the truth is they're both right in that they're both at fault here. In terms of how we properly fund and give Western Australia a square deal, it's only the Labor Party who’s proposing to fund Perth Metronet, to deal with the real public transport congestion issues, rather than the discredited Perth freight link proposition. It’s only Federal Labor who’s fronting up to say to the parents of Western Australia, we want every child in every school to be able to get the proper funding and resources to ensure they get the best start in life. It's only Federal Labor, coming here, talking about providing certainty for the renewable energy industry, which means that really successful companies like EMC can go even further, better and faster and employ more people, especially engineers and blue-collar workers. It's only Labor who’s fronting up to Western Australians and saying that we will make sure we put the investment in your healthcare system so tha t healthcare outcomes for people of Western Australia are comparable to every part of the federation. We will take a consultative approach on all issues when it comes to state-federal relations and we will absolutely work with the state government of whatever political persuasion to make sure they get a fair deal. What we will also do in the meantime, is properly invest in the infrastructure, the education, the healthcare, jobs and renewable energy which I think this state could be a real leader in, in the future. JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the Prime Minister said that your comments about the treaty are disappointing and that they also add a level of uncertainty and they put the process around constitutional referendum at risk. What do you make of those comments and what exactly are you calling for when saying there needs to be a debate about having a treaty? SHORTEN: Well, first of all Mr Turnbull's comments are complete rubbish. Yet again he wants to talk about Labor because he’s got no plans of his own. But I want to be really serious here about constitutional recognition. I worked with Tony Abbott on constitutional recognition and I've worked with Malcolm Turnbull on constitutional recognition. I believe that our nation’s birth certificate, our constitution, should reflect and include our first Australians, anything less than that is unacceptable. I offer bipartisanship to Mr Turnbull. Next year is the 50th anniversary since the 1967 referendum, which achieved long overdue change and recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. 50 years on, this nation I believe is ready to recognise our first Australians in the constitution and make that necessary reform.   So, we say to Malcolm Turnbull, whenever and wherever you want to meet, whenever and where ever we can work out what the question should be, whenever and where ever, ideally next year, which is the 50th anniversary, we can conclude the matter of constitutional recognition. Mr Turnbull shouldn't politicise this issue and furthermore, going to the second part of your question, this nation has been grappling with the equal treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders since 1788. We haven't got it right yet. The fact that your skin colour is a more likely predictor in parts of Australia of whether or not you will get a custodial sentence or not is unacceptable. And I don’t think most Australians are aware of that or think that should be the case. For too long there's been the wars between whether should you have symbolic recognition or should you have practical reconciliation. I actually think both are important. I thought that when Kevin Rudd did the apology, I thought that was excellent. I think constitutional recognition is another very important step in reform. But what I'm not going to do is ignore the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I don’t know how much effort Mr Turnbull has put into constitutional recognition of our First Australians, but in my journey of understanding on these issues, there’s a lot of younger Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who say that’s all fine and good Bill, constitutional recognition and reform, but what about the real problems, the other problems that we encounter? And certainly, I’ve been taking a lot of good advice from the father of reconciliation amongst others, Sen ator Pat Dodson, about how we can have a better post-constitutional reform process, a settlement to finally ensure that we are on a genuine path to ensure that Aboriginal Australians enjoy that same outcomes as non-Aboriginal Australians and I will be up for that conversation. But I know, through getting out and about with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and many other people interested in the betterment and equal treatment of our First Australians, that just simply pretending the constitutional recognition reform, what have you, on its own is the answer to all the problems, it isn't. It is a necessary prerequisite but it is not the whole solution and that's why I'll keep listening to the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, in that, though, the one important thing you haven't said is do you support a treaty? SHORTEN: I am up for the conversation on a treaty, absolutely, but what I'm not going to do is impose paternalistic top-down solutions. The truth of the matter is, I encourage you to have conversations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people who are concerned about the welfare of their families and just understand the constitutional reform, dealing with some of the clauses in our constitution to finally recognise the presence of our First Australians, that is fundamentally important, but let me tell you if you're not aware, there is a level of cynicism amongst parts of the Australian community that somehow constitutional reform in and of itself will deliver all the other outcomes. It is very important and Mr Turnbull knows better than to throw rocks and try to muddy up the issues. He knows and he should know better, that there's complete bipartisanship in terms of reform to the constitu tion but what he also perhaps needs to understand is we need to close the gap in life expectancy. We need close the gap in terms of incarceration rates. We need to close the gap in terms of education, housing and employment. And so, I for one am not going to tell Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people what they're allowed to talk about, what they're allowed to put on the agenda. The way I would govern this country is to listen to all people and then harness the good will of this nation and make sure that at last we can achieve equal treatment for all Australians regardless of the colour of their skin. Continue reading

