Labor has begun 2024 as they finished 2023 – failing the Australian people on key policy areas, particularly in the skills portfolio. Labor’s much vaunted New Energy Apprenticeships Program, which has been in place for more than a year, has only attracted 1,787 participants out of 10,000 places.

Instead of Anthony Albanese accepting responsibility for this failure – not even 18 percent of places filled – the Minister for Skills has asked the women of Australia to fix his problem for him. Worse still, Brendan O’Connor is using his own policy failure to try to build a case for Labor bringing in more overseas workers instead of training Australians.

Of course we need to increase the number of women taking up trades, but the data demonstrates Labor is doing the exact opposite.

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research confirmed over its first year of government Labor delivered a 37.4 per cent decline in new training starts and a 42.9 per cent decline in commencements for female trainees and apprentices.

The only supportive voice Minister O’Connor could find was from the Electrical Trades Union. This is the same union that has consistently worked with the CFMEU to campaign against accountability and transparency.
The Australian Labor Party willingly receives millions of dollars in donations from these unions and with every day that passes, we see the quid pro quo becoming clearer.

In that light, rumours that the ETU are angling for tens of millions of dollars in Commonwealth funding and direct access to the onboarding of Australian apprentices through the Tender for Australian Apprenticeship Support Services 2024–26, are deeply concerning. Departmental officials dodged questions at Senate Estimates about this, but the Opposition is watching very closely.

The reality is that Labor’s skills policies are not working.

Anthony Albanese and Brendan O’Connor need to switch their focus from creating new jobs for mates and giving the unions a slice of the taxpayer pie and instead just get on with delivering a proper economic plan that reduces the cost of living for Australian apprentices.