VET Student Loans Bill 2016

Ms BIRD(Cunningham) (11:16): It is a pleasure to be able to continue to speak on the VET Student Loans Bill 2016 today and, in particular, to support the amendment put forward by the shadow minister for TAFE and vocational education, the member for Adelaide. This cognate debate addresses some very significant and important issues around the VET FEE-HELP scheme. As the shadow minister has rightly indicated in the amendment that she put forward, there is an absolute need, given the history leading up to this point, to have a look at the decisions the government have made so far and what has happened on their watch with this scheme, and to allow that understanding to feed into how we respond to this bill. Continue reading

MPI - Economy

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (15:45): Thank you, Deputy Speaker—and can I just say, on your behalf: that was an outrageous list of accusations that the member just made against you, Deputy Speaker. I am sure you did not do any of those things whatsoever, so I am very happy to defend your reputation in this place from those accusations. Continue reading

Light it red for dyslexia

Ms BIRD(Cunningham) (11:10): It is a real honour to speak in this debate, and I particularly want to commend the member for Wakefield for putting it on the agenda of this place. I also want to acknowledge the excellent contribution by the member for Forde—some very insightful comments there as well. Continue reading

Labor's commitment to the Illawarra

I am very pleased to have the opportunity in the chamber today, under the broad discussion of the appropriation bills, to canvass some of the issues in my local area that have occurred during the election campaign and since then. Continue reading

Mental Health Week

  I want to take the opportunity, as this sitting week comes to an end, to reflect on some of the important conversations and events that occurred as we went through Mental Health Week this week. Many of us in here are aware that we commenced with World Mental Health Day, on Monday, and many of us started wearing our badges. I participated in the campaign to make a personal pledge on mental wellbeing, as I know many of my colleagues did. I was pleased to sign that campaign website and make my personal pledge, which was to give back to my local community through something both fun and meaningful. There was a great range of options for people to consider signing up to. That is still operating, and I would encourage people who are interested in supporting it to go onto the website, make their own pledge and be part of a very important initiative. Continue reading

Statement - Steel Industry

Ms BIRD(Cunningham) (10:36): This evening a very important meeting will be occurring in Wollongong, and if it were not for the fact that the House will be sitting the member for Whitlam and I would definitely be there. The Save our Steel committee has convened the public meeting to be held this evening in particular because at this point in time there is legislation before the state parliament that is looking at a strong proposal put forward, which the Labor team are committed to progressing, to provide real opportunities for a strong and vibrant steel industry into the future and to protect long-term jobs. Of course, this meeting occurs in the aftermath of the decisions we saw last week in relation to the loss of car manufacturing across this country. Continue reading

Cunningham Electorate

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:30): I want to take the opportunity in the adjournment debate today to boast a bit about my own electorate. I know that colleagues throughout this place often take the opportunity to talk about fantastic groups and organisations in their electorates. I have to say that I am not biased: I think my local community is a particularly strong one for reaching out and providing support and encouragement to people across our community. There were some great examples of that in the last week while I was in the electorate. Continue reading