Bill Shorten - Transcript - Doorstop - Adelaide - Tuesday, 7 June 2016

E&OE TRANSCRIPT DOORSTOP ADELAIDE TUESDAY, 7 JUNE 2016 SUBJECTS: Labor’s planto boost apprenticeships across the country; Preferences; Visit to storm-damaged areas of NSW; Child Care Rebate; CFA. BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody. Before I turn to our announcement about apprenticeships, I'd like to again relay our support and thoughts for the people that have been dreadfully affected by the terrible storms lashing eastern Australia. In particular, my thoughts are with the families of people who have been lost or people who are missing. And of course, our concerns of the people whose businesses have been damaged or homes have been inundated and we see again the uncertainty of whether or not people will be able to return to their own homes. It is why after this announcement I will be heading to Sydney, to Coogee, to see the damage, to be briefed by the SES coordinators and also to thank the volunteers and the professionals working so hard to alleviate the pressure. I think it's something special about our country, that even in the midst of an election, both Mr Turnbull and I understand that there are things more important when crisis hits than the day-to-day political rancour. This is a moment where the whole nation supports people in trouble. I think it is fair to say that in the worst of times, we see the best of Australia. And I look forward to seeing and working with the volunteers and thanking them on behalf of many Australians. I would like to briefly turn to this morning's planned announcement. Labor is committed to supporting, creating and maintaining fair dinkum jobs in this country. We are committed to boosting apprenticeship numbers. Labor, if elected on July 2, will make sure that we create real jobs, real skills, real apprenticeships. It is pretty impressive to come here to TAFE South Australia, and to meet young men and women who are pursuing a love of a trades qualification, and the skills which will set these people up for life. Young people in this country sometimes get a bit of a raw deal in terms of the way they are portrayed. There are over 600 apprentices, and indeed adults retraining as apprentices, who are absolutely determined to secure the skills so they can make a contribution, not only to their own livelihoods but to the nation. I'm really pleased that we are able to say today that if elected, Labor will insist u pon a proportion of apprentices being employed on Commonwealth-funded work, specifically on the top 10 projects which will be funded by the Concrete Bank, we will want to see one in every 10 employees being apprentices. We want to make sure, for projects which have a capital expenditure of over $10 million, that we sit down with the States and Territories and make sure a proportion of the jobs are going to apprentices. In the last three years under the Liberal Party, Australia has lost 120,000 apprenticeships. We've seen major cuts to training budgets and we have seen a blow-out in vocational education, private sector rorts and scams. Labor wants to swing the pendulum back to TAFE, Labor wants to see the pendulum swung back to encouraging the employment of apprentices. We are committed to real jobs and real skills and that is why we are going to back real apprenticeships. I would like to ask my hard working Shadow Minister Sharon Bird to talk further about the detai l of our exciting new announcements to put apprenticeships at the front of our plan for jobs. SHARON BIRD, SHADOW MINISTER FOR VOCATIONAL EDUCATION: Thanks Bill. Labor has had a long history with apprenticeships. We deeply understand how significant a pathway they are for young people looking to get a good quality job, based on high-skilled training. It's also the case, as we walked around here today, we met a lot of mature age apprentices. People who are retrenched or looking to re-enter the work force, now increasingly see an apprenticeship as a really viable way for them to get a start. The sad reality for many of those young people, retrenched workers, people seeking to re-enter the workforce, is that under this Government they have given absolutely no attention to the skills portfolio. They have rolled through four ministers, they have done nothing but reduce the funding in every Budget and MYEFO, and they have no answer to the fact they have lost 120,000 apprentices in training. It is an abysmal failure for a party that wants to talk about jobs and growth to be absolutely failing in this area. So I am really pleased, with Bill Shorten today, to say a Shorten Labor Government will get back into the business of using its leverage, through its investment in infrastructure, construction, development, to making sure that gives an opportunity to invest in the skills of our people as well. One in 10 employees being an apprentice will significantly increase the opportunities for those people who are looking for it. It is also, I want to say, really a great pleasure to be here at TAFE. We have, nearly a year ago now, committed to a TAFE funding guarantee because these sorts of facilities are not cheap. They really require investment, and if you want the high quality training that these apprentices are getting, the TAFEs have been there for decades to deliver that. They keep it updated. They are high quality providers. We want to make sure that continues to exist. The Government never talks about TAFE, we will. We have the TAFE fun ding guarantee to make sure we have a strong TAFE into the future. Labor understands quality jobs. It understands quality skills and part of that commitment is our announcement today about an apprentice advocate at the Federal level, responsible for promoting apprenticeships, securing the quality guarantees. I am sure many of you know our apprentices travel internationally, they are snapped up. The world comes here to study how we do this stuff. We want to keep that quality there. That apprentice advocate will have that role. Finally, an apprentice portal on the Australian Apprenticeships website. People can go on and search in their local area, see what the opportunities are, get connected to jobs that are available and really make sure there is no reason for them to miss out if this is the pathway they are looking for. It is a great announcement. I really appreciate the support of Bill and the whole team because I think for many, many communities, they are talking to me about TAFE and apprentices hips constantly and it is a really important issue for them. Continue reading

