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Thursday, 21 June 2007
Page: 117


Mrs MARKUS (4:36 PM) —I rise to speak about a most important and unfortunate decision made by the UWS. The board announced this week that it would close the Nirimba campus of the university by 2009. I do not support this decision; in fact, I oppose this decision vehemently. This is, in my view, short-sighted and not in the best interests of current and future students of Western Sydney. Firstly, let me correct for the public record statements made by the member for Chifley today. This is not the Howard government’s decision; it is the board’s decision and the board’s decision alone. In fact, the board made this decision without consultation with me or with the federal Minister for Education, Science and Training. Secondly, the member for Chifley asked me to make a public statement. Let me make it clear that I made my public statement on Monday.

Since last Wednesday, I have been in consultation with the vice-chancellor, Janice Reid, and Rhonda Hawkins. I have made it clear that I would oppose this decision. I have also called upon them to have an urgent meeting with me and the federal minister. The vice-chancellor stated that she was unavailable as she was flying overseas this Monday for three weeks. The students who are currently at her campus in Nirimba and also the future students that will be coming in from the north-west sector are more important. I will indeed fight for the best interests of not just current students but future students of the Western Sydney campus of Nirimba and the young people who are moving into this area. I have spoken directly to Julie Bishop, the federal minister, and we both confirm that there has been no consultation with us regarding this. I am extremely disappointed, as I have had an open-door policy and in fact in recent weeks have met with the vice-chancellor and a number of members of the University of Western Sydney board, professors and Rhonda Hawkins to discuss their future plans. At no point was this decision mentioned.

I would like to clarify a few financial facts. Firstly, the Australian government contributes over 70 per cent of the UWS’s revenue. In 2006, the UWS received $271.5 million from the Australian government, plus an additional $50 million for the medical school. The UWS’s operating surplus is its biggest since 1996. It has grown from an operating surplus of $8.2 million in 2005 to an operating surplus of $39.8 million in 2006. The question I ask the board is this: why can’t they choose to use the financial surplus that they currently have to support the current and future students of Western Sydney on their doorstep? This campus is located in a significant part of Sydney: the north-west sector, which is the size of Canberra and one of the greatest growth corridors in New South Wales, and which is on its doorstep. Students are stepping into years 11 and 12 in new schools for the first time and what options will they have? The university is talking about moving students to Parramatta and Penrith. The students of the north-west sector and of Blacktown deserve an option on their doorstep.

I would like to ask the member for Chifley to follow a few things up. I have had a look at members of the board and a number of them have close links with the Labor Party. He has asked me to take action, and I will be taking every action that I can. But I would encourage him to talk to, for example: Linda Burney, who was elected to the New South Wales parliament for the seat of Canterbury in 2003; Jan Burnswood, who was a Labor member of the New South Wales Legislative Council from 1991 to 2007; and Kim Yeadon, who in June 1990 was elected to the Western Sydney seat of Granville. I would encourage the member for Chifley and indeed the Labor candidate for Greenway to, if they really care for the students of Western Sydney, speak to their mates in the Labor Party and persuade them to reverse this decision.

I will be speaking to the students. I have asked students and staff to contact my office. I am currently collating a petition and will be fighting for the best interests of students and young people. Our young people are important, and this is about their future and their education. I strongly encourage the board to review this decision and to use the surplus funds that they have to provide not just for current students but also for the future. My question is: what are they going to do for the future of the young people of greater Western Sydney? What options are they going to provide for our young people? It is absolutely unacceptable for them to make this decision, and I will be opposing it. (Time expired)