Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is right to focus his energies on helping more Australians get a job, including through strengthening vocational education and apprenticeships, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said today.
James Pearson, CEO of the Australian Chamber, said: “It was timely to hear Mr Shorten outline his jobs and skills agenda at the National Press Club today. The Australian Chamber shares many of his concerns about skills and apprenticeships, so we welcome his contribution to the discussion.
“Like the Opposition Leader, we are concerned about the decline in funding for vocational education and training. This situation is a result of policy and funding decisions made by both Labor and the Coalition at federal, state and territory level. VET is a shared responsibility and so needs attention by all governments and both major parties.
“Mr Shorten is right that we need to look at VET and higher education holistically. Policy should focus on skills and vocational education to ensure that VET does not become the poor cousin to higher education.
“Our Top 10 in 10 agenda for a more competitive Australia includes action to arrest the decline in apprenticeships and support young people into jobs. Skills developed through VET are critical for the jobs of today and the future.
“The Opposition Leader’s proposed National Skills Summit seems a worthwhile initiative, and the Australian Chamber stands ready to take part.
“We look forward to working with the Opposition and the Government to support policies that strengthen VET, make the tertiary education system more sustainable and improve apprenticeships. Collectively these need to deliver skills for industry and help school-leavers and career-shifters into work.
“At the same time, skilled migration also plays a vital part of Australia’s success as an economy and as a nation. Our nation benefits from its openness to foreign workers and should continue to welcome them. This openness helps Australian businesses to grow, giving them greater capacity to provide more local jobs. The overwhelming majority of 457 visas are used properly, and employers who misuse 457 visas should be held to account.
“More than four out of five jobs in Australia are in the private sector, so any effort to improve employment must find ways to make it easier for businesses to hire and retain employees. The Government’s Enterprise Tax Plan will empower businesses to grow by making their tax rate more competitive, helping them to attract more investment and create more jobs.
“We urge the Opposition Leader to remember his past support for a company tax reduction when seeking ways to expand job opportunities for Australians.”