Transcript - Doorstop - Ultimo TAFE, 2 June, 2016

E&OE TRANSCRIPT DOORSTOP ULTIMO THURSDAY, 2 JUNE 2016 Subjects: Labor’s Positive Plans for Vocational Training; Liberals’ cuts to TAFE. TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY FEDERAL LABOR LEADER: Well thank you very much for coming out to Sydney TAFE. I'm really pleased to be here with my friend and colleague Sharon Bird, and I'll handover to Sharon in a moment to talk about the TAFE and apprenticeship system across Australia. I want to make a few comments about what we're facing here locally. We are very, very fortunate to have a fantastic institute right here. It serves thousands of students, many thousands of students every year. But disappointingly, we've seen cuts affecting Sydney TAFE, just as we have right around Australia. The Sydney Institute here in Ultimo provides world-leading courses and it is a shocking shame to think of any downgrading of the teaching and other services that it's able to provide its students. What we've seen locally is cuts of almost 2,800 apprentices - lost. This is part of the 122,000 apprentices that have been lost around Australia and this is a real concern. Obviously, there’s those 2,800 young people who miss out on an opportunity of getting a great job that will support them and their families in years to come but it also makes no sense for the Australian economy. We know, no matter how much the Prime Minister's talking about innovation and app design and all the rest of it, Australia will always need electricians, builders, carpenters, mechanics, hairdressers, caterers. And we need to continue to invest, of course, in the jobs of the future, but also jobs with a future. That means a proper vocational education system that serves our young people as they are leaving school and also Australian workers who are training and retraining through the course of their lives. Thanks Sharon. SHARON BIRD, SHADOW MINISTER FOR VOCATIONAL EDUCATION: Thanks Tanya and thanks so much for the invitation to join you here at Sydney TAFE today. Labor has been campaigning on TAFE for the whole time we have been in opposition. And we have been doing that because quite simply we understand that for a real pathway that combines work and a qualification, we've already got a great system in place - it's called the Australian Apprenticeship System and it provides a pathway for people, both young people out of school, and as Tanya said, people whose industries have been restructured, people who are looking to re-enter the workforce, an opportunity to get a really good start to that new career. Now sadly what we've seen is over $1 billion cut by the Abbott and Turnbull governments out of apprenticeship support and that has resulted nationally in the loss of 122,000 apprentices in training. It's around about a quarter of all apprentices have been lost and we are determined to put this on the agenda because if the Government wants to talk about jobs and growth it cannot ignore the really important industry sectors that these industries and these apprenticeships support. On top of that we've made a TAFE funding guarantee. We understand, like Tanya's wonderful Sydney TAFE Institute here, that TAFE is a worldwide quality deliverer of vocational education. In fact, people come from all around the world to study how we do vocational education, to look at our TAFE system and to look at our apprenticeship system. And this government has done nothing but treat it like a piggybank. Every single budget, every single MYEFO, they have cut and cut and cut out of this sector - $2.75 billion cut out of the skills portfolio with no new initiatives in order to invest and grow this sector. So it is really, really important in this election that we have the opportunity like we have today t o talk to people directly about Labor's commitment to TAFE and our commitment to apprenticeships as a solid pathway for people into work. So I'm thrilled to be here with Tanya today. I've been all around the country talking to people about these issues and we will continue to do that right up to the election. I know communities value their TAFE and I know they value their apprenticeship system and we will continue to raise the fact that this government has failed so abysmally on those, both of those, important contributors to real jobs and growth. ENDS  

Transcript - ABC Illawarra - TAFE, 23 May, 2016

E&OE TRANSCRIPT ABC Illawarra MONDAY 23 May, 2016  SUBJECT/S: TAFE  BIRD:           It’s beyond doubt that under the current federal government there has been an absolute outbreak of rorting, shonky, unethical behaviour by some of the private sector and Labor would absolutely endorse that view which proposed very strong actions. In his Budget Reply speech, Bill Shorten made it clear that the pendulum has swung too far and we have put in place some serious caps on what could happen with the use of VET FEE-HELP.  Labor has always been the party of TAFE, we established TAFE, we have always backed TAFE and we have in fact announced a TAFE funding guarantee.  JOURNALIST: Would you agree though that actually in retrospect it was a poor decision for the Labor Party and for Julia Gillard to invite the for-profit companies into the sector?  BIRD:           Well the reality is that some for-profit providers have been in the vocational education sector for a long time and it is the case that we had the view that the use of VET FEE-HELP loans, which then enables a vocational student to get a loan in the same way as a higher-ed Uni student would under the HELP scheme, was an appropriate thing to do.  When you do things like that you actually have to monitor and keep an eye on what’s happening and under the current federal Liberal government we have been screaming at them for two years about the fact that they simply let the system blow out and we saw a massive increase around the middle of 2014 to now. We agree that that needs to be cleaned up. We’ve got very strong measures proposed to do that and more importantly TAFE as our public provider has to be dominant, has to be there available for everyone.  In NSW under the NSW Liberal government saw course costs up, closed down courses, closed colleges as we have seen here in Dapto and really made it very difficult for students to get a TAFE education so that is why at the federal level this election we are campaigning on funding guarantees for TAFE and will continue to stand up for TAFE.  JOURNALIST: So I guess in that case you’re supporting the fact that the Greens are making this an election issues, it would be a good thing in your mind?  BIRD:           Well in July last year when we attended National TAFE Day, Bill Shorten with myself in federal parliament with the TAFE Teachers Union and affiliated and associated Unions and a whole lot of MP’s from Labor made it very clear that we were going to back TAFE and Bill actually said I am going to put this on the federal agenda.  Of course we believe it should be debated it’s really important. The Turnbull government had a leaked document at the end of last year that said they were going to take over the whole system and treat TAFE as no different to any other training provider. Well they did that in Victoria and it almost bought TAFE to its knees. So it might be a good question for the Liberal candidate in the region about what exactly they’re going to do.  We know now that obviously Labor and the Greens support TAFE what are our Liberal candidates going to be doing about supporting the TAFEs in our region.  JOURNALIST: That is Sharon Bird talking to ABC News, we have also put in a call to Liberal candidate Michelle Blicavs for the Coalitions view on TAFE as well.  ENDS      

