Sky News Breakfast with Jaynie Seal

JAYNIE SEAL, HOST: There is plenty of preparation underway for the upcoming Jobs and Skills Summit for 1 and 2 September. Regional Australia will be a major talking point, and joining me live is Kristy McBain, Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories. How are you this morning, Minister?

KRISTY MCBAIN, MINISTER: Very well, thank you.

JAYNIE SEAL: So, before the summit, it’s certainly been about meeting representatives from the regions to talk about challenges that face regional Australia. What are some of the issues?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Look, I think some of the issues that we are seeing in regional Australia is definitely around skills shortages but some of the biggest concerns are housing issues. We have a lot of businesses who are saying that they gladly attract more people to the area with the skills needed, but then the challenge is finding them accommodation in some of our regions. We know some have been hit particularly hard by natural disasters, and they’re facing significant housing shortages, but we are seeing more people move to the regions than ever before, which creates, obviously, a backlog in that permanent rental market.

JAYNIE SEAL: Absolutely. And there has been so many wonderful incentives; for example, the medical industry, you know, providing those incentives for people to work in the regions and having people perhaps, you know, have university degrees there and then staying on after that. But as you mentioned, yes, the housing crisis, certainly a big issue. In terms of the skills and what’s going to be talked about on the summit – what are we talking about in terms of skills for the regions?

KRISTY MCBAIN: In particular, we are still facing a GP shortage right across our regions. It is difficult to get in to see a GP. Our hospitals are crying out for nurses and allied health professionals, and we know that we’ve got a shortage in planners right across all of our local council areas, aged‑care workers, hospitality and retail workers and trades. Skill shortages across the regions I think have been significantly impacted by the ripping out of funding to our vocational training sector, and we can see that across our regions with so many of our vocational training campuses sitting largely empty at this point in time. We want to encourage more people into the trades and more people to take up those micro‑credential skills to get themselves a job.

JAYNIE SEAL: And what’s being done to entice them to move to the regions?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Look, there are a range of state incentives in place, but I think the important thing we need to do is talk up the value of our regions. We know that in regional Australia we are responsible for about 70 per cent of all our commercial exports. It’s a great lifestyle, but, as I said, we’re facing a significant housing shortage, and when we don’t have access to services and infrastructure like our metropolitan counterparts, sometimes it is hard to attract more people into the regions. We’ve had a decade of inaction and no planning from the previous Government in regard to how we were going to entice people into the regions and dealing with grant programs that weren’t politicised. So, there are some regions who are in desperate need of service delivery and infrastructure investment, and that’s what we want to provide as part of the Jobs and Skills Summit: a transparent package that we can deliver for the regions.

JAYNIE SEAL: And what about overseas workers? We know that there’s a lot of people with their visas ready to go. There’s a lot of work there, whether it’s short term, long term; it’s not just the fruit picking. There’s a lot of ag tech, there’s a lot of other jobs that you mentioned. What are we seeing in terms of overseas people wanting to come and work here?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Well, we know that there’s a backlog in visa applications and the Albanese Labor Government has already announced that we’re employing additional people into Immigration to make sure that we’re dealing with that backlog, which is fantastic. We’ve also announced some of the skills that we will be prioritising in that backlog process. But this country has relied on skilled migration for some time now, and it will continue to rely on that. But it’s also incumbent upon to us make sure that we’re training our next generations, and that we’re training them in the jobs of the future. And we know that in regards to renewable energy, there will be jobs out there that we are still designing training packages for, that there are skills that are going to come onto our market that are perhaps not there now in the traditional sense. So, we need to be skilling up our workforce for the next generation as well.

JAYNIE SEAL: All right. Well, wonderful to speak to you and looking forward to hearing how the summit goes, and we’ll chat to you very soon again, hopefully, Kristy McBain, Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories. Have a great day.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Thanks so much.