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Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (15:46): This is an extremely important matter of public importance before the parliament today, and it is a subject I have spoken on over many years in this parliament. My regional area of the Illawarra is at the very forefront of many of the challenges that face our economy as we transition to a much more complex requirement for skills and education needs. We also need policies to be in place to support communities like mine, and individuals in areas like mine, to be part of that transition and not be left behind as the economy changes.
It is very important that the Leader of the Opposition has put this on the agenda. What is sadly lacking from the government is any narrative and plan to actually position Australians well for the jobs that will emerge in the future so that we are competitive. This will take a number of initiatives. As the Leader of the Opposition outlined, it will take an investment in infrastructure, including the smart infrastructure of the future—fast reliable broadband—on which many people will build new jobs and new companies. It will also take an investment in people. I want to take on take the opportunity in my contribution today to talk about the vocational education and training sector.
There are many very useful reports put out about the emerging skills needs in our economy. I draw interested members' attention to environmental scans conducted each year by industry skills councils. I have a particular one here which is the Environment scan for the current year from the Innovation & Business Skills Australia industry council. Sadly, these industry skills councils who do this fantastic work have been defunded by the government.
So I do not know how much longer we will continue to have this excellent research and resources made available to us.
Mr Perrett: What would industry know!
Ms BIRD: Exactly, what would industry know! We have already seen AWPA, the national body that was doing the analysis of emerging skills and opportunities, disbanded last year. And now we are seeing the industry skills councils, with decades of experience sitting on their boards, defunded as well.
I want to take members to this year's Environment scan from IBSA. They say—and it is absolutely true:
The impact of technology broadens each year as it is felt in all aspects of business operations, all sizes of business and all industries. Customer service is being enhanced through data analytics which are providing complex analyses of consumer behaviours, paper based printing is being subsumed by mobile electronic options, finance and business services are operating anywhere and anytime using cloud based applications on a wide variety of devices. Nationally and internationally, convergence and collaboration are occurring in the workplace and between and within industries, suppliers and clients.