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Thursday, 21 June 2007
Page: 154

Mr PRICE (11:33 AM) —I also want to talk about the education revolution and contrast Labor’s track record with the coalition’s present record. I am talking about a hurtful decision that has now been taken to close the Nirimba campus of the University of Western Sydney. What has the federal minister for education done about this closure? Some 2,700 students are currently enrolled. What has the member for Greenway done about this closure? What steps did they take to ensure that this did not happen? Why do I want to contrast the record of the government and the record of the opposition? I can say a couple of things. The endorsed Labor candidate for Greenway, Michael Vassili, and I will be running a very tough campaign on this issue because education in Western Sydney is something that we feel deeply about.

I note in the chamber the former distinguished Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, the member for Maranoa. When I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, one of my responsibilities was the disposal of HMAS Nirimba: looking to see what was the best community use that we could put it to. And what was the best community use? We established an education precinct with a Catholic senior high, a public senior high, Terra Sancta College, Wyndham College, a TAFE and a university campus. There was $6 million on the table. Initially the University of Western Sydney did not want to take it. Mr Deputy Speaker, do you know what action we took? Labor members, the late Jim Anderson and myself, had a meeting with the vice-chancellor and the chancellor about the $6 million. I am happy to say, without going into the ins and outs of our discussion, that the university reversed its position, accepted the $6 million and established the campus. That is our track record. I just want to remind members that in Blacktown we have 300,000 people. We are part of the region of Western Sydney that contains one-eleventh of the Australian population. In 2016 more than half of Sydney’s population will live in Western Sydney, and there is a huge growth sector in the north-west of Sydney that Nirimba is ideally placed to catch in.

Let’s contrast the positions: federal Labor establishes a university precinct; the Howard government closes the university campus on that precinct. What action does the federal member for Greenway say she took to stop this happening? What action did the federal minister take to stop the closure of this campus? I am outraged, because I was involved in the inception of the University of Western Sydney. I have always been its sternest critic, because of my high expectations of it, and I cannot believe that this decision was taken. I have to say I found out about it only after the decision was taken.

There is an allegation that there is a diminishing number of first-preference students opting to go to Nirimba campus. So what? It is about the number of students there. If there are difficulties, what action was taken? What action did the member for Greenway take with the university, with the federal minister, to ensure and guarantee the future of this university campus? I invite the member for Greenway to make a public statement about the action that she and the federal minister have taken in concert with the university to ensure that this does not happen. What action is now proposed by the federal minister for education and the member for Greenway about this closure? I promise I will, with the endorsed candidate for Greenway, Michael Vassili, be fighting this—uphill, down dale, before the next election, during the election and after the election. We are not going to lie down about this. We are not going to betray the people of Western Sydney, much less the young people of Blacktown.