Doorstop interview, Cooee
Topics: Commitment to Advanced Welding Training Centre; Education and skills in Tasmania; Legalising cannabis; Child care reforms; GST




Brett Whiteley, Liberal candidate for Braddon:                        Well, welcome everybody, and it’s great to be in the heart of manufacturing in the North West Coast, here at Jayben. It’s just terrific, and thanks for the hospitality, guys, to have us here. It’s great to welcome the Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham. And may I just start by saying it’s fantastic to be here in Jayben, which is a site, one of the partner industry groups that are working in the P-TECH program, which is proving to be extremely successful. It’s a program of embracing those young people in our high schools through the Burnie, Greater Burnie district area – that’s Parklands High, Burnie, Yolla District and also Hilliard College – giving an opportunity to expose the industry to young people that want to pursue a trades career. It’s a very exciting program, and I’m just thrilled to actually hear that it’s working so well. That was an initiative that we introduced at the 2016 elections, so I’m so pleased to be back here today. So that’s a side comment on that, but it’s a truly amazing story.


To more to the point of why we’re here today, industry in North West Tasmania and Tasmania generally is at a really exciting period of time. The West Coast has a huge future ahead of it. Advanced manufacturing is going gangbusters. We have opportunities to put our fingerprints on the defence industry procurement program. We should never think for one moment that we’re not up to the game of being a part of that. We have brilliant, skilled workers at the cutting edge of advanced manufacturing right here in Braddon and particularly in Tasmania. So today’s announcement, which I’ll leave to the minister in a moment, is very much about enhancing the skills of the people that are involved in this industry, enhancing the skills of those that will be coming through the program – whether it’s even through the P-TECH program – to be able to offer them extraordinary opportunities to upskill, to be trained in the whole welding sphere. So without any further ado, minister, it’s great to have you in Braddon, always, and Ill leave it to the minister to make a formal announcement, and then we’ll take some questions. And it’s also great to have Kent Wyllie and Wayne Bould from the Tasmanian Minerals and Energy Council who’ve brought this proposal to me about seven or eight weeks ago, just after I was preselected. And it’s great to be here with Chris Russell as a partner of the whole Jayben Group which is also here and in Adelaide. So over to you, Simon.


Simon Birmingham:     Well, thanks Brett. It’s great to be back here with you and it’s a real example that powerful, local advocacy makes a real local difference in terms of delivering things that will make a difference in the lives of people and to the economy of this local community here across North-West Tasmania and particularly in the Burnie region. What we’re announcing today is $750,000 to support Tasmanian Minerals and Energy Council in delivering an advanced welding centre, an advanced welding training centre, that will be underpinned by five welding simulators, training for trainers to be able to deliver advanced welding simulation and training techniques that can ensure welders and advanced manufacturing businesses like this one have world-class skills that can enable these businesses to tap into global export markets, Defence contracts and actually deliver more jobs, more opportunity, more contracts across North-West Tasmania. And this has come about because of a candidate like Brett Whiteley, A) listening to local industry and being tapped into their local needs; B) advocating hard to make sure that government hears the priorities of the local community and then being able to get on and deliver that. And that’s why it’s so critical that across this electorate in Braddon, we see Brett who turned to Canberra so that Braddon has a voice in the Turnbull Government to ensure that there are more projects like this that are delivered in this community into the future. I was thrilled to be here in the last election campaign announcing our support for the P-TECH project locally, which again was a result of Brett identifying the business partners, school partner and the possibility of having a local P-TECH project to inspire more young Australians, more young people around the Burnie region to consider a pathway in technology, in apprenticeships, in engineering-type pursuits just like this. And this is really now backing that in further to recognise that North-West Tasmania has enormous economic potential into the future as great existing businesses like this one that are already exporting advanced manufacturing goods right across Australia. And with this type of training centre in place, they’ll be able to do more of that across the world, win more contracts, win more work, create more apprenticeships, create new jobs, create more opportunity for Tasmania.


Brett Whiteley:             We’ll come back to questions in a moment. Thank you, Simon. And can I just thank particularly Kent, who went to extraordinary lengths to push the case. Sometimes they’re pretty tenacious down here Minister, when they’ve got a proposal, and…


Simon Birmingham:     I know that, I’ve been on the end of your tenaciousness.


