Issues of education featured highly in the duelling National Press Club speeches last week by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
While Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull focussed the majority of his speech on macro-economic matters (on Wednesday 1 February), he did say that, “Now there is no better way to provide Australians with a lifetime of opportunities than through education.“
By contrast, the Leader of the Labor Opposition, Bill Shorten, used his speech the day before as an opportunity to announce Labor’s policy on skills development and vocational education in Australia in great detail, and announce a National Skills Summit.
A subsequent press release by Shorten and Labor's Skills spokesperson Kate Ellis indicated that a number organisations have accepted invitations to attend the Summit include. Community Colleges Australia (CCA) has also been invited to attend the Summit, which will take place in mid-March.
CCA is particularly pleased that Labor:
- Sees vocational education and training (VET) and skills as an essential national priority development;
- Is committed to ensuring universal access to skills and training; and
- Makes a clear statement that skills should not be about “boosting private profits for training providers” – a truly failed national "marketisation" policy.
Of the two parties, Labor has a more thoroughly thought-through current set of policies on VET. However – like the Labor Party platform prior to the last Federal election (July 2017), the policies unfortunately make no mention of the important contributions that the community education sector provides to Australia’s vocational education and training system.
CCA enjoins all members of Federal Parliament – the Government, the Opposition, the Greens and the independents – to join together to pay attention to the urgent need to create a national skills policy, one that includes community education as a vital partner.