ACCI Conference on VET and Apprentices - Melbourne

ACCI CONFERENCE ON VET AND APPRENTICESHIPS MELBOURNE   20 JUNE 2016   ***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***   Thank you for the invitation to join you today to talk about a subject on which I am very passionate – my portfolio of vocational education and apprenticeships.  You have no doubt noticed that Labor under Bill Shorten has given a very high priority to these two areas in this election campaign.   Since the last election I have been very critical of the Liberal Government’s complete neglect of the sector and failure to address the crisis in apprentices in training numbers.  To date, as we enter the final fortnight of the campaign, the Government has continued this neglect by failing to outline a vision for the sector in the future or any specific policies to address the numerous issues we face.  The contrast between their silence and Labor’s strong platform of policies could not be more stark.  I am very conscious of the significant interest ACCI has taken in the sector, and in apprenticeships in particular, including in your most recent pre-Budget submission. So I am very pleased to have the opportunity to discuss our announcements with you today.  In his Budget Reply speech Bill Shorten said:  “Labor will make training and skills a national priority.   Creating jobs in our regions; Re-training adult workers; and Helping modernise our industries and technologies.   We are delivering on that commitment with a significant range of important policies.  A NATIONAL VET SECTOR REVIEW  Firstly, a Shorten Labor Government will undertake a comprehensive National Vocational Education and Training Sector Review to build a stronger VET sector and weed out dodgy providers and student rip-offs.  Despite its importance to Australia’s social and economic future, Australia’s VET sector is at a crossroads. Costs are increasing but quality is declining, particularly in private courses and states which have experienced funding reductions.  Labor’s review will ensure the VET sector is properly equipped to train Australians for the jobs of the future, proper standards are enforced and the central role of our public TAFE system is recognised.  Our national skills and training sector used to be the envy of the world – since the election of the Liberal Government it has been significantly damaged by shonks and sharks ripping off vulnerable people.   People’s livelihoods are being destroyed – and their job prospects ruined.  It is a disgrace – and action must be taken.  Having a strong VET sector is an important part of Labor’s plan to tackle inequality.  The vocational education and training sector deserves a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to policy-making to ensure it is fit for the critical task of preparing Australians for the jobs of the future.  While schools and universities have had full reviews into funding with the Gonski and Bradley reviews – the vocational education and training sector has been left behind.  The sector has not undergone a full review since the Kangan Report in 1974.  It is time for a full review of the operation of the sector including quality, funding and access.  As new jobs emerge and existing industries go through extensive restructuring the nation will rely on an effective, quality vocational sector to provide the qualifications to enable people to enter the workforce, upskill or retrain.  Labor is committed to protecting the reputation of the sector, prioritising the outcomes for students and meeting the national need for a well-trained workforce into the future.  A TAFE FUNDING GUARANTEE  Under the Abbott-Turnbull Government, Australia’s TAFEs are struggling. In the past two years we have seen the closures of TAFEs, reductions in staffing, ever-increasing course costs and unscrupulous private providers and brokers preying on vulnerable people.  This must not be allowed to continue. TAFE must be backed by governments as it is critical to our future.  Labor has a plan to back TAFE into the future by developing a comprehensive National Priority Plan that defines the unique role of TAFE as our public provider and delivers on this by working with the states and territories to provide ongoing guaranteed TAFE funding.  TAFE must remain an essential part of Australia’s skills and training sector as it plays a vital role in servicing our regions, industries in transition and disadvantaged groups.  As the Australian economy changes, the jobs of the future will change.  Our trades will involve more technology-based skills, and workers will need training in these skills to be more effective in the workplace and to remain competitive in the employment market.  New trades and professions will emerge and require quality training programs and upskilling courses. It is therefore absolutely critical that we invest in supporting our national asset – our public TAFE sector.  There are challenges in the way the vocational educational sector is funded which has led to the decline of the TAFE sector nationally.  Over the last year it has become clear that there has been a failure in the market and we have seen the proliferation of opportunistic and sub-standard training providers costing the taxpayers and students millions of dollars.  This needs to stop.   Under Labor’s plan for TAFE, a Shorten Labor Government will work with Premiers and Chief Ministers on a comprehensive National Priority Plan that defines the unique role of TAFE and places it squarely as the public provider within the VET sector – as the cornerstone of our economy’s need to train and retrain its workforce and deliver on improving the participation, productivity, innovation and growth efforts required for the nation.  Labor is firmly committed to a strong TAFE sector.  We understand how critically important TAFE is to so many students, communities, industries and businesses. It is a national asset and we must work across all levels of government to ensure its future.  RESTORING INTEGRITY AND STOPPING RIP-OFFS   A Shorten Labor Government will introduce a loan cap of $8,000 a year in the VET FEE-HELP program as part of an integrity package to stop the massive waste of taxpayers’ money, to prevent price gouging of students and improve training outcomes.  Under the Liberals, the VET FEE-HELP loans scheme has escalated from $699 million in 2013 to $1.7 billion in 2014 and is expected to have blown out to over $3 billion for 2015.  At the same time, students are being ripped off by unscrupulous colleges and dodgy providers - and taxpayers are being forced to pick up the tab.  