Opposition leader Anthony Albanese announced a $1.1 billion skills and training program on Sunday. It was federal Labor’s biggest spending commitment since October last year, when the ALP promised an additional $6 billion in childcare subsidies.
Over half of the $1.1 billion will go toward funding free TAFE places. The areas of training covered will be determined by the National Skills Commission priority list, moderated by local priorities as determined by the states.
Occupations currently on the priority list include aged care and child care workers, electricians, chefs, welders, bakers, among many others. The remaining money will find more university places in priority skills, which include nursing, accounting, pharmacy and engineering.
Federal Labor’s policy follows the success of Victorian Premier Dan Andrews free TAFE plan. The Andrews government claimed it prompted a tripling of TAFE enrolments.
In an important clue to how the election will go, Albanese’s policy promise received supportive media coverage from major players. This included not just SMH, Canberra Times and The Guardian, but also The West Australian, Daily Mail and a personal op-ed for Albanese in the Herald Sun. Regional newspaper headlines syndicated the claim Australia faces “A Skills Crisis We Can’t Ignore.”
Labor is currently being criticised for some on the left for its small-target strategy. However, the way this latest announcement played shows the strategy could be working as planned on the big-end of town, who are its real targets.
There will surely be more such announcements to come between now and the election, which must take place before June 2022. Albanese has described his campaign as “kicking with the wind in the final quarter.”
Labor currently has a 54-46 lead over Morrison and the Liberal-Nationals in two-party preferred polling. But the election will hinge on the large-number of seats held on small margins by the Liberals.
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