Mutual Recognition (Victoria) Amendment Bill 2021

I rise to speak on the Mutual Recognition (Victoria) Amendment Bill 2021. This is a bill that adopts the commonwealth’s establishment of a scheme of automatic mutual recognition for occupational registrations and licences. It basically adopts the federal coalition act to enable automatic mutual recognition of occupational registrations and licences, and it is a significant piece of labour market deregulation undertaken by the commonwealth and the states.

I absolutely support this reform. Basically it allows workers to be able to have their licences and recognition of their qualifications across many states rather than having to basically pay for the licence twice, for example, or three times, depending on what borders they need to cross or would like to cross to be able to access work.

They will also no longer have to wait weeks, which sometimes these processes take, when they are trying to get access to these licences and be able to work over different borders.

As a border MP I know only too well the difficulties the arbitrary line on a map poses not only in these coronavirus times but with Premiers who slam borders shut without consideration of the people who need to cross that line every day for work or school or shopping but also those people working in service industries that cover both sides of the borders.

Many of these workers are people such as plumbers, electricians, builders, marine pilots, architects, professional engineers, real estate agents, teachers or early childhood teachers. These are professions that affect our border communities every single day, and it makes sense—it makes complete sense—that if you are living in Portland or Nelson, in my electorate, your catchment for your business or your ability to work is in quite a circle around you. An arbitrary line on the map should not mean that a person living near the border has to pay twice for something that somebody in a catchment like Geelong or Melbourne only has to pay once for. It is a significant piece of reform that improves the situation for border communities, and that is why I think this is a great piece of legislation that the federal government has brought forward and now we are endorsing.

Having ready access to workers is one of the most important things in my region. I have a number of businesses who are struggling to find staff, and they need to have staff to run their operations. These are businesses that range from local cafes to the local meat-processing facility to hotels and dairy farms—the list goes on and on. It is quite surprising, but ABS statistics released last week show that we only have a 3 per cent unemployment problem. It is not much of a problem.

We actually have jobs that need filling, and we do not have enough people to fill them. That of course means that businesses cannot expand their operations and that farmers cannot grow their herds, and this hampers the local services that shops can offer. So we actually need policies that work and that encourage people, like this piece of legislation does, to move people into the regions to live in the regions and to work.

For example, the abattoir—we have seen during the pandemic the importance of food and food production, and when we could not actually produce meat and serve that meat out to the communities, we all did take notice. Businesses like the abattoir in Warrnambool need to have access to people, and reform like this goes somewhere to where we need to go, but we need to do so much more, and it is good to have that recognition of the importance of this and that we need more staff in the regions.

Unfortunately we actually have a youth unemployment problem. Just yesterday I was surprised to read and to hear that in the estimates inquiry the Minister for Youth confirmed that the Andrews Labor government actually has no plan to get more Victorians into jobs. Astonishingly, given her portfolio is youth, her portfolio does not contain one single performance measure targeted at getting more Victorians into work. Here we have jobs out in the regions, here we have the opportunity—blind Freddy could see the opportunity here—but the minister, who has no idea what goes on outside the tram tracks, is not interested in talking to people in the regions and is not interested in understanding what we can do for our youth.

During the pandemic we have sat kids on the couch, we have all sat on the couch, and we have all got a taste of what that feels like.

A member: You’re making this up!

Ms Britnell:  No, I am not making it up. The Minister for Regional Development, you would think, would have some idea that the problem in regional Victoria is we do have a desperate need for workers and we also have a problem with youth unemployment. It is extremely disappointing that the minister has nothing in her plan to address that. Surely one thing we have learned from the pandemic is we need to focus on our youth and get them mentored and supported and into work. Hard work actually makes you feel valued. Working is important, and there are jobs out there that can be given to the youth and they can be trained up and mentored. But there is no connection for this government between those two opportunities—the opportunity for youth—

Business interrupted under resolution of house today.

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