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Thursday, 26 November 2009
Page: 13308

Mr SULLIVAN (11:42 AM) —I would like to talk momentarily about education in my electorate. I will resist the temptation to respond to some of the provocative content of the former speaker’s contribution. I will leave that for another day. The Longman electorate, on the northern outskirts of Brisbane these days—I think it is fair to describe it that way—ranks 137th out of 150 in Australia with regard to the proportion of people aged over 15 with postsecondary qualifications, yet we have so few opportunities within our community to get qualifications. Longman is part of the Moreton Bay Regional Council area. Moreton Bay Regional Council is the third largest council in Australia, with over 300,000 people resident. This year, the Longman electorate is going to provide student kits to over 1,000 year 12 students who are graduating. I am sure that in the neighbouring electorates of Dickson and Petrie they will be doing similar, yet those electorates do not have an easily accessible university campus.

The Queensland University of Technology has a campus co-located with the TAFE college campus at Caboolture, where students are able to pursue a nursing degree, a primary teaching degree, a business degree with two majors, and the first year of creative industries. This is a very small course offering for a very large community. I do not wish to downplay the importance of the work that is done at the QUT campus but simply say that we need a little bit more than that. Traditional trades are not well catered to either, despite the work that has been going on. We have a campus of the Australian Technical College in the electorate of Petrie, adjacent to us, and at two Longman high schools we have trade training centres that were put in by the state and federal governments.

But very few of the skills that are on the shortage list and that this country needs are taught to students either at high school or post high school in either the TAFEs or those other centres that are available once people have left school. We are in a parlous situation; we are lost for choice. It is very difficult for students from our area to attend a university. You could spend 3½ hours to four hours a day on public transport to attend a one-hour lecture. A further disincentive has arisen in the last few days in that some 458 Longman students are going to miss out on funding for university as a consequence of the impasse that has been reached with the opposition in relation to student funding. Having spent a great deal of my life in north-western Victoria and western New South Wales, I understand the additional difficulties that students from that area face in accessing a university education. But I can tell you that I understand also that the gap year is an artifice; the gap year is something that has been developed so that people who come from families with incomes above the level that would provide them with youth allowance are able to obtain it. I am pretty sure that the independence test was put in to assist not school leavers taking a gap year but older people coming back.

I take a moment to take a leaf out of the book of the member for Swan, who spoke a little earlier, and thank my staff for the assistance that they have given me over the last two years as I have been doing this job. I thank Eileen and Avalon, Gaye and Jenny, Susan and Meagan and last, but not least, the only male on my staff—he keeps me sane—Robert. Thank you very much for the work that you have done in making sure that I am mostly in the right place at the right time, mostly prepared to do what I have to do and mostly able to do that on time.