In some colleges it is costing taxpayers over a million dollars in VET FEE-HELP loans to produce a single graduate.  In 2014, the ten largest private training college recipients of VET FEE-HELP subsidies in Australia were paid $900 million in government subsidies - yet less than five per cent of their students graduated.  Labor will stop this waste of taxpayers’ money and exploitation of students.  Our plan will restore integrity to the system, by cleaning out the dodgy private providers who have been ripping Australians off for too long.  Labor’s plan to rein in these taxpayer subsidies and restore integrity to the vocational education sector will save Australian taxpayers $6 billion over ten years.  There will be an exemption on legitimate high-cost courses such as nursing and engineering following ministerial approval.  Other measures in Labor’s integrity package include:  Ensuring that funding for providers is linked to student progress Set national priorities to help meet the skills needs of industry Crackdown on the use of brokers to recruit students Ensure that only the highest quality colleges get access to funding Tougher powers to audit, investigate and suspend unscrupulous providers   COMMONWEALTH INSTITUTES OF HIGHER EDUCATION  Labor has a plan to expand access to higher education and support local jobs in outer suburban and regional Australia.  Investing in education and training is the single most important thing we can do to maintain Australia’s prosperity and secure the jobs of the future.  Labor is committed to opening up access to higher education to more Australians and supporting universities as critical drivers of innovation across the economy.  A Shorten Labor Government will build on this record – not just because it is the fair thing to do, but because our future prosperity depends on it.  A Shorten Labor Government will work to establish Commonwealth Institutes of Higher Education to deliver new higher education qualifications in the outer suburbs and regional areas where existing universities struggle to give Australians access. A network of pilot sites, with universities working together with TAFE, will address acute need in areas of under-participation while trialling approaches tailored to local conditions and designed to give students options.  While the Institutes model is a new form of collaboration, it is not a new kind of a university. Commonwealth institutes will be joint ventures between universities, TAFEs, industry and in many cases local and State governments. They will deliver a mix of higher education with technically focused vocational education specifically designed to drive innovation and productivity growth in industry and enterprises. The applied nature of learning and the close link between theory and practice will offer a unique student experience compared to universities or in training.  Many students eligible for tertiary education are seeking a practical vocational approach to learning. Commonwealth Institutes will be the specialist providers in the delivery of hands-on work-integrated learning. Applied real-world learning will be its distinguishing feature.  Commonwealth Institutes will deliver Advanced Diplomas and Associate Degrees, as specified by Australian Qualifications Framework Level 6. Students will have a tradeable exit qualification and the option to continue on to bachelor-level study at university.  As a condition of funding, Commonwealth Institutes will be required to demonstrate engagement with industry and links to regional labour market need, give instruction that leads to real economy jobs, and offer an articulation pathway to higher study at a university.  For the first time Australia will have a network of tertiary education institutions which bring together the best of applied higher education and high order technical and vocational skills to deliver an innovation and technology driven boost to the Australian economy.  A Shorten Labor Government will establish a national network of Commonwealth Institutes of Higher Education by:  (a)  Funding the establishment of a network of pilot Institutes in areas of demonstrated policy need and existing vocational training, higher education and industry collaboration. (b)  Increasing the availability of Commonwealth supported places at the advanced diploma and associate degree levels to support the development of new pathways to work that combine academic learning and technical skills. These places will be funded at 70 per cent of the full university rate, consistent with established policy expectations for sub-degree places (to which the notional research premium does not apply). (c)   Conducting feasibility studies in every State and Territory into where Commonwealth Institutes should be located to expand access to higher education and work-ready high-skill vocational training. (d)  Conducting progressive impact assessments of the pilot Institutes and encouraging the sharing of best practice and shared challenges. (e)  Shaped by the outcome of the assessments and the feasibility studies, opening the program for bids to established new Institutes in areas of identified need and capability. Consortia of universities, TAFEs or other tertiary education providers will be encouraged to apply, in concert with industry and local and State Governments.  Demographic analysis shows regions of persistent low participation and attainment, particularly in outer metropolitan and regional Australia. In a number of these areas, local communities, businesses and institutions have already identified their needs and opportunities, and progressed plans to work together to address them. Many of these collaborations are very well advanced, and leverage off existing infrastructure and relationships. Some require capital investment, while others require funding only for development, staffing and student load.  An initial pilot project at two sites has already been announced: the University of Tasmania’s Northern Transformation Project, targeting Launceston and Burnie, to which Labor committed $150 million on 28 April. The project is set to create 3,110 jobs, including 265 additional academic and professional staff jobs and support 12 000 new students into higher education in North and North-West Tasmania. The plan is estimated to deliver $1.1 billion economic output during the construction phase alone and an additional $428 million a year in economic activity.  A total of ten pilot sites will be established in all States, in locations where need is demonstrated, and where institutions, industry and local communities are ready to implement locally tailored pilot Institutes. Continue reading