Brett Whiteley:             You have and I’ve passed that onto you. And I think it’s just exciting to be a part of the solution. And while our political opponents spend a great deal of their time complaining about what’s wrong with the world, we’re getting about providing the outcomes, the solutions that are needed to see the employment opportunities in this region be enhanced, the economy stay strong. And so it’s exciting to be a part of this announcement today, and thank you for your support. You had a very listening ear when I brought this proposal to you and I’m indebted for that. So I think without further ado, we might let the experts have a say, and people that exactly know that technical detail. And between Wayne and Kent, we might just make a [indistinct]. Kent, you want to kick off as far as what this means for the industry you represent? Obviously as the team at the Minerals and Energy Council, you represent 250 industries we think will benefit, or businesses that will benefit from this. So maybe you’d like to explain a little bit more.


Kent Wyllie, Advanced Manufacturing Coordinator Tasmania Minerals and Energy Council:   Yeah, so this initiative will allow not only for training, but also allow for continual assessment for training for welders across Tasmania. It’s a huge cost and huge burden on industry, but it’ll also allow for bringing in new workers into this area and re- changing the conversation. These simulators are fully portable so we can take them to schools. We can change the dialogue and get more people interested in working back in the trade space, which is absolutely critical to our region. It’s incredibly exciting and we have the real potential to be the first of these classrooms and environments in Australia.


Wayne Bould, CEO Tasmania Minerals and Energy Council:  We have a skills gap on the North West Coast and I think it’s something that Australia faces generally regionally, and certainly in meeting the demand for the infrastructure growth that we’re seeing across the country at the moment, where a lot of the tradesmen are at the back end of their working life and they need to be able to maintain the skill level that they’ve currently got. But we also need to be bringing on a whole new cadre of a new generation of skilled employees to fill those empty spaces once they’ve vacated. The beauty of this system is that it’s computerised. It doesn’t require energy, it doesn’t require waste of electrodes and gas and anything else, and the facility that we’ll be putting together will allow local industries to access it 24-hours a day, seven days a week, if that’s what they need to do to maintain the currency of their welders. What it really does do is make us worldwide competitive and allows us to compete in the newer, higher quality control levels required to meet defence standards and the like. So it gives this whole region a boost, but in fact as Brett said, gives the whole of Tasmania a boost.


Journalist:                    Why do you think young people aren’t staying in Braddon? Why do you think they’re moving away to Hobart or, say, Melbourne, the mainland? Is it partly also because of the educational issues here, you know, that if you want to attain a higher degree, you actually need to leave the area and then you don’t come back.


Wayne Bould:  I think that they can attain a higher degree here. The next trick in our fulfilment of the education opportunity is to let them get that education and have a job where they live. And that’s the big challenge for all of Australia, and I think for every region anywhere, really.


Brett Whiteley:       And on that front, I mean, the Coalition Government since 2013 have  supported, built an environment that the private sector, case in point being here at Jayben have employed 1800; created 1800 new jobs. And we had a big mess to clean up after the years of Labor and Greens. And so we are at a cusp of exciting days, and with the mining industry still with a great future with advanced manufacturing in places like we’re here today, there are tremendous opportunities. Agriculture are looking for people. I’m sure they’ll be a part of this training as well. I mean, agriculture should not be necessarily seen as an industry that doesn’t require the skills that this simulator program will provide. Aquaculture, horticulture, the list goes on. So there are opportunities. It’s about building the programs, it’s about building the opportunities, about creating the pathways to make sure that we exactly keep people here in Braddon. That’s what I’m about. That’s what the government’s about. And that’s what building a strong economy is about. Now, before I do, I just want to give press an opportunity if you don’t mind. Chris is on the ground obviously here, as one of the partners of P-TECH, but also has been a part of the consulting group with Ken at TMEC.  Would you like to make a comment about what it will mean on the ground for a business like Jayben [indistinct]?


Chris Johnson, Jayben Operations Manager:  Yes, certainly. In the short-term, it gives a training ability for our current staff to be able to increase the capability to meet very stringent international standards for products. The case- defence has been mentioned quite a few times, but the IS09606 welding standard is very critical that our people here in Tasmania are to meet that standard, because not being able to do so precludes us from taking part in their business. So that’s one step. But then further on, as these welding standards become more important in Australia, particularly under the Australian Design Rules, we will be able to meet that requirement.


Journalist:                    How long does it take to actually train someone up to that standard and that kind of thing.


