DOORSTOP: 6/4/19

April 06, 2019


MARK BUTLER: Thanks everyone for coming out to Port Adelaide today. 90 per cent of jobs in the future are going to require a post-school qualification and with that reality facing Australia, facing Australian young people and adults needing to retrain, the Federal Government has cut 150,000 apprentices over the last five or six years and $3 billion form vocational education funding.

Bill Shorten on Thursday night announced that we would reinvigorate vocational education funding and importantly put Tafe right at the centre of the system again. TTwo-thirdsof all public funding for vocational education will be provided to Tafe, to put Tafe where it should be, right back at the centre of the vocational education system. We’ll also create 150,000 additional apprentice places. We’ll make sure the Commonwealth puts its money where its mouth is, so that 1 in 10 workers on a Commonwealth funded infrastructure or defence project will be an apprentice. We’ll also wave the fees for 100,000 students in the Tafe students in areas of high skills needs. And we’ll make sure that Tafe campuses across the country are reinvigorated with a $200 million building capital fund, to upgrade and restore the quality, the attractiveness of Tafe campuses right across this country.

But in order to rebuild the vocational education system after five years of cuts from the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison Government, and to be able to revitalise the system in the future, we can’t have campuses like Port Adelaide close. In an area of such high needs, such high opportunity in coming years. The Federal Government has done enough damage already to the vocational education system. It is going to be a job to rebuild it from the cuts under Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison. This is adding insult to injury, the decisions by Steven Marshall to close the Port Adelaide campus simply adds insult to injury, which is why there is such strong Labor support for this grassroots community campaign to save the Port Adelaide Tafe.

JOURNALIST: The Government says there will still be the same number of courses on offer. Their line is that it would just be more effective to teach these courses at a separate location. What is your take on that?

SUSAN CLOSE, STATE MEMBER FOR PORT ADLELAIDE: The Government has made a very clear choice about which campuses it doesn’t support, which means which communities it doesn’t support. The Government has decided the Port Adelaide community doesn’t deserve a Tafe, and far from taking the opportunity with the possibility of a Labor government coming in, with a lot more money for Tafe, not only operationally but importantly for capital works, this Government could have decided to hold off on closing campuses, to see if there was an opportunity to grow this campus.

We need more people being trained, not fewer. We need people who are in need, people who are less advantaged to have easy access to that post-school training. To close a campus on the cusp of a Federal election is an absolute disgrace.

JOURNALIST: Is it unrealistic that some of those people who might have trained here could move to the city? Is that too tricky for some?

CLOSE: Some students are very enterprising and will have the wear with all to get themselves where they need to go. But it is an outrageous suggestion to say you are continuing to support a strong Tafe system when you are closing an important campus like Port Adelaide, right in the heart of where an enormous amount of economic activity is going to be happening in the next few years. Exactly where we should be bidding for Federal money to add to the number of courses available here so we can start to get into the defence industry here, start to get into the construction industry, but instead they are turning their backs on this area and it means they have no interest in expanding Tafe and growing Tafe?

JOURNALIST: Susan how many campuses did Labor close when you were in office?

CLOSE: There were a number of small campuses around regional South Australia that were closed when we were in office but we made choices, we made choices under the yolk of a Federal Government in the last five years that was cutting back on the amount of money available for tertiary education and for Tafe training. What we had to do was make sure that city campuses who were servicing people in need had the capacity to have outreach to a large number of students stayed strong and stayed open. This Government has chosen to close, in the face of people needing to use this campus, attending these campuses and more people wanting and needing to get training in the future.

JOURNALIST: That’s exactly the same circumstances that Steven Marshall faces. The Federal Government hasn’t changed, he faces the same circumstances and what you’ve just said is you actually chose to close campuses in areas where there are fewer alternatives than in the city?

CLOSE: We had choices before us, the choices that we made were under the constraint of a Federal Government that may well lose an election in a few weeks time. What the Marshall Government has chosen to do is come right into the heart of the city and start closing campuses. Right in the heart of Port Adelaide where they are saying they want to see more jobs in the future around the submarines, more jobs in suburban Adelaide, and yet closing off opportunities for people to be trained here. It is hard to be in Government but you have to make choices, and by your choices you are known. The Marshall Government has decided to abandon Port Adelaide.

JOURNALIST: Could you explain why it’s a better choice to close campuses in regional areas, Mark Butler, where people have fewer choices then somewhere like Adelaide. How is that a better choice?

BUTLER: We are leading into a Federal election, we are focused on the future and dealing with the billions of dollars of cuts that have been made to vocational education generally but particularly to Tafe under Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison.

On Thursday night, Bill Shorten set out an ambitious agenda for vocational education for the coming years. Why would you close a campus understanding that in the coming weeks there may well be an ambitious, forward looking agenda that will provide significant additional funds to the Tafe system for all state governments? Why would you say we are not interested in the fact an incoming Labor government, if we are fortunate enough to be elected, will put $200 million into updating the capital stock of Tafe, substantial additional money into training students?  Why would you say we are not interested just send that money to New South Wales, Victoria and elsewhere?