Transcript - ABC Illawarra - Liberal Candidate for Cunningham, 13 May, 2016

  E&OE TRANSCRIPT ABC ILLAWARRA FRIDAY 13 MAY, 2016  SUBJECT/S: Liberal Candidate for Cunningham  JOURNALIST: Michelle Blicavs has recently been announced as the Liberal Party candidate for Cunningham in the Federal election. In Whitlam its Dr Caroline Currie and Michelle Blicavs is going to go up against Labor’s Sharon Bird in Cunningham. We will talk to Sharon Bird in just a minute.  In the meantime here is Michelle Blicavs talking to Melinda James.  BLICAVS:      I’ve been very passionate about the political setting in Wollongong and obviously very, very passionate about jobs and growth, which is something I have progressed over the last five or six years in Wollongong as a Liberal. This is something that I want to continue and I think that the federal Coalition plan for the strong economy is great and I think that we need to have a Liberal elected in the seat of Cunningham to continue to promote that growth.  JOURNALIST: It is going to be a hard ask though, isn’t it? I mean it is a safe Labor seat, Cunningham, and it’s only been made safer by the re-distribution. It’s going to be an uphill slog?  BLICAVS:      Well forty per cent of voters at every election vote Liberal, so there is a good representation within our community that believe in Liberal values and Liberal principles and I think that everybody across the Cunningham region want more jobs and growth.  We have one of the highest youth unemployment statistics in the country and this is a huge need for us. The PATH program and some of the new initiatives of small business I think are fantastic and really what the Illawarra needs and certainly the seat of Cunningham. JOURNALIST: Did you have to be coaxed into running? Did you have to be talked into it?  BLICAVS:      No not at all, not at all. I’m very, very happy to be a Liberal and have been serving as Liberal councillor for the last five years and so Liberals have been working for Wollongong for these last five years together with our team on Council so certainly not.  As you can appreciate to enter this sort of election campaign there are other things that you need to get sorted and one of those being my day job. I have stepped down from my day job in order to give my full attention to the campaign.  JOURNALIST: What was the pre-selection process like? Was it uncontested? Were you the only contender? Were you appointed by the Federal Electoral Council? How did it work?  BLICAVS:      I certainly have the full support of my branches and the other Liberals across the area of Cunningham so certainly I have their full support through the process.  JOURNALIST: OK, so you were uncontested? You were appointed uncontested? Is that what happened?  BLICAVS:      Yes, yes that is correct.  JOURNALIST: OK. Look you mentioned having to give up your day job, people do know you as a Wollongong City Councillor as you said for the past five years. Tell people though who don’t know you a bit about yourself what has been your day job up until now and a bit about your connections to the area.  BLICAVS:      I’ve been in Wollongong now for 11 years and have managed various businesses, small business and in the not-for-profit sector and for the last four years have been running a professional association that promotes community and stakeholder engagement around Australia and New Zealand.  I’ve had the privilege to travel and to see much of our country and one of the things I know is that Wollongong is a fantastic place to live and the opportunities that we have here are something that is just not available in other places. I think it is a fantastic place and I think that the opportunities that we have here for growth, the innovation that we have coming out of our University and the students that we are churning out there.  I think they present a fantastic future for our area and certainly that is something that I want for my children.  My own daughter who is now 15 attended a careers expo yesterday at her school in Year 10 and came home and said to me “Mum when I finish will I be able to work in Wollongong”? Now I want to make sure that she has a job and the Turnbull Coalition government is committed to creating more jobs and I want to make sure that those jobs are created here in Cunningham.  JOURNALIST: Well what do you make of the fact that some commentators have cast a bit of doubt on the Coalition’s plan in terms of the magnitude of the kind of economic reform that it delivers that maybe some of these company tax cuts will not result in the kind of job creation that we are being led to believe it will and it could cost the budget a fair bit.  