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Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Page: 6650

Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (13:49): I speak in support of the Higher Education Support Amendment (Demand Driven Funding System and Other Measures) Bill 2011. It is always apparent when you listen to the coalition members speak on education matters that they speak from timidity and resentment, whereas Labor members speak from family experience, personal endeavour and achievement and the difference that education has made in their lives. Those opposite always wax lyrical about left-wing student unions. They always use the word 'left' or 'socialist' in their speeches. They always fail to talk about what they did when they were in power.

What did the previous government think about universities? It linked funding to universities to the implementation of Australian workplace agreements: 'You put Work Choices into your universities and we'll fund you.' That is the record of those opposite with respect to university funding. They thought they would impose their ideologically driven obsession with the HR Nicholls Society's aspirations and ideals on the university sector. They talk about markets, but they left centralised university funding controlled from the top. The coalition are more soviet than Stalinist when it comes to the market. In this legislation, we are the ones opening up to students from working class and battling backgrounds the opportunity to go to university. We are the ones putting money into the sector as those opposite failed to do.

We believe that higher education is critical. It is critical to a stronger and fairer Australia. We believe it is absolutely vital for economic development, productivity and high-skill jobs. We on this side believe that giving a young person the opportunity for a higher education, a bachelors degree, makes a difference to their financial security, their self-esteem and their family's prospects. I come from a working class background in Ipswich. Neither my parents nor their parents before them went to high school. I am the first person in my family ever to go to high school. I went to university because a Labor government, the Whitlam Labor government, poured funding into universities. I went to the University of Queensland to study political science, economics and law, and then became a lawyer. My younger brother, Regan, is a doctor of education and the Principal of Kelvin Grove College. My youngest brother, Darren, is a physio­therapist in Ipswich, with about 16 physios working for him. Education made a difference in my family's life, and it will in the lives of everyone.

When I was the campaign director for the then state member for Ipswich, David Hamill, later the Queensland Treasurer, we worked hard to bring the University of Queensland to Ipswich, where we now have a University of Queensland campus. Consider Bremer State High School. I commend the state Labor government for building the $73 million replacement Bremer State High School. We put in BER funding of $200,000 to improve the educational attainment of these kids—fitness stations and an Indigenous area are there as well. That university and that high school, the biggest state high school in Ipswich, have 1,600 students right beside one another—they are connected. That is what we are about in state and federal Labor governments. We connect high school students to university, increasing the capacity and opportunity for young people to go to university. We have the University of Queensland Ipswich in Ipswich Central and the University of Southern Queensland in Springfield in my electorate. We believe that giving young people the opportunity to go to university will make a difference in their lives.

We are abolishing the student learning entitlement from 2012. I have heard members opposite speak in this place on this issue. Even the member for Curtin cast aspersions on this a few short years ago. When she had the education portfolio she thought of getting rid of it. She thought that opening up the sector was good. We hear those opposite talk about freedom. I heard one of the previous speakers talk about the fact that the idea of academic freedom for students may not necessarily be a good thing, because it might encourage left-wingism. It is absurd. They still have the angst, resentment and bitterness from their days in university student politics. That is why they always talk about these sorts of things in that way. But we have a 10-year commitment, which we believe is important, to transform the scale, potential and opportunity for young people in this country with respect to higher education. We have taken seriously the findings of the Bradley review of higher education. We believe it is important, despite the global financial crisis, the demands of government and the difficulties of getting the budget back into surplus—and we will get it back into surplus—that we remain committed to that substantial 10-year agenda. We think it is important. We made a commitment to a quality assurance regulatory framework that is in the best interests of the university sector. We put money into this sector. Those opposite talk about how important it is to put money into the sector. Let me make this point: Commonwealth expenditure on higher education through funding for teaching and learning and for research is projected to increase to $13 billion in 2012. That is a $5 billion increase from $8 billion in 2007, when we won government. It is more than $3 billion more, projected to 2012, than the coalition's funding when they were in government, based on their funding trend from 2001 to 2007. We have also put in this year's budget $1.2 billion to fund growth in university enrolments. So we are putting the money where it is needed. We are not just uncapping; we are putting the money into the sector, because we want to support the sector. This brings to $3.97 billion the investment made by this government to support the move to a higher education system that responds to student demand. That is extremely important.

Mr Frydenberg interjecting

Mr NEUMANN: Those opposite can whinge and complain and carp and moan about it, but the facts about what we have put into the sector are on the table. We are not imposing Work Choices; we are taking Work Choices out of the sector. We are putting real money in to help students—for example, at the University of Southern Queensland, where Doug Fraser, who is the Director at Springfield, said to me that they are already achieving their targets for kids from low socioeconomic backgrounds getting bache¬≠lors degrees. That university is located in the area around Goodna, Gailes and Camira, and areas like that, in the eastern suburbs of Ipswich, which traditionally do not have students going to university.

The amendments in this legislation are integral to achieving our higher education target of increasing the proportion of 25- to 34-year-old Australians with bachelors qualifications to 40 per cent by 2025. This is extremely important for the area of Ipswich. It is extremely important to see the number of students going to university now from Bremer High School, who did not go before, to the University of Queensland Ipswich campus, where there is an emphasis on business, nursing and medical education and on research. That happens to be the location of the GP superclinic run by UQ Health Care, which helped so wonderfully well during the recent floods. It happens to be the location also of the psychology clinic run by the Ipswich and West Moreton Division of General Practice. So it is not just in psychological assistance, training for nurses or medical training. We have, of course, uncapped training for doctors, which those opposite capped when they were in power, particularly Michael Wooldridge when he was Minister for Health.

The funding for these particular institutions is extremely important. It is very important for students across the Ipswich and West Moreton area at universities like the University of Southern Queensland and the University of Queensland, where Alan Rix is the Pro-Vice-Chancellor. Alan has told me, as has Universities Australia, how important are these reforms and the increased funding for the Ipswich and West Moreton region, and for other parts of Australia which are disadvantaged. Those opposite can carp and moan and whinge and carry on about education. They failed to put the money in. They opposed our BER funding, opposed the Digital Education Revolution and opposed the trade training centres, all of which have made a difference in their electorates. They know very well those initiatives have made a difference in the electorates of those on this side of House and of those opposite. They are really brave here, but back in their electorates they know the funding we put in from early education, through primary, secondary and tertiary education has made a difference.

This is important legislation. It has made a difference to the lives of kids in my electorate and it has made a difference to the lives of kids in other electorates as well. Those opposite should hang their heads in shame with respect to their position on this legislation.

The SPEAKER: Order! It being 2 pm, the debate is interrupted. The member for Blair will have leave to continue his remarks when the debate is resumed.