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Monday, 7 August 2023
Page: 130

Mr O'CONNOR (GortonMinister for Skills and Training) (18:21): I move:

That the amendments be agreed to.

I'm happy to go to the amendments concurrently. I congratulate the members and senators for a very constructive debate around what is a very important piece of legislation for the government. The Jobs and Skills Australia Bill 2022 was in fact the first bill introduced into this parliament. It was done so because it was the government's decision to clearly indicate that we were well aware that there were significant challenges to confront in dealing with skills shortages across our economy. For that reason, we introduced that legislation which established Jobs and Skills Australia. But there was more to be done to set up the governance arrangements and create, if you like, the architecture for it to perform its functions optimally and also work with government initiatives in the creation of jobs and skills councils. Those councils, of course, are tripartite bodies. They work in tandem with Jobs and Skills Australia. They'll provide the opportunity for a real economy insight into the decision-making of government. They will advise government and industry, allowing an interrogation, if you like, by the collection of data of JSA and the insights and views of industry to get the best possible outcomes when we spend taxpayers' dollars on education and training or when we're advising departments about what might well be needed in terms of skilled migration.

We're very happy with the development and the work that has gone into this very important area of public policy to date. I would also like to thank, as I said earlier, the members who participated constructively in this place and in the Senate. I am reporting on the Senate amendments. Constructive amendments were agreed to by the Senate—ones that strengthen the government's plans for expert advice and analysis, delivered by an explicitly tripartite body in a partnership between governments, including states and territories, employers and unions.

It is telling who voted against this. Only the opposition voted against this. The opposition foreshadowed that it would not oppose the bill and would not oppose it as a second reading bill, yet it divided on the bill in this place. I think, because of that accidental division, it then decided to also oppose the bill rhetorically, having accidently divided on it, which is a shame. This is a broader and deeper effort to understand the labour market and more precisely anticipate the changing nature of the labour market so we can deliver more effectively education and training in areas of demand. Its predecessor, the National Skills Commission, did some good work, and I said so. I thank the National Skills Commission for that work, but it wasn't broad enough; it didn't bring industry into that engagement in the way that we wanted it to.

This is a really important moment. This is an amended bill, returned from the Senate with amendments that we accept. All of the crossbench voted in favour of the amended bill. Other than the opposition, everyone voted for the bill initially in this place as well. Two amendments were accepted in the Senate. We had already made amendments in the House. One amendment was to ensure that we provide an evaluation of government programs, particularly on how they relate to and potentially impact upon disadvantaged cohorts in our society and our labour market. I was very happy to accede to that amendment. Also, a further amendment was to ensure that, of the representation on the ministerial advisory board, there would be four distinct places for experts who would not be representing employer or employee organisations so that union representatives and employer representatives were clear and the other four would be able to provide advice without being an advocate of either employer or union bodies. We're very happy with that amendment as well because that reflected the government's position.

We have a significant workload to ensure that we deliver the pipeline of skills to our economy, whether it's the energy sector, the care economy, digital or traditional trades—you name it; there are real issues. These amendments will be an improvement. I want to thank the members and senators for their work.

The SPEAKER: The question before the House is that the Senate amendments to the Jobs and Skills Australia Amendment Bill 2023 be agreed to.