BLICAVS:      I’ve worked with small business and managed businesses myself for over 20 years now and tax is one of the considerable problems that you face as a business owner. Sometimes the amount of tax that you pay can be a part-time salary or can give somebody else the opportunity to work in your business which ultimately helps you to become more productive as a business and therefore you are adding to the overall growth.  I think that by reducing the tax for particularly small businesses across Cunningham means that we will have more opportunities to employ people and I know from the small businesses that I talk to, around the city, that that is something that they want to do. There are many great people out there who are available and willing to work and we need to provide the opportunity for them to get that employment.  JOURNALIST: Well as you mentioned you are quitting your day job, it’s a big personal risk to you embarking on this campaign particularity when, as I said, Cunningham is safely held by Labor at a margin of about 11.3 per cent following the re-distribution last year.  Also coming at a time when we hear that Wollongong and Shellharbour Councils are likely to merge meaning that your position as Councillor is doubtful as is the position of every other Councillor. What are you expecting to do if you are not successful in this election?  BLICAVS:      I’m not thinking about that at this stage, I’m committed to the seat of Cunningham, I’m committed to meeting as many people across the seat of Cunningham as I can and making sure that I can deliver for them should I be elected. I’m encouraging them to vote for myself as the Liberal candidate so that we can have a Turnbull government re-elected and that we can deliver these tax opportunities, that we can deliver the growth and jobs for the community. That is what I am concentrating on and working toward that in the election.  JOURNALIST: Just finally can I get your response to the news today that Wollongong and Shellharbour Councils will be merged yet Kiama and Shoalhaven Councils will be allowed to stand alone as independent entities. There is a lot being said about this being politically motivated it being in some ways associated with the federal election campaign. Of course Kiama and Shoalhaven Council possibly influencing the result in the seat of Gilmore which is held by a slim margin by Liberal Ann Sudmalis. Is this politically motivated? Does this smack to you of politics?  BLICAVS:      I don’t think so. I think that this process has been on-going for almost the whole time that I have been in Council so I think that the Liberal government and State government have been talking about what they can do to make sure that Local Government is delivering the efficiency that it needs to deliver for rate payers.  JOURNALIST: And you think a merger will do that?  BLICAVS:      Well I am on the record, around that issue, and have been in support of it and my position has not changed.  JOURNALIST: And just to remind people of the basis, the foundation of your support for a merger between Wollongong and Shellharbour Councils?  BLICAVS:      Well I think that when you look at the facts of the case the two cities are quite similar and I think that it will deliver for the rate payers the outcomes that are better for everybody and I think that it will be a good thing overall.  JOURNALIST: Alright, well I am sure we will talk to you again, several times over the coming weeks, thanks for your time.  BLICAVS:      Thanks Melinda.  JOURNALIST: That was Michelle Blicavs talking to Melinda James yesterday, as you heard some of the local issues being mixed up with federal but you understand that is fair enough, she is a local Councillor as well.  Sharon Bird, the current Member for Cunningham, has been listening in, good morning.  BIRD:           Good morning Nick  JOURNALIST: You’ve finally got a decent challenge on your hands?  BIRD:           Yes. No, it’s great. It’s good to have the opportunity to actually debate how the national campaign’s policies and issues will affect the local area. It’s hard having a debate with only yourself so it is good to have a candidate in the field to be able to engage on those things.  JOURNALIST: Where do you think this is going to be won or lost?  BIRD:           I think quite seriously for regions, and ours in the Illawarra is probably absolutely exemplifies the challenges that regions are facing, Michelle mentioned jobs and growth, well the reality for that rhetoric at the federal level by the Liberal party, is that you cannot have jobs and growth if you are not investing in education and infrastructure. They are the two drivers that allow the economies to diversify, grow and jobs to flow out of that, not giving cuts to billion dollar companies.  I think it’s a really important debate for our region because the priorities are quite starkly different between the two major parties seeking to form government. Continue reading

