Plibersek responds to Fair Go for Kids campaign

INDUSTRIAL machinery purred in the background and grease marks stained the walkway as acting Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek, got up close and personal with apprentices at G&S Engineering.

Flanked by Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert, Member for Mirani Jim Pearce, and the Labor candidate for Whitsunday Bronwyn Taha, the Federal MP slipped on a hi-viz vest and safety glasses yesterday to meet some of Mackay's up-and-coming apprentices at the Paget business in a push for more education and training opportunities for the region's youth.

The push came as News Corp regional dailies, including this paper, launched its Fair Go for Our Kids campaign highlighting Australian Bureau of Statistics data revealing just 60 per cent of Mackay students finish school and only between 20-33 per cent go on to study at university.

Alarming data also reveals nearly 2000 regional Queensland apprentices and trainees have abandoned their training in the past 18 months, with a five per cent drop-out increase in Mackay.

To combat the gap between opportunities for regional Queensland youth and those living in Brisbane, the Palaszczuk Government announced an additional $155million to extend the Back to Work program to July 2021 to help 10,500 regional Queenslanders get a job.

Ms Plibersek acknowledged the Mercury's Fair Go for Our Kids campaign before launching an attack on the Federal Government and Queensland Opposition.

"I think it's absolutely great that the Mackay (Daily) Mercury have this fantastic story today about the challenges in our education system and how we can make sure that young people can go on to finish high school, to go to TAFE, to go to university after they have finished their schooling," Ms Plibersek said.

"We have this incredible study of contrast between what's happening from the Queensland Government and what the Federal Government is doing in the same area.

Acting Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek with a local apprentice.
Acting Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek with a local apprentice. Melanie Plane

"Annastacia Palaszczuk has created 22,500 jobs in Queensland since taking government not so long ago. We have seen the restoration of frontline services. You couldn't have a sharper contrast than with the Federal Government.

"The Federal Government has cut funding to schools. They have cut $17billion from our school system over the next decade. They have cut funding from TAFE almost $3billion, including more than $600million in the last budget, and they are trying right now to cut university funding. Close to $8billion is on the chopping blocks."

Ms Plibersek said it was hard to keep a "local perspective" when talking about funding cuts that big, but claimed locally, the LNP had ripped support for 1700 apprenticeships and trainees and was trying to take $30million away from CQUniversity.

"While the State Labor Government is investing and supporting jobs and apprenticeships, the Federal Government is trying to cut the guts out of them," she said.

LNP campaign director Lincoln Folo said Tanya Plibersek "sings from the same Labor playbook as Annastacia Palaszczuk - all fear, smear and no idea".

"Ms Plibersek's fly-in, fly-out visit would have been useful if she publicly backed the LNP's plan for a high-efficiency, low-emissions coal-fired power station to lower electricity prices and create jobs for north Queenslanders," Mr Folo said.

"It is obvious Ms Plibersek had nothing positive to add during her taxpayer-funded trip so she should have stayed in Sydney."

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