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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6394

Mr CREAN (HothamMinister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts) (11:54): I thank the member for Blair because he has given not just a very good indication of what has been done in his electorate for educational opportunities but also exposed, by virtue of the interjections, the silo mentality that still presides on the other side of the chamber when it comes to regional development. I have made the point that if we simply look to the silo of the Regional Development Australia Fund for the purposes of impact on regions we miss the point. We are great believers in the fact that you have got to invest in educational opportunity, particularly higher education opportunity in the regions, because all the evidence shows that if you train people in the regions they will stay in the regions. That is why this budget—

Mr John Cobb interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms K Livermore ): The member for Calare will sit in silence.

Mr CREAN: I know that they do not like hearing this, but they do like the results—all those drop-in centres—because they are lined up at my door every Wednesday afternoon asking: 'What can you do for us, Minister? Can you support this one, Minister? Can you give us a leg up?'

Mr John Cobb interjecting

Mr CREAN: I tell you what, you go back and tell your Leader of the Opposition to stop opposing everything that we are doing to fund these initiatives. I am delighted that the opposition are here, listening with such attention and getting agitated as a result of us demonstrating the significance of what we are doing.

The other reason it is important to invest in the universities is that they become important parts of the community. We are trying to develop this community drive, this leadership that identifies the potential and does not look at the threats but understands the challenges, sees the opportunities and wants to go out and seize those moments, and universities become a very important part in that exercise. What we have done in this budget is fund another round in the education infrastructure fund. We have given some $500 million to higher education institutions just for the regions—not just for universities, but for TAFEs. I think that is very important.

Madam Deputy Speaker, you would be well aware of the work of Central Queensland University and how in Mackay, for example, they have moved to a dual campus model, where they have both the TAFE and the university effectively delivering across courses. What I have encouraged them to do is look also at the trade training centres, which will be funded only under a Labor government. Those who sit opposite have fought us every inch of the way in opposing those trade training centres. What we need is creative pathways, particularly in those boom growth areas that are crying out about skill shortages. We need to get them thinking about getting a vocational stream through schools so students can work out whether they go on to a TAFE or go on to a university.

When we build this infrastructure we need to insist on not only its flexibility but also the adaption of broadband, as the member for Blair has said. He has given a perfect example of another beyond-the-silo, dot-joining exercise in understanding that you can deliver both the education service and the education content. Increasingly we will have the ability to do it. Why? Because we have taken a strategic decision to invest in some of the most fundamental infrastructure this country can invest in—that is, for high-speed broadband. We have made that decision not just to roll out the cable but to challenge regions to think creatively about the applications and the delivery of the services.

We have also seen the numbers of student places increase in regional universities. In the five years to 2012 those numbers have gone up by one-third—they have gone up from 60,000 to 80,000—and we are now moving to uncap university places, which opens up more opportunity for the regions. It took us to come to office to not just understand the significance of it but do something about it. We are proud of our position and what we have done for regional universities and regional education. This is going to be one of the important underpinnings of regional growth and regional prosperity, and we will continue to make those investments.