Transcript - ABC Illawarra - Budget-In-Reply, 6 May 2016

E&OE TRANSCRIPT RADIO INTERVIEW ABC ILLAWARRA FRIDAY, 6 MAY 2015   SUBJECT/S: Budget-In-Reply, announcement to cap VET FEE-HELP loans at $8,000   JOURNALIST: Really it was an election pitch, wasn’t it, casting Labor as the underdogs although we all know from recent polls that things are getting tighter and tighter as the July 2nd election approaches, both sides accusing the other of being all politics and no plan.   Joining me now is the Labor Member for Cunningham and the Opposition Spokesperson on Vocational Education, Sharon Bird. Sharon Bird good morning….   BIRD:  Good morning   JOURNALIST: All politics no plan is what Matias Corman has said about Bill Shorten’s speech last night and he really casted it in terms of this being about big business versus battlers, is that how you see the difference between the Coalition and Labor as we come close to an election?   BIRD:  Well to be honest if you looked at the government’s budget on Tuesday night and Bill Shorten’s reply last night I think the evidence is pretty much there that the priorities have been set by the government in their budget and the reality is that that in my area about 70 per cent of people will get no tax relief because they earn under $80,000 but people who earn over a $180,000 will get a tax cut. I think most people would judge that as being pretty unfair.   It’s the same thing with the cut to the business tax rate, we have no problem with small businesses getting a bit of a break but most people have understood small business, for a long time, to be those that turn over less than $2 million dollars. This government has got a sneaky little trick that they are trying to get away with. They are redefining small business as anyone with turnover under a billion dollars. Now we won’t support that and we believe that the cuts that are in the budget to health and to education reflect a wrong priority for the country. We need to be investing in education to give people a good chance at the jobs that they will need to take in the future, setting up their own small business but we have seen nothing but cuts…   JOURNALIST: Just to talk about the tax cuts for a moment, Bill Shorten was basically framing these tax cuts for small business who do have much larger turnovers, the businesses that have turnovers of 10 million dollars or less and more who the Coalition is planning to give tax cuts to over time.   Bill Shorten was basically acting as if that was an act of generosity on the part of the Coalition.   Surely Labor still recognises the stimulus effect that that can have in job creation by cutting taxes for much larger corporations as well. My understanding is that tax cuts for very small businesses don’t actually lead to extra jobs as much as they do for larger businesses.   BIRD: Bill has been pretty clear that our view is that when you do a budget you have to address priorities. Of course there are lots of arguments for all sorts of things to be cut or money to be spent on them, you have got limited capacity to do that and so you then set where your priorities will be for the nation and you fund those or you provide that sort of cost relief.   For us the government has been claiming it’s getting the budget back into balance, it’s not, it’s tripled the deficit in that time and at the same time they are pulling out of the sorts of investments that actually drive jobs and growth and that is fundamentally education and infrastructure. If you look at most of the business sector submissions to budgets over many, many years now they are constantly saying to the government that you need to invest in education and infrastructure to get us the platform we need to grow.   Then tax cuts are something that people will always want to have and the big business is no different to anyone else but when you do have a restrained budget situation we argue that you actually spend your money on the investment areas where you get a much bigger pay off and you can guarantee that everyone gets a chance. Tax cuts may end up going to a small group of shareholders, and as Bill said last night, probably overseas share-holders, we want people who need education and jobs to be able to get their chance of getting into the market.   JOURNALIST: I just want to touch on education as well because of course this is your portfolio, Vocational Education. Bill Shorten talked about Labor supporting a publicly funded TAFE, he talked about a crack-down on dodgy private colleges. It has been criticised by the government this morning saying that this crackdown could result in students paying up-front fees and that basically it could mean that it sends a signal to the market that everyone can charge $8,000 given Labor intends to put a cap on loans over $8,000 per student per year for vocational training, what would you say to those criticisms?   BIRD: It has been very, very clear to us for quite a while now, since about the middle of 2014, when the massive explosion started in people being signed up to very poor quality, massively over-priced courses, that something had to be done and we have been calling on the government to do that. We have moved amendments to the bills to try and get some measures in place to control the blow out and we believe that our public TAFE system has to be the dominant backbone of the system because it’s the one that provides for everybody, that provides for regional and rural areas, and to make sure there is some comparison for quality and price in that market.   The government has, after two and a half years, released a discussion paper that will lead to another discussion paper, we just don’t accept that that is enough action and we do believe that, having looked at the examples such as the IPART Report of NSW with how much NSW TAFE charges for these courses, that $8,000 per year per student is a very reasonable amount.   JOURNALIST: We might now see all courses magically costing $8,000?   BIRD:  It will be interesting and this is why I don’t accept the government’s response at all. We have made provision, there are some very, very expensive courses to run for example aviation, and we have made provision that people can make an application to the Minister for an exemption for a higher course but they are going to have to make the case that it is a legitimate cost. We are not just going to accept diplomas consistently costing far more than it costs to do a University degree.   JOURNALIST:  Sharon Bird we will have to leave it there, thanks for your time, I’m sure we will be talking plenty of times in the next couple of months.   BIRD: Thank you, no problem.   JOURNALIST: Sharon Bird who is the Labor Member for Cunningham and the Opposition Spokesperson on Vocational Education.   ENDS  