Transcript - Port Kembla - Tanya Plibersek MP, 17 June, 2016

E&OE TRANSCRIPT DOORSTOP, PORT KEMBLA FRIDAY 17 JUNE 2016 SUBJECTS: Death of Jo Cox MP; Labor’s $50 million commitment to the Molden-Dombarton freight rail link; Labor candidate for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips. TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It's terrific to be here with my very good friend and colleague Sharon Bird, the member for Cunningham. Before we get on to today's announcement I just want to say a few words about the death of Jo Cox in the UK. It's a really shocking murder of a woman who, by every account, was a well-known and well-loved representative of her local community. Someone who had served her constituency but also worked overseas in some of the poorest and most desperate parts of our planet, really seeking to help our common humanity. And to lose her life in such a violent way really is a shock to all people and we send our condolences to her family, her friends, her Labour Party colleagues, her constituency and all of the people of the United Kingdom who, no doubt, are horrified by this event today. On to local issues, it is a real pleasure to be here to say that a Labor Governme nt, if elected on the 2nd of July, would support the Malden to Dombarton freight rail link. This is a project that Labor has supported in the past when in government. In 2011, we committed substantial funding to see the initial parts of this very important freight rail project begun. Sadly, since we left government, both the Turnbull and Abbott Liberal Governments, federally, and the Baird Government here in New South Wales have completely dropped the ball on this very necessary project. Our announcement today is a $50 million commitment from the Commonwealth Government if Labor should be elected. We expect the New South Wales Government to match that commitment with another $50 million and of course this project will also require private sector partnership. This 35 kilometre freight rail link would join the port of Port Kembla with the main southern line around Picton. It would, of course, be an economic stimulus for both Port Kembla and south western Sydney, more easily mo ving freight rail between south western Sydney and the port. It would also, of course, have benefit for passenger rail freeing up some of the passenger rail lines on the Illawarra Line. It's a very busy line already and it would make it easier to run more services on that passenger rail line. We know that this would be a very important generator of jobs when it's complete, but it will also be a very important generator of jobs during its construction phase. It has some very significant engineering work to be done, including a four kilometre freight rail tunnel, which would make that one of the longest freight rail tunnels in Australia. And of course, a number of bridges, an underpass under the highway and so on. It is a very significant project that would bring a great deal of economic benefit to Port Kembla, to surrounding areas and also to south western Sydney and I'd like my colleague Sharon Bird to talk a little bit about the project. She has been an extraord inary advocate for this project. To see it done, to make sure that there is an economic benefit to the people that she represents. SHARON BIRD, MEMBER FOR CUNNINGHAM: Thank you Tanya. Look, I'm really pleased to be here today once again, indicating that Labor is determined to progress the Malden-Dombarton rail line. It is the case that when we were in government, under the minister at the time Anthony Albanese - who has continued to be a great advocate for this particular rail link - that we put the money in through the State Government to get the project progressed and I'm thrilled that our Deputy Leader can be with me today for this announcement. Tanya has obviously been here before, but she's a great friend to the region and it's really good to have her here to join us. This project is significantly important to diversifying our regional economy, to ensuring that we can create jobs locally out of that. It's also important to linking us with the growth centres of this state and it's also important to providin g a better amenity for locals as we see freight increase - to have more of that go on rail. So we've been fighting to have this project completed. Before the last election, Labor had $50 million on the table to partner with the private sector in order to get progress. The first Abbott Government budget cancelled that money so we've now seen an Expression of Interest process by the State Government come