Chris Johnson:            Sure. So the basic trade of boiler-maker/welder takes four years, and so this would be coming integrated in that training. But then this is really a more advanced level of training even beyond that basic trade. So four years from start, and then then several years after that to be able to really develop people who were able to meet these stringent welding standards.


Journalist:                    Brett, coming back to you, you said that Justine Keay who you are running against, her comment that [indistinct] or position on legalising recreational cannabis means that she supports it. How can you assert that she hasn’t said that she supports it? Isn’t that misleading?


Brett Whiteley:             I’ll answer that question in a moment. Can I – can we finish with this?


Journalist:                    Yep, sure.

Brett Whiteley:             I’m will come back to it, I’m more than happy. We might not want to involve these guys in those sort of discussions but let’s finish up on welding not cannabis although I suspect – no we won’t make a link, alright, so keep going. Anything else on this?


Journalist:                    The proposal that you’ve put forward, how would that work on the ground in terms of the simulator and the training? How will that actually come to fruition?


Kent Wyllie:                 How will it come to fruition? We have to place an order, obviously. There’s a period of time. There’s the simulated lab which will be set up with five simulators in a training room, a classroom facility that will be accessed 24/7 if required. And then in a room adjacent we will have three real weld simulators which still have the virtual reality and still have the augmented reality to assist but you’re actually welding with live weld. And then we’ll have two bays that are just traditional welding. And we’ll also have the opportunity then to have- to prototype latest research, latest technology coming in and being used by industry to test and to see if they could potentially want to purchase some of that equipment. So the opportunities are endless for this sort …


Brett Whiteley:             [Interrupts] Just on that matter, this is a deliverable and this is what a candidate who could become the member as a part of a Coalition government can deliver. We’re going to be making this money available today. These guys can get about ordering these simulators. It will take two or three months, I suspect, to probably receive those, but we want to get this up and running. It’s not something we want to wait for. So I’m excited today that the minister is here to make that announcement and we can get on with the job. It’ll be located at TMEC Centre of Excellence in South Burnie, which is a tremendous centralised facility which is gaining a reputation among the industry groups that we’re speaking about.


Journalist:                    How many people do we imagine would be going through this training per year?


Ken Wyllie:                  The exact number I’m not sure but the potential is to engage with Pathway, the current unemployed, to engage with students across all levels. And then it really is about then engaging with industry to find out exactly what their needs are, and then to build a model that suits business-specific. So each business will have their own requirements and their own needs and we’ll work with those to build the training package that they require. Backing that is a nice 09606 accreditation that comes with the package so we’ll be able to get onto that straight away.


Simon Birmingham:     And importantly, there are 250 local businesses in metals industries that have been identified as possible businesses who would use this facility to start with, and upskilling existing employees to make sure they have the welding accreditation to be able to pitch for higher level work, and bigger contracts, and different jobs as well as in providing new pathways for young people to come in to the industry in the future. All of it focused on really how do you make sure that North-West Tasmanian businesses are able to win more work, create more jobs, and this is about giving them the skills to be able to do that.


Journalist:                    So where are the funds coming from? Is there like a Braddon by-election slush fund that you can just pull things out of? Or where is the money coming from?


Simon Birmingham:     As a government we are always listening to communities right across Australia about how it is they can best be supported to grow their local economies. It’s as a result of listening to local businesses and communities and strong economic management, that across the country we’ve managed to create more than 1 million jobs since we came to office. It’s that sort of strong economy that is underpinned by good economic management and wise investment such as this one. But they only come about in terms of granular local investments, such as a local welding facility like this, because we have local MPs who are tapped into the community, hear about local need and advocate for it. And that is essential and that’s why having a powerful voice and a locally connected voice like Brett Whiteley back in Canberra is what Braddon needs to make sure there is more of this in the future.


Journalist:                    In terms of the funding for this announcement, Labor Senator Anne Urquhart has come out to say – today saying, quote: whenever Brett Whiteley announces a new project he needs to outline to the people of Braddon if it is funded from the bribe to win over Steve Martin’s support for the $17 billion handout to banks, meaning that there was a $47.5 million kind of slush fund – quote – for Tasmanian projects. So that’s where the money question is coming from. So where is the money for this coming from? Are we only going to see up to $47.5 million for the Braddon kind of election…?