The Government's Unfair Budget

Click here to watch Sharon’s speech Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:57): As the day draws to an end, it is obvious to many of us that we will be heading off to an election and unlikely to meet here in jovial good company on Monday, as the manager of government business intimated at the end of question time. So, it might be worth taking the opportunity in this MPI to have a little think about what has happened in our journey over those three years, because we have had three budgets in those three years. Ms Claydon: And haven't they told a story. Ms BIRD: They do indeed, as the member for Newcastle says, tell a story. The government encapsulated it themselves with the term 'continuity with change', because each of those budgets has been exposed consistently—and, I have to say, with increasing speed—to be fundamentally unfair at the heart of what they represent. We had the infamous 2014 budget—the first budget of the Abbott government. It put in place such reprehensible changes that the government had to back-pedal on them or hide them away or freeze them. They were so objectionable to the community that the government simply could not get them through this place. In that budget, we saw broken promise after broken promise. It went to the heart of the trust that people had in the government that they had elected. There were broken promises on school funding, broken promises on health funding, broken promises on pensions, broken promises on cuts to the ABC and the SBS. Mr Giles: Consistency. Ms BIRD: If there was consistency in that budget, it was: if they had made a promise, they went out of their way to break it in that budget. It was an absolutely discredited budget. One would think that, having been exposed relatively quickly for how bad and unfair it was, it might have disappeared off the landscape. There is more to that story, and it is not going to give any great comfort to the Australian public. So, we then had another budget: 2015. This was a budget that said: 'Let's just stay under the radar a bit. It didn't go too well last time. Let's just try to stay under the radar a bit and maybe try to get everyone to focus on our commitments around child care.' As my colleague the member for Adelaide very clearly outlined for the House, that did not go too well either. Having travelled through two budgets in not quite two years of government, for quite a few on the other side, obviously the message got through. And they thought: 'We need a solution to this. We don't have an economic narrative. The Australian public are not coming on this journey with us. We're being exposed for breaking election promises. We're unable to articulate a case for the future.' Now, what could be the solution to that? We would have suggested: drop your unfairness—that might have been a start—get in contact with where average people are actually at in their lives, seek to put in place a plan for jobs, invest in the things such as education that contribute to people being able to get jobs or create their own businesses. We could have given them a couple of options like that. But no. What did those opposite decide to do? They decided to swap their leader. The current Prime Minister stood in the courtyard, not far from this place, and said: 'It's time to end this farce. I'm going to challenge, because I'm going to give economic direction to this country. I'm going to bring the reforms that are needed to set us up for the future.' And what hope there was as a result of that, particularly on the backbench! People were hoping that this would be the circuit-breaker that got them where they needed to be. Well, what a disastrous experiment that has been! We now have this new Prime Minister's budget—naked and ashamed in front of us within less than two days of its having been brought down. It should not surprise you, because fundamentally we have a Prime Minister who is the emperor with no clothes. People are in the street pointing out that he is a great disappointment. This budget prioritises millionaires and it prioritises big business over the average, ordinary people it is supposed to deliver for. It is exposed, it is an embarrassment, and it is no wonder the backbench was so deathly silent in question time. (Time expired)  

Important Issues For The Youth Of The Illawarra

Click here to watch Sharon’s speech Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (10:56): Like many of my colleagues in this place, I have been sharing the national Youth Action online survey as they seek the views of young people aged 15 to 24 on what they see as important issues for us in the upcoming election. I have also had the opportunity to talk to lots of local young people. One young woman, Katrina Nethery, has done some research and written a speech for me on important issues for the young people of the Illawarra. I would like to share it with the chamber, and say thank you to Katrina for her work. She says: There are many important issues faced by the young people of the Illawarra today, including an array of mental health issues, homelessness, and a high unemployment rate, and whilst these issues are not unique to the Illawarra, they still do play a significant role in the lives of many youths who live there. Mental illness can be found in one in five adolescents, and is most prevalent in 18-24 year-olds, however only one in four young people with mental illness receive professional care. These statistics are Australia-wide, however can be applied to the Illawarra. In 2013, there were 59,910 youths living in the region aged between 5-24 years old, and 11,982 of these young people were suffering from a mental illness. Of those, approximately 2,995 would have received professional care. Major obstacles for parents trying to acquire professional care for their child can include the cost of attending services after those covered by the Medicare rebate, not knowing where to find help and support, and long waiting lists to see a professional. Youths affected by mental illness can also sometimes be forced out of home when their family doesn't recognise or understand their disorder, contributing to the large number of homeless youths living in the region. Homelessness affects approximately 1,205 people living in the Illawarra, and a large proportion of these people are youths. Mental illness, domestic violence, family breakdowns and housing crises are large contributors to homelessness; however there can also be a number of other causative factors. Unemployment can also be a significant factor in youth homelessness, as the lack of financial stability and affordable rent makes finding a stable home difficult. Katrina goes on to outline in particular how, as those three issues interact—mental illness, homelessness and youth unemployment—they can have many and lasting impacts on the lives of young people, and particularly in our region of the Illawarra. She acknowledges there are programs, initiatives and funding, but makes the point that the problems are still prevalent in the community and a lot more remains to be done. These issues will remain, but by aiming to minimise the number of people affected, the situation can be greatly improved. Thank you, Katrina, for your research and speech.