to an unsuccessful conclusion. It is our view that we are determined that the Federal Government under a Labor Government continue to progress the project so we're putting the $50 million back on the table. We're calling on the State Government to match that, to send a very clear signal that both levels of government support the project and that will enable us to engage with the private sector to get this rail freight link built. I have, as Tanya said, been campaigning for nearly 10 years on this. It may be that I'm a dog with a bone but I 9;m not going to let it go. I'm determined that we progress this. The Turnbull Government now has said nothing and so I'm putting a challenge out to them as well - stop forgetting our region and match this commitment and let's get this rail freight link built because it just makes so much sense to everybody across the region. JOURNALIST: Why do you think the registration of interest process did fail with three companies considered by the State Government to not match, not fulfil the criteria? BIRD: Look when the State Government announced that they were not willing to take any of the expressions of interest up, I with Stephen Jones wrote to the Minister and said 'well what's going to happen now? What’s the issue?' The State Minister indicated that he felt that they might be able to progress it with some Federal Government support. So we also wrote to the Federal Government Minister. Now it's just been deafening silence from the Turnbull Government on this, so I think it is really important that today we are saying the challenge is down again. We had $50 million on the table, you guys knocked it off, we're putting it back on the table and we need to get this stalled project back in action. JOURNALIST: Is the $50 million still there regardless of whether the state matches it? BIRD: Our $50 million is on the table, but we have no doubt that we need to send a very clear signal to potential private sector proponents that the project has the support of both levels of government and that's why we're calling on the State Government to give that indication by matching our commitment. Which is, I think, a really strong signal then if they did that, to the private sector, that you've got both the Federal Labor Government and the State Government supporting the project. We think that would get it moving and I hope that they can come to the party on that at the state level, but also at the federal level. JOURANLIST: What's the project worth all together? BIRD: It's just under $700 million for the entire project. There is obviously private sector interest because the State Government was able to get some submissions up. So we believe that what is really needed to progress it is a strong signal. Both levels of government want to see it built and completed and we believe this is the mechanism to achieve that. I'm just really pleased, and I'm happy to say I've had nothing but support from my Federal Labor team on getting this project done, but also most recently I met with the regional councils who had a meeting in Wollongong for indicating their support. We've had mayors from across the south west of Sydney and Illawarra region making it very clear that they see the benefits for their communities, too. And I made a commitment to them that I would push continually for this and also call on other parties to do the same thing. JOURNALIST: $50 million out of $700 million needed, doesn't sound like - I mean it's progressing it - but I wouldn't call that a huge chunk of the money? BIRD: The important thing here is there obviously private sector interest out there. Now when the State Government went to their Expressions of Interest they were putting no money and you still had private sector interest in actually being part of building the line. So our view is, that if between the State and Federal Government you've got $100 million on the table that is a very strong signal that we are committed to getting it done and we believe that there is some private sector out there, as shown in the Expression of Interest process, in partnering to do that.  JOURNALIST: [inaudible] Would the $50 million still be spent if the states don't put anything in?   BIRD: Well we would be talking to the private sector and continuing to progress the partnership as we did before the last election. But I don't want to lose the fact that I think that that's going to be a much more successful process if the private sector see both levels of government backing it in, and that's why the call is so important to the State Government as well. Continue reading