Brett Whiteley:             Well, what a ridiculous contribution. I mean Senator Urquhart should stick to producing the nasty ads that she’s putting in the paper every day at taxpayer expense. The reality is, I’m fighting for solutions, for outcomes. I’m not complaining. We have issues. We have challenges. And we have people like the TMEC coming to a candidate in a by-election saying: here is an opportunity. I was convinced. I have been lobbying the minister and today we have an announcement; a very positive, exciting announcement. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m focused on delivering a strong economy, making pathways clear for people in the trades area particularly. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m not about complaining about providing solutions.


Journalist:        Can I come back to the cannabis?


Brett Whiteley:             We’ll get to cannabis. We can get to cannabis.


Journalist:                    So you put out a press statement this morning, essentially calling Justine disingenuous, skirting around the legalising cannabis issue, but she hasn’t actually said anything to contrary, so I’m just wondering who’s right here. Are you or is Justine? So who is actually right because …


Brett Whiteley:             Well this is a pretty clear matter. I mean the Greens candidate; we’ve had two suggestions of major policy from the Greens candidate in the Braddon by-election. One, to change the name of Braddon, and two, to legalise cannabis. We’re going- we’re on a roll as far as the Greens go and I’ve been emphatic in my rebuttal and my rejection of the policy to legalise cannabis. It is a gateway drug. The mental health challenges associated with the ongoing uses of cannabis is well-researched, well-documented, and sadly too well felt in our community. It’s pretty clear that Justin Keay yesterday, on two occasions, in an interview – I’m not sure whether you were present or not – had the opportunity to completely and utterly reject that proposal. She did not. So my challenge to her today is simple: are you going to stand alongside me and emphatically reject the Greens policy of legalising cannabis? It’s a pretty clear suggestion for her – for you Justine – to step up to the microphone and say you do not support the legalisation of cannabis; that you will not at any stage ever support it. And if she were to be re-elected, that she would never support it as far as a legislative measure goes.


Journalist:                    But what if the survey results are correct and half of the people in the electorate do support legalising it? Is it a politically dangerous to say that you won’t ever think about it?


Brett Whiteley:             Well look, I’m a former member of parliament, now a candidate for this by-election that’s always worn his heart on his sleeve. You’ll never have to second guess me. I won’t skirt around any issue whether it loses me votes or gains me votes. I am not interested necessarily on what that poll – who knows who did it and under what conditions – I’m just interested in what I feel is best for our community in Braddon. I know the challenges. I’ve been forced to see them firsthand and they upset me greatly when I see the ongoing challenges of drugs in this area. You’ve only got to go to the far North-West to see how it’s impacting on families and I’m damned if I’m going to be standing in the way of seeing the Greens suggesting this is a policy. I don’t care whether it’s 40 per cent, 50, or 60 per cent who say in a survey, organised by the Greens, that this is acceptable. For me it’s not acceptable. It’s a gateway drug. Well and truly researched and it leads to huge mental health issues.


Journalist:                    The Greens candidate has admitted that he has used recreational cannabis in the past; having you ever used …


Brett Whiteley:       Never used it in the past.


Journalist:                    Coming to you Minister, if that’s okay. Just a question on the child care reforms, the rebate. I’m just wondering if you have any idea about the number of Tasmanians who will be affected by these changes and child care reforms?


Simon Birmingham:     On our estimations, around 15,000 Tasmanian families will benefit under the Turnbull Government’s child care reforms and benefit to the tune of around $1400 per child per annum. That’s a huge savings in terms of the family budgets for households where people might have been under particular budget stress paying for their child care fees. They can now have confidence that they can take on an extra shift, work an extra day, without child care costs being impaired.


Journalist:                    Do you know when we might be able to stop writing GST speculation stories. We’re going to have an announcement this week of where Tasmania actually stands?


Simon Birmingham:     Well the Turnbull Government will appropriately respond to the Productivity Commission’s reports in due course. What we will do is make sure that whatever happens, we will look after states like Tasmania as the Prime Minister has given a firm commitment to do so. Now, I’m from South Australia, I’m a small state senator as well, and I am absolutely confident that the Turnbull Government will come up with an outcome that, as the PM says, passes the pub test across the entire country and is fair and look after the interests of Tasmania as well.


Journalist:                    I have a question, may I ask, I mean I may as well while you’re here. I mean if Braddon is won by the Liberal Party and if some other of these seats that are in contest are won by the Liberal Party, can you foresee the Prime Minster calling an early election?


Simon Birmingham:     No, the Prime Minister’s been very clear, the election is due next year and it will be held next year.