Bill's Speeches








Good evening everyone, welcome to parliament house.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet, and I pay my respects to their elders both past and present.

It’s great to see so many of my friends and colleagues from caucus here tonight, to celebrate national TAFE day.

Their presence is a sign of the commitment we share, as a Labor team, to vocational education.

The value we place on skills, apprenticeships, training and re-training, the jobs and opportunities created by learning, the self- respect that success instils.

And the respect we have for the dedicated, hardworking people who teach our TAFE students, helping unlock potential and inspiring new confidence.

Friends, this is a tough time for TAFE and training, I understand that – all of us in Labor do.

You’ve endured funding cuts and campus closures.

You live with the uncertainty of contract and casual work.

You operate in an era of greater competition.

And yet, I am wholeheartedly optimistic about the future of our public TAFE system.


Because as our world changes, as our economy transitions and our region transforms – Australia will need TAFE, more than ever.

In the second decade of the Asian Century, TAFE has never been more important.

  • to our nation’s economy

  • to our people’s wellbeing

  • and to our country’s future.

I believe TAFE can be a bridge between careers and industries.

  • Helping school-leavers learn the skills and gain the qualifications they need to find good jobs.

  • Empowering people with disability through new knowledge.

  • And helping mature-age workers re-train and re-skill, applying the abilities, leadership and problem-solving they honed in one industry, to a new challenge.

In South Australia, for example, where, as we all know the manufacturing industry has faced significant pressure…

TAFE SA has had a 15 per cent increase in 4 years for students aged over 45, as older workers seek career changes.

I believe TAFE can be a bridge between the regions and our cities.

  • Tackling youth unemployment where it is highest

  • Offering opportunity for students in the bush to study locally.

  • Building links with local industry to maximise the chances of young people in the regions to get a career

Hunter TAFE, for example, the largest regional vocational education and training facility in Australia, offers free Business Health Checks for local businesses to determine the right mix of courses to meet business needs.

And to ensure graduates gain work-ready skills to suit local employers.

In Victoria, the Andrews Government is reinvesting in TAFE.

Mildura’s SuniTAFE, is now building partnerships with the local food production industry, which employs around 12,000 people in the region.

And I believe TAFE can be a bridge between the old economy, and the new.

  • A pivot-point for industries and workforces in transition.

  • A constant source of upskilling and adaptive knowledge, boosting our productivity and competitiveness.

  • In our regions especially, an accessible, affordable training provider.

  • And a signal of a new national mindset: a focus on preparing the next generation for the jobs of the future.

All of this demands energy and urgency.

In just five years, two-thirds of all jobs created in Australia will require a diploma qualification or higher.

Before our eyes, whole industries are changing their profile – just consider manufacturing.

45 per cent of Australians who currently work in manufacturing don’t have a qualification beyond secondary school.

Yet nearly 90 per cent of all new manufacturing jobs require one.

And this is just part of a bigger global story.

Australia is a fair wage nation, in a low wage region.

And as the economies around us transform and industrialise, the competition for low-skill, low-wage work will only accelerate.

But this is not a race Australia should rush to join.

We can’t compete on volumes, on quantity, or on wages with our neighbours.

They will always have more people, willing to do more work, for less money.

And the low-skill, low-wage road is not a sustainable path to the future – it’s a dead-end.

In the next 10 years, around the world, there’ll be 100 million unskilled workers who won’t be able to find unskilled jobs.

And there’ll be 40 million skilled jobs, without skilled workers to fill them.

The answer for us, as a nation, is to get smarter.

To be a value-adding country, engaged in advanced manufacturing.

A quality link, in a global supply chain.

To invest in skills, training and technology.

To prepare our people for the good jobs of the future, the jobs with a future.

And TAFE is at the very heart of this.

TAFE is what will help our people adapt to new technologies, identify opportunities and thrive in an era of automation.

TAFE will help Australians design, refine, operate and maintain machines, instead of being replaced by them.