Interview - Triple M Coffs Coast 106.3 Australia Today

Steve Price
Jobs and Skills Summit; visa process for skilled migrants; fee-free TAFE; women in STEM.

STEVE PRICE: Very emotional feedback on the accident that took place south of Sydney yesterday. We’ll get back to your calls on that in a moment. 

Ed Husic is the Federal Industry and Science Minister, joins us on the line. Thanks for your time, Minister. 


STEVE PRICE: I’m okay. What was the one thing that happened at the Jobs Summit that you thought, yep, that’s a good idea? 

ED HUSIC: Well, do I have to limit myself to one because I reckon there was a lot of stuff that people tried to do to both train people up – Australians up for the jobs needed now, and particularly going through TAFE, and the other thing is we do need to find a way to bring people in to the country now to meet the needs of businesses because they’re, from everything I pick up as an Industry Minister, they are feeling the pressure of not having people around to do work, and that’s pressuring supply chains and it also puts pressure when people want to be able to get the stuff they need in stores or whatever they need to do at home or work and they can’t get it. So, having movement on those two things at the summit was really important. 

STEVE PRICE: Are you going to be able to unclog the visa system that for a long time previous to you taking over government – I mean it was a shambles with passports for a start, but then I’m told that it’s expensive and takes a long time to get people in on skilled worker visas? 

ED HUSIC: Yeah, and that is absolutely – like, you’ve hit the nail on the head – that is going to be a big challenge, and again, weirdly, it’s part of a – I mean there are two things: one is the way that the system was operating prior to the election; the other is getting the people in to help with the processing of people that need to come in to help other businesses with what they need for skills. It just goes to show you how much pressure there is in the system at the moment, and we’ve put that money and the resources aside to do that, and obviously time will show with respect to your question about will we be able to fix it, that’s the aim. That’s the challenge. That’s what we’re working to. 

STEVE PRICE: The Treasurer, Jim Chalmers said it’s going to be a tough Budget. You’ll have been butting heads with him I guess – I know you can’t tell me over what exactly – but is there going to be enough money in the Budget for you to get the skills training up and running that you need, and even if you can do that, how quickly can we start to reskill the country? 

ED HUSIC: I guess there are a number of things in that, Steve. One is, yeah, the Budget, we’ve said we want to be able to look at the way the taxpayer dollars are being spent, and where savings need to be made, they will; and everyone’s having to stump up savings across government and there’s a reason than that has to happen. So, people – you know, we just have to be a lot smarter about how we’re doing all that. But doing it in a way, too, that doesn’t cut our nose off to spite our face because of the reasons that you’ve just said – in terms of being able to have the money to invest in TAFE. For example, the announcement that came out of the Jobs and Skills Summit around bringing forward some of the investment in the TAFE fee free places to make TAFE available, particularly – because a lot of businesses do rate and value the skills that get taught out of the TAFE, so having those places brought forward, really important. Again, having that money there for that is critical.

But the other thing that comes out of your question, too, is that it takes time, right, and training people up – you know, going through that patient process does take time, and that’s why you’ve got to get the balance between making sure locals get the training that they need that also satisfies what business is expecting with a stream of people coming into the country with those skills already that can ensure businesses can keep running and not worry about whether or not they have to slow down production, because they don’t have the people around to do it. 

STEVE PRICE: What sort of horror show are you going to find when you look over the $100 million over 10 years into getting women into science and technology, known as STEM? You’ve ordered an inquiry, are you going to look at that and go, “What the hell!”? 

ED HUSIC: I mentioned a few moments ago, Steve, about looking at how we spend taxpayer dollars and making sure that we do that right. There’s a stack of programs particularly in my own portfolio where that money’s invested, and what I’ve said is, “well, look, if there’s stuff that’s working, why don’t we do more of that, and stuff that isn’t, stop it”. So, it’s just applying some common-sense. But given that we’ve got, like all of these skills shortages that exist, being able to call up people from different corners of the community and say, “okay, we’ll provide the training if you’re willing to take part and open up those pathways, then we should do it,” because there are – the issue has been that in particular, you know, we’ve got a lot of talented people, particularly women, that could be called up to work in digital and tech environments, and that’s happening all over the place, because every business now you need to have someone that’s a bit savvy with tech and be able to apply that to the way that a business runs. We do need to call up a wider range of people and say, “Listen, we’ve got to put your talents to work. We’ll skill you up. Let’s get cracking on it.” In terms of the review itself, and what it might find, well, we’ll see. We’ll let the review do its work, but if there’s stuff that they reckon we can do differently and better then I’m all ears. 

STEVE PRICE: Great to catch up. I know how busy you are. Always appreciate your time. Thanks a lot, Ed. 

ED HUSIC: Thanks, Steve. All the best, mate. 

STEVE PRICE: Ed Husic, Industry and Science Minister.