JOURNALIST: Is that the problem here Mark, it is just too little too late if potentially Labor is elected in a few weeks time?

BUTLER: That’s why this community campaign is so important. It is important to send a message to Steven Marshall – do not close Port Adelaide Tafe. We in the Labor Party have an agenda, where if we are elected to Government in May we will turn around the Tafe system after five and a half years of cuts under the Federal Liberal Government. Steven Marshall should put a halt on this decision. If we are lucky enough to be elected in May we will want to work with all state governments to rebuild the Tafe system and put it right back at the centre of the vocational education system in this country.

JOURNALIST: Speaking of elections, what would your advice be, if you were in the businesses of offering it to the Prime Minister, as to when he should hop in the car and go to see the Governor General?

BUTLER: I don’t think anyone in the Australian community would understand why Scott Morrison is waiting. I think everyone in the Australian community has now seen the Budget from the Government on Tuesday night and Labor’s reply on Thursday night. All of our policies are there for the Australian community to consider over the coming five weeks of the campaign and then vote on May 11. It’s time to put this question to the Australian people. There is a clear policy platform that has now been put out, in more detail from the Labor Party than any other opposition before it. It is time to vote and we think the election should be called now and the Australian people should make a decision about Australia’s future.

JOURNALIST: Susan just quickly back on Tafe if you don’t mind, we obviously know that Tea Tree Gully has gone, and Parafield Gardens has gone. What do we know about the timing and the closures of the other five campuses that were announced in the September Budget?

CLOSE: We are expecting them to occur by the end of this year. What has happening though is we are seeing courses being steadily moved out of Tafe campuses so that by the end of the year the Government can claim there are very few students there.

We’ve already lost women’s education and foundation courses from the Port Adelaide Tafe. What we expect is they will steadily bleed students away over the course of the year and then close the campuses.

JOURNALIST: So it is death by a thousand cuts?
CLOSE: They have shown no sign that they are interested in listening to the community, no sign that they are interested in the outcome of the Federal election. The best possible outcome for South Australia’s tertiary education system is for a Shorten Labor Government, only they want the best intake, will invest in traineeships. The Marshall Government has been ridiculously partisan in continuing to hold onto its current position and not waiting to see what happens at the Federal election. 

JOURNALIST: Are there other opportunities for communities like this to go and earn those qualifications outside of Tafe or is this really it?

CLOSE: Tafe teaches the vast majority of students in South Australia. We went to the last election with a guarantee that there would be a minimum of 70 per cent of the training funds dedicated to Tafe – it is actually a higher percentage at the end of our term. What we are concerned about is we have a state Liberal Government that not only actively wants to take money from Tafe but is boasting the increase of percentage of courses available to private operators being taken away from Tafe. It is a very concerning development and this Government has shown itself to be absolutely no friend of Tafe.

JOURNALIST: The Government is saying this closure will have no impact on the service of Tafe overall, what is your view?

CLOSE: You just have to listen to the experience of one of the former students who spoke today at the rally. Local people understand that having access to a local Tafe makes a huge difference to their capacity to get trained for the jobs of the future. To argue that a would be nurse on the Lefevre Peninsula can go to Mt Barker to get that training is ludicrous. It is not an expansion of educational opportunities and its exactly at the wrong time.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask you a question with your hat on as Shadow Minister for Climate Change, it is about yesterdays dust storm. I don’t know if you were here in Adelaide?

BUTLER: I was.

JOURNALIST: Do you have any reflections on that and what it made you think of in terms of priorities facing an incoming government?

BUTLER: It is very hard to attribute any single weather event to climate change but what we do know from all of the best advice, from the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Academy of Science and many other bodies here and overseas is that extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and they are increasing in intensity.

The Bureau and the CSIRO only just before Christmas issued their two-yearly State of the Climate report and it confirmed what previous reports had shown, which is in bushfires we are seeing longer bushfire seasons with more intensity in them; making it very difficult, for example, to back burn and to swap with the Northern Hemisphere resources like the Elvis helicopter. We are seeing a structural reduction in rainfall and streamflow in the Murray Darling Basin region and in Southwest Western Australia. We are seeing a whole range of very substantial structural changes to our weather and our climate. Those are causing very significant economic damage and obviously significant damage to our natural environment.
It is about time that in Canberra we got over the toxic policies of climate change and started to put in place a sensible, forward looking climate policy agenda that would discharge the very solemn responsibility we have to our children and our grandchildren. We think we have that policy, the policy we announced on Monday, adding to the energy policy we announced last year on energy and in January on our hydrogen strategy, to make sure that we do do what we really are charged with by way of responsibility to future generations.   
Thanks everyone.