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Tuesday, 3 June 2003
Page: 15752

Mr ORGAN (3:00 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. Minister, given that the main campus of the University of Wollongong is located in the regional city of Wollongong, 80 kilometres south of Sydney, with regional campuses in Shoalhaven and in Moss Vale in the Southern Highlands, can the minister explain to the House why he does not regard the University of Wollongong as a regional university for the purposes of the additional regional funding announced by the Treasurer in his budget speech?

Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —I thank the member for Cunningham for his question. I must say that the member for Cunningham has, on a number of occasions, asked me specific questions in relation to higher education in an informal environment and has shown, unlike others in this place, continuing interest in the issue. One of the things that the government realises is very important for embracing reform in Australian higher education—including the things that might be less popular than other aspects—in order to build a stronger country is providing additional resources to universities in regions, particularly those servicing education needs in remote parts of the country. As I said in response to an earlier question, there are 31 universities on 54 campuses that will receive extra money, ranging from 2½ per cent loading to five per cent, to 7½ per cent and to 30 per cent in the Northern Territory—which I know was very well received by the member for Solomon.

In relation to what is regional and what is not, the definition we took was a population size of 250,000 or less, and then we looked at the size and the proximity of a university to a large population centre. The University of Wollongong, which is relatively proximate to Sydney—

Mr Crean —Ha, ha!

Dr NELSON —The Leader of the Opposition laughs. The Leader of the Opposition needs to tell someone in Mount Isa that Wollongong is not proximate to Sydney. If the Leader of the Opposition were mature enough to sit through an answer without interjecting, he would benefit from hearing me say to the member for Cunningham that I am about to meet the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wollongong. I will also be meeting, in the not too distant future, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle. One of the things that we are doing, clearly, is looking at the needs of these particular institutions and to what extent we might reasonably entertain a constructive argument from people who are interested in solutions instead of creating problems.