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Monday, 24 August 2020
Page: 3755

Senator LAMBIE (Tasmania) (13:55): I rise to speak about the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment (Governance and Other Matters) Bill 2020. I will be voting for this bill. Everyone knows that ASQA needs reform. Australia needs ASQA to be a cop on the beat. We've seen too much evidence of what happens without one.

We've seen providers take our kids for a ride, charging them tens of thousands of dollars for qualifications worth little more than the paper they're printed on. Some of those kids, by the way, are still waiting for their money back. So, if someone could get onto that for about the third time since I've been in here, that would be good. Some of these guys have really ripped off our kids. So, if we can get onto it, that would be great. It's about time the government started doing something about that. Those qualifications are not worth the paper they're printed on.

The fact is that the government is tinkering at the edges here. What's new? They're doing the bare minimum they need to. What's new? It makes me sad to say this, but they just don't care enough to make our TAFEs thrive. It's all just lip-service. Our tradies and the people they work for need so much more. They need a vision. They need support from government to get kids trained up and into jobs that will rebuild our economy. Don't tell me we're going to start rebuilding our economy, we're going into manufacturing and we're going into infrastructure, when our kids out there have got no jobs and no apprenticeships because the TAFEs are not up and running. This is the problem. And it's becoming a bigger problem. I've got people down there in Tasmania waiting 18 months to get new houses built because we don't have qualified tradesmen and we don't have the apprentices because we don't have the TAFEs open. That's the problem. That's what the economists and the government tells us that we need to make our way out of this economic crisis.

Everyone knows that construction, manufacturing and care work will get us through. That's what our economy and our people need and they need it now. They needed it yesterday. My question to the government is: how will we do that when our TAFEs are on their knees? They are sick of the lip-service that's coming from the coalition. They have absolutely had enough of it. This bill is a bit of nothing, basically. That's all it is. It is a waste of bloody time in this Senate chamber. Maybe the regulator's board's operations could be improved. Do you know what else could be improved? Literally everything about the way we do trades and training in this country. Trades and training, that's my problem with this bill. It's a bit like fixing the roof when the foundations are already dodgy. What's the point? We have states announcing record spending on infrastructure but we don't have the tradies to get it done. How about that? That's what happens when you rely on all these 457s and everything else in the past. Things are going to change and no-one's changing with them. We're not changing in here. We're still not ready to give our kids an opportunity through TAFE. We're still not spending the money in there.

TAFEs are where our fireys, our paramedics and our aged-care workers are trained. They are meant to be essential workers. If these jobs are classed as essential, how come it's not essential to fix where they are being trained? How do you get them trained if you don't have the facilities prepared to train them? Don't even start me on not having the teachers prepared to train them, because you don't have that either. It is shameful. Here we go with the government once again making a big song and dance about this so-called JobTrainer program. It is just a reworded something else; that's all. I'll tell you what, this government does slogans pretty well, but the trouble is you've been doing them that well, the Australian people have caught up with you, and they're onto it.

What I want to know is: what is the government actually doing to make sure our kids can get a decent vocational education after they've finished school? How are we going to get those unemployed workers out there retrained and into a decent job? Our TAFEs should be there to do that for people. Australians should be able to rely on their local TAFE to give them the skills they need to contribute to rebuilding our economy. But I'll tell you what these big talkers have done so far. They've brought out their fancy marketing campaign to try and hide—

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Lambie! You will be in continuation when this debate resumes.