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Monday, 12 November 2018
Page: 7735

Higher Education

Senator BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (14:59): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Education, Senator McKenzie. Could the minister update the Senate on what the Liberal-National government is doing to help young people from rural and regional Australia get into university?

Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaDeputy Leader of The Nationals and Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation) (14:59): Thank you, Senator Brockman, for your advocacy for students from rural and regional Australia. The coalition is committed to providing all Australians with a chance of a university education, no matter where they live. Australians living in regional and remote communities will have greater access to higher education because of the Liberal-Nationals government's announcement today of an additional $134.8 million. Today's announcement will see $34 million for an extra 1,955 scholarships for regional and remote students, more than doubling the 1,200 scholarships currently available; $92.5 million to support more students at five regionally focused universities; and $7.5 million to support 16 regional study hubs in 22 locations, in addition to the $16.7 million that the government has already committed, as well as the development of a national regional, rural and remote higher education strategy to drive increased participation in postsecondary-level education as part of our response to the recommendations from the Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education.

Our government's total additional new funding for regional higher education is now $400 million over the next five years. It's an important announcement for universities that are outside our capital cities and, importantly, for young people who want to come and study in the regions. As chair of the Regional Universities Network, Professor Greg Hill, said:

A one-size-fits all policy for higher education does not meet the needs of regional Australia or the nation.

Place-based initiatives, such as those announced, are needed to make a difference.

He also said:

RUN congratulates the Government on this initiative that demonstrates that it is listening to the voice of regional Australia in the national interest.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brockman, a supplementary question.

Senator BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (15:01): Can the minister provide any further update on scholarships that the government is providing to these young Australians?

Senator Kim Carr interjecting

Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaDeputy Leader of The Nationals and Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation) (15:01): Think of the regions, Kim; don't just focus on Melbourne and Monash. Mr President, today the coalition committed to supporting rural and regional students by more than doubling the number of scholarships through the Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships program. Today's announcement provided over $34 million to increase the number of scholarships from 1,200 to 3,195. These scholarships will support students from regional and rural communities who want to study courses such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The scholarships provide up to $18,000 to assist students from the regions with the costs of studying at a university or vocational educational training institution. The scholarships can also include internships to help students develop their professional experience and ensure that they're job ready. New guidelines will also make it easier for drought affected students to apply, including families receiving farm household allowance. Applications are currently open, and I would encourage every single rural and regional student to get on board. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brockman, a final supplementary question.

Senator BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (15:02): Thank you, Minister; that's great news for rural and regional Australia. Is the minister aware of any other measures that the government has implemented to support rural and regional students at university?

Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaDeputy Leader of The Nationals and Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation) (15:03): Yes, I am, and I would like to say thank you to all the Liberal and Nationals MPs and senators who've fought very, very hard for these initiatives over the past five years. The announcement today brings the total support for rural and regional students that is provided by this government to over $400 million, including $152 million for a regional student access to education package, which includes $45 million for isolated children's education. This support includes over $96 million in response to the 11 recommendations of Professor Halsey's Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education. That response saw $28 million to fund around 500 additional commencing sub-bachelor degrees and to enable Commonwealth support of places in 2019, growing to 688 by 2020, and nearly $54 million to ease financial pressures of families in regional communities by increasing the parental income cut-off. Students from regional and rural Australia can rely on our government. (Time expired)

Senator Cormann: Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.