Transcript - Radio National - VET Sector, 29 April, 2016

E&OE TRANSCRIPT RADIO NATIONAL DRIVE FRIDAY 29 APRIL, 2016  SUBJECT/S: VET Sector   KARVELAS:    See you next week in Canberra, I’m going to be there for the Budget.  RYAN: See you for the Budget.  KARVELAS:    That’s Senator Scott Ryan, the Minister for Vocational Education and Skills. To continue the discussion on reforming the VET sector I want to bring in the Shadow Minister For Vocational Education, Sharon Bird, welcome to the programme thanks for your time.  BIRD:           Hi Patricia, thanks.  KARVELAS:    Scott Ryan and you working right to the end on a Friday night, I appreciate it. Before we get too political you were listening to Scott Ryan just now, how much support will you give this process?  BIRD:           I have now dealt with four different Ministers and we started making our concerns known about this with Minister McFarlane, who was the original Minister. Obviously at the end of last year we had very late legislation put in, that Scott Ryan referred to, putting the freeze on. At that point in time we moved amendments and tried to get the government to support a range of actions that we thought they could take that would actually deliver something on these really devastating issues.  Now we have a report out five months later that actually pretty much outlines exactly what Labor said at the time. We asked for a National VET Ombudsman, we asked for a cap on the amount of course costs, we asked for a reduction in the loan amounts and we asked for action on the use of Brokers and having read the discussion paper today it pretty much comes to the conclusion that we tried to offer to the government five months ago.  KARVELAS:    But don’t you owe the government some good will given that actually it was Labor’s decision to extend FEE HELP loans to the VET sector which has been a really big part of what the problem is?  BIRD:           A little history lesson as it was actually John Howard who decided to extend the loan scheme to the VET sector but there were changes in government that we made in 2012, that the Minister referred to, which was supported by the then opposition who actually made the point that it was good to get rid of red tape. It is a system that I think we both agree needs important urgent action.  Our criticism of the government, to be honest, is that it has been two and a half years that the alarms have been going off now and now we have a discussion paper out for comment for another discussion. We just think that, you know, they know what is wrong, there has been ample evidence a number of enquiries of the House and the Senate, then they have come to some conclusion that we already told them about five months ago. We just think they need to get on with it and take action on these sort of real concerns because they are damaging the whole reputation of the sector.  KARVELAS:    You’re taking credit, as you just did for a number of the suggestions in the discussion paper, as reforms that Labor proposed last year. Given that, which of the reforms would Labor commit to supporting through the Parliament if it remains in opposition, if you are still in opposition after July 2, what would you actually give the government support to get through?  BIRD:           We offered bi-partisan support for amendments last year and they included firstly the establishment of a Vocational Sector Ombudsman. One of the big problems for students is that you have got a regulator but it is not their job to resolve complaints and you’ve got nowhere else for students to go other than to somebody like the Consumer Action Law Centre. We felt there needs to be an Ombudsman in place and we have put that forward at that time.  We also put forward the proposal that, like in the University sector, if you want to access VET FEE-HELP there is some control over how much can be charged. The report out today indicates some fairly astonishing differences between how much people are being charged. A lot of these private sector providers charge anything for $14,000 to $33,000 for a diploma and in NSW they use as a comparison the IPART Report that had the most expensive one at $8,980. We feel there is real price gouging there. We put forward that proposition to the government in an amendment. We also proposed decreasing the amount that people can actually borrow it is now up to nearly $100,000 and that is an awful lot of money for many people who won’t ever reach an income that will allow them to pay it back and we thought that that needed to be addressed.  We have already put these forward and given the government the opportunity to come on board with them. I suppose our frustration, Patricia, really just is that it was nearly five months ago now and now we have another discussion paper out saying basically what we were trying to get them to take action on five months ago.  KARVELAS:    Do you agree that fixing the FEE-HELP system for VET is the first priority? Or would you like to see a kind of broader structural changes being developed at the same time?  BIRD:           It’s a really great question. I do agree with the Minister that the damage that has occurred with the rapid growth since about the middle of 2014, when many media reports started to occur, about really unscrupulous targeting of disadvantaged students, cannot be left unaddressed. Our argument would actually be that it has dragged on for too long as it is. More broadly than that there are two other initiatives that we have already announced in this sector, one is our great concern that TAFE, as the public provider, has to be dominant in the sector because it is like the ballast in the system. It provides the quality benchmark, it provides the good way to assess what are reasonable charges, it covers all regions so that people are able to access training.  We actually announced a policy last year of a TAFE funding guarantee to ensure that our public providers are supported and more broadly we have also announced that we need an overall sectoral root and branch review. We did Gonski for schools and got a really solid proposal for the long term future of funding schools. We did Bradley for the University sector and we believe it is well past time that we had a look at the Vocational sector. What do we want it to do for this country? What are we requiring of it and how do you structure and fund it to ensure you can achieve that?  KARVELAS:    Sharon Bird many thanks for joining us tonight. I am really interested if you do win government to see how a TAFE version or VET version of Gonski would end up looking like.  BIRD:           I would be happy to come back and talk to you Patricia.    ENDS