CANBERRA – Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is setting Labor's 2017 agenda on a clear protectionist drive for local jobs just ahead of the start of the parliamentary year, insisting Australians "cannot allow our country to become an unskilled enclave in a modernising Asia."
And Shorten states he will take this on by resubmitting Labor's election plan to talk to state governments and major contractors to get more apprentices onto federally funded infrastructure and defence projects.
In 2017, my first focus will be jobs. We should be building Australian first, buying Australian first & employing Australian first.— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) January 16, 2017
"I want one in every ten jobs, on every single priority infrastructure project, to go to an Australian apprentice," the Labor Leader will tell the National Press Club (NPC) Tuesday.
"In the context of the last election - that meant at least 2,600 apprenticeship places."
In excerpts of a speech to be given to the lunchtime crowd of the NPC, seen by The Huffington Post Australia, Shorten is expected to say, "In 2017, my team and I have three major economic priorities: jobs, jobs and jobs".
While, by most appearances, this could appear a new slogan, the Labor Leader insists it is not. Instead, he will tell the Canberra crowd it is Labor's "reason for being".
The speech continues Labor's focus on revitalising vocational education, revamps it's push for a boom in Australian apprenticeships and -- in a sideline arc of attack on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull -- restates Shorten's abandonment and casting of the 12-nation trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a "dead deal" after the official United States withdrawal by President Trump, with Shorten stating, "attempting CPR on the TPP is a waste of time".
Turnbull continuing to claim Shorten turning himself into a protectionist on the TPP: "We know those big export trade deals deliver jobs"— Henry Belot (@Henry_Belot) January 17, 2017
"The only time Malcolm Turnbull uses the word trade, is to spruik the benefits of an agreement that no longer exists," Shorten will say.
"It's worse than a vanity project. It shows this Prime Minister put his own ego ahead of Australia's national interest".
Bill Shorten can run around in as many fluro vests as he likes - by getting on the protectionist bandwagon, he threatens Australian jobs pic.twitter.com/kUgBkvWKIY— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) January 24, 2017
It's a TPP position that's led Turnbull to belittle the opposition leader as "gutless" and a "protectionist" cum lately, insinuating a hollow follow of One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, adding he thought that former Labor Prime Minister's "Hawke and Keating would be ashamed, absolutely ashamed of that type of populism."
But Shorten has doubled-down, offering a repackaged Labor plan to oppose the widespread use of skilled migration visas and instead, revitalise TAFEs as high-quality job centres and "train and re-train Australians who are looking for jobs."
"It's become too easy to import skills – rather than train our own people," Shorten will say.
"We cannot allow our country to become an unskilled enclave in a modernising Asia."
The Federal Labor Leader is promising to zero in on "Skills, Training and Apprenticeships" in 2017.
He wants better linkages between high schools, TAFE and university to help people who want to learn a trade at school and assist apprentices work on-site while learning.
But it is also a competition with low cost Asian neighbors that Labor wants to take to up.
"Winning in Asia on our terms -- as a high-skill, fair-wage nation -- means putting vocational education back at the centre of our system," Shorten will say.
The Opposition Leader decries rorting institutions which have "been allowed to chase profits and dud students – at taxpayer expense."
"And public TAFE has been neglected and disrespected for too long," he will say.
But a major shake up of the VET system, by the Turnbull Government is already underway.
In a projected budget saving of $25 billion over ten years, cold calls and over the top incentives to prospective students is to be banned, loan shark private colleges will be banned from receiving taxpayer money and student loans capped.
Shorten is concerned about dropping trade apprentice commencements and reported skill-shortages in trades occupations. He promises a Shorten Labor Government would work with state governments and major contractors to ensure one in every ten jobs, on every single priority project, will go to an Australian apprentice.
"Our priority should be economic reforms that actually deliver jobs – not fantasy trade deals," he will tell the National Press Club.
The Prime Minister will take his turn to outline his plans for 2017 on Wednesday.
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