Speech To The Australian Labor Party's National Conference - Melbourne Exhibition and Covention Centre, Melbourne


Thank you delegates.  Delegates I want to commend the comments by Kim Carr in introducing the chapter.  This is a really strong chapter on vocational education and training – as it has always been for the Labor Party.


I want to first of all commend Bill Shorten for creating a dedicated Shadow portfolio because as many of you in this room know for so many Australians access to a vocational qualification, an apprenticeship or a traineeship is the best guarantee our young people can have to get them into the workforce.


We understand the sector from the days of the Kangan Report under Gough Whitlam.  The Abbott Government has abandoned it. 


Delegates there’s been $2 billion cut out of skills under this government - $1 billion of that in support for apprentices and trainees.


I think that it is important that we reaffirm, as we do in this Chapter, our absolute understanding of the importance of training and professional qualifications in our VET sector.


But delegates there’s something else that has been happening in the sector and I want to put this absolutely on the table in the discussion on this chapter.  For too long we have seen our great public institution of TAFE undermined and had the capacity to deliver to the people we most need it there for destroyed in so many regions across Australia and this must stop.


Our Platform puts TAFE back at the heart of the vocational education and training sector – where it should be. 


So delegates, I am moving the amendment before you because just last month I joined with Bill Shorten at the National TAFE Day event at Parliament House and we were there with the AEU and our colleagues, and I’m really pleased that Andrew Dettmer is seconding the motion from the AMWU, to take a strong message to all Members of Parliament about the importance of preserving TAFE.


There’s a joint bipartisan report of the House of Representatives that makes it clear that TAFE is a national asset, it delivers for productivity, it delivers for participation, it delivers for innovation, it delivers for the jobs of the future and it gives the opportunities to communities where people are experiencing disadvantage, dislocation from industry restructuring, the devastation of youth unemployment.  It delivers in those community service areas we need it to deliver in.


So Bill committed, Bill committed, to a Labor Government at the federal level having a national statement on the importance of TAFE as the public provider delivering on those areas – having a guaranteed funding source for TAFE into the future, negotiated with our state colleagues.


So I commend this amendment to you delegates and I know that this is a place where TAFE as a public provider will always find support.


We will support ethical, quality private providers.  We will protect the whole sector from the shonks and the rip-off merchants who are out there preying on people’s hopes and dreams but at the heart of that we will ensure public provision to our TAFE system.


I commend the amendment to you delegates.


To see Sharon’s speech, click here.


To see Andrew Dettmer’s speech, click here