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Shadow Minister releases another instalment of education policy.

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Wednesday, 16 July 2003



HAMISH ROBERTSON:  The federal Labor Party is continuing its practice of releasing parts of its education policy over the month of July; today, revealing plans to help disadvantaged school students reach university or TAFE colleges. Under the plan, which has been costed at around $35 million, Labor says that if it won government it would try to expose school students to university and TAFE life and possible course opportunities through school visits, career planning opportunities and excursions to TAFEs and to universities.


Shadow education spokesperson, Jenny Macklin, says the aim is to show disadvantaged and remote students what they can achieve if they go on to further study. Jenny Macklin spoke to our chief political correspondent, Catherine McGrath.


JENNY MACKLIN: So the plan is to target young people from schools where not very many of the students get to go to TAFE or university. We really want to be able to work with the students in those schools, in disadvantaged areas, to make sure that they too get the chance to see the opportunities that are available for them.


CATHERINE McGRATH: So how would that work? What schools would you identify; how would you choose them?


JENNY MACKLIN: Well, first of all we'd choose them on the basis of the number of young people going to university.


CATHERINE McGRATH: So the lowest numbers would get a chance to do this?


JENNY MACKLIN: Those schools that had the lowest proportion of young people heading off to TAFE or university would be the target for this program. We know that young people without a TAFE or university qualification are more than twice as likely to become unemployed, so it is very important that we get into these schools.


CATHERINE McGRATH: So you'll bring the opportunity to them, so to speak, will you?


JENNY MACKLIN: That's right. I was in a school in Adelaide, for example—this is a school in the outer suburbs of Adelaide—a number of the students had never been to the city of Adelaide; the same applies here in Melbourne.


We really want to show young people that there are great opportunities around for them to continue their education, that they can do it and we want to support the schools, the teachers in the schools, who really do want to open up opportunities for these….


CATHERINE McGRATH: So will you be able to go to places like remote Western Australia, remote Victoria, remote Queensland?


JENNY MACKLIN: We certainly need to go to those places but I don't think anyone should think for a minute that this is just a problem of remote schools. This is a problem that exists in our suburbs as well as our regional cities and remote towns.


CATHERINE McGRATH: But isn't one of the problems that, yes, in cities people might not have had the opportunity but at least if they want to go, a TAFE or a university is probably in their city whereas if you live in a very isolated area of regional Australia there might not be one?


JENNY MACKLIN: Well, that's certainly one issue but it is also about making sure that young people everywhere, whether they are in a remote place or whether they are in the suburbs, get the chance to see the opportunities that are there. We do know that students in some schools are much, much less likely to go to TAFE or university because of their family circumstances, because of the level of disadvantage in their town or suburb, and we really want to open up the chances for those young people.


CATHERINE McGRATH: Now, Jenny Macklin, this is the latest instalment in the education policy that is being put out in small stages, over the last week and a half or so—there's more to come, you say. But it is difficult to analyse something like this without looking at the big picture of education, and the cost. Now, this itself costs $35 million but how much will your overall package cost, and when will we get a chance to see it?


JENNY MACKLIN: We will be releasing the whole package by the end of July, and it will be clear then what the total commitment to higher education, both TAFE and universities, will be from Labor. We have fully costed the total package; it's fully funded.


CATHERINE McGRATH: But where is the money coming from, though? It's coming obviously from some existing programs.


JENNY MACKLIN: …clear, Catherine, when we release the total policy. But just to give you an example: we made a commitment last week to 20,000 additional TAFE places and we showed then how we intend to fund that—by taking a tax break that the Howard government wants to give to foreign executives who are living in Australia; that's worth $160 million—$160 million that Howard government wants to give to foreign executives. We are not going to proceed with that tax break. We are going to put that money both into TAFE and some of our other education priorities.


HAMISH ROBERTSON: The shadow education spokesperson, Jenny Macklin; she was speaking to Catherine McGrath.