National TAFE Day - Geelong, Gordon TAFE

NATIONAL TAFE DAY GEELONG – GORDON TAFE  16 JUNE 2016  ***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***   Thank you everybody. I might just do an all in one explanation of why I am here today with our fabulous candidate, Libby Coker, and I am back again because we had such a great visit last time and it was really good as I had the opportunity to talk to apprentices that had been organised actually on-the-job to talk to us and I wanted to come back because the feedback that we got when we went around all over the country talking to apprentices is what has developed Labor’s apprenticeship policy so its directly reflected by the conversations that we had with people like many of you who are here today as apprentices.  There were some very strong messages about the pressures on apprentices and the difficulty of completing your apprenticeship when you don’t have your own tools or you have to travel to do block study and you have all the costs involved with that or just the cost of living expenses. A lot of apprentices live independently and have rent, they might have family, and apprentice wages are tough to live on for four years.  So today Labor has announced that we will reinstate the Tools For Your Trade program that the Abbott government abolished in 2014. That will mean $3,000 over the term of an apprenticeship in four lots of $750. The first one after six months the next one after 12 months recognising that the first year is when you have all your set up costs. It is also there not just to help with the costs of doing your apprenticeship but also an incentive to continue on and complete so there is a final payment on completion again of another $750 four of them all up.  We believe in the apprenticeship system as an excellent pathway to good jobs. We have seen the federal Liberal government cut $1 billion in support out of apprenticeships and their only answer in this most recent budget was some four month internship where you had to work for about an additional $4 an hour. They should be investing in apprenticeships, that’s a real pathway, that’s a real career and we are determined to do that.  That is our announcement today along with the fact that we are going to get back into supporting the Group Training Program, I don’t know how many of you are employed by a Group Training organisation here today but they’ve been really important because they provide an opportunity for small and medium businesses to participate in apprenticeships and the government, when Abbott was elected, again they cut back and eventually abolished it so there is not support and we will be reinstating that.  I was talking to somebody here who is doing a pre-apprenticeship course. Bill Shorten and I at the beginning of this week announced that there will be 10,000 new pre-apprenticeship places funded by Labor delivered in our TAFEs across the country to give people a good fighting chance to be competitive to get an apprenticeship as well as 5,000 places - when I was here with Libby I met an apprentice who’d been laid off by one of the big recent lay-offs around the area and he had undertaken to do an apprenticeship - we want to see more of that so we are also creating 5,000 places for retrenched workers to be able to access a fast track apprenticeship recognising that they have already developed lots of skills in the work that they have been involved in. Across the board we are absolutely committed to seeing apprenticeships reinvigorated again. We have lost 120,000 places across Australia, it is crazy and we want to see that turned around and reversed.  We are here of course, with a fantastic BBQ thanks to all the Unions and the Gordon TAFE for their support here, because it is National TAFE Day and TAFE is one of our most significant, important national assets. It’s clear that people come from around the world to study in Australia our TAFE system and apprenticeship system because we do it so well and yet this government is determined to dismantle it. It’s an unbelievably stupid way to go.  Last year on National TAFE Day Bill Shorten and I announced a funding guarantee to ensure that TAFE is able to continue in regions, like we are here in Geelong, to make sure it is there for communities and remains strong and our dominant provider doing all the things that a great public provider do. Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals don’t like anything, I think, that is public and we know that that is a real sign of quality and dedication and that is why we need our TAFEs to be strong.  On National TAFE Day we are confirming our commitment to that funding guarantee as well so thank you so much for your interest and dedication. I know we’ve got people from the CFMEU, the ETU, the AEU are all here expressing their support because they absolutely understand how important TAFE is and all of the apprentices, I can only say to you I hope you are in your apprenticeship for long enough to see a Labor government elected on the 2 July and the delivery of those payments coming along to you. Also congratulations on great decisions and real commitment and my very best wishes to each of you in the future as well.  I might ask Libby to just talk about how it is going at the local level. She’s just a great candidate and I really want to see her with me in Canberra after the 2 July.  COKER: Sharon Bird is the Shadow Minister for Vocational Education and we stood in Geelong only a few months ago and we talked about the need for supporting apprenticeships, our construction industry and also TAFE. Sharon is back today with this announcement and I think that shows that Labor is actually very committed to our region. We know we have seen the loss of Ford, we’ve got ALCOA gone, Target’s gone these are job creators and what we want to see is apprenticeships supported so you can actually go out there and get that job.  This is a sign from Labor to you that we will invest in apprenticeships, as Sharon said, $3,000 for the Tools For Your Trade to help you and to actually inspire others to step in and do an apprenticeship but also we do know that under the Liberal government, under Sarah Henderson’s watch, we’ve seen 1,500 apprenticeships lost to this region, that is a significant number. If we are going to be a nation of jobs and growth we need to invest in apprenticeships and in industry that help people to get work.   I would like to thank Sharon for being here today and thank all of you and just wish you all the very best. With a Labor government you will be better supported and you will have the opportunity to work, so thank you very much for coming here today.   ENDS