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Monday, 3 December 2018
Page: 12360

Dr GILLESPIE (Lyne) (17:03): It is always a pleasure to talk about what those on the other side call cuts. There are words for that: sophistry and equivocation. What they're talking about are blue-sky figures. They do it in health. They do it in education. They mention a cut because, at some time in the not-too-distant past, someone on the other side promised blue-sky figures in all sorts of industries and training. We increased funding in the last budget. We are delivering an increase, from $17½ billion in 2018-19 to $19 billion in 2021-22. That is not a cut. What they are calling a cut is a smaller increase. It is really quite deceptive and misleading.

You've only got to look at the actual figures to see how much funding of the higher education has grown, Mr Deputy Speaker McVeigh. We have the sixth highest spend on higher education in the OECD—that's out of 27 countries. We have, as at the end of last year, 620,000-odd higher education places that are Commonwealth supported. Between HECS, the university sector and the vocational education and training sector, there are huge supports.

Regarding regional and rural education, we realise that tertiary education achievement is a lot lower in regional Australia. We have fought for it long and hard in the National Party and we recently announced a whole package. It will mean that regional and rural universities will get extra funding out of the current funding package. That amounts to over $400 million. The last addition, a $152 million package for regional student access to education, as well as another $45 million for isolated children's education, are all aimed at getting more regional and rural Australians into tertiary education. There's $28 million to fund an extra 500 additional commencing bachelor and sub-bachelor courses in regional and rural tertiary education centres. I have many of them. The University of New England, Charles Sturt University, the University of Newcastle and all the other metropolitan universities have students coming from the Lyne electorate. We have extra money in the budget: $14 million to support an additional 185 places over many years in Commonwealth supported regional study hubs. We're making education accessible.

We have already announced the expansion of end-to-end medical training in undergraduate degrees across the Murray-Darling Basin. That's a massive expansion in medical education. We've got a massive expansion that's been underway for three years for nursing, physiotherapy, all the allied health disciplines and pharmacy across rural and regional Australia. We are really expanding the attainability of a tertiary education degree for regional and rural Australians. But, of those 1½ million people in higher education in the university sector, about 15 per cent don't finish, and we have a skills and trade shortage. We're bringing in people from overseas because we don't have enough technically trained people.

We've just announced the Skilling Australians Fund. It will be funding with the help and the cooperation of the states, if they bother to get on board. We just heard from the member for Hinkler that Queensland are playing hardball. They're playing politics and denying the opportunity for Queensland youth to get an apprenticeship. We are backing people. We have a special rural and regional tranche of scholarships giving a wage subsidy—75 per cent for the first year, 50 per cent for the second year and 25 per cent for the third year—for people on the skills need list, and they have to be in rural and regional Australia. Whether you're going to a regional or a rural university or have a rural or a regional apprenticeship, you will realise that the Commonwealth government is supporting people who want to get into these areas of training. The other side say that we have cut funding. It's absolute nonsense. The figures are there in the budget: $17½ billion in 2018-19 through to $19 million in 2020-21— (Time expired)