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Transcript of doorstop interview: University of Sydney: 10 June 2009: launch of Sydney University Compass program; measures to attract students from disadvantaged backgrounds to university; international students; ABCC; jobs.

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The Hon Julia Gillard MP

Minister for Education. Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Minister for Social Inclusion Deputy Prime Minister

10 June, 2009


Doorstop Interview


ISSUES: Launch of Sydney University Compass program; Measures to attract students from disadvantaged backgrounds to university; International Students; ABCC; Jobs

JULIA GILLARD: Can I say it’s a great pleasure to be here at the University of Sydney today for the launch of an important program, the Compass program. This is all about this university, a great university, working with schools to ensure that the students in those schools have an understanding about what university education is about, and have the potential to think about coming to university. It’s this kind of initiative that we want to bring around the nation.

In the recent Budget we devoted $5.4 billion to creating a new era for higher education and innovation in this country. Importantly amongst those reforms are new resources, so that universities will work with schools to ensure that more Australians from lower socio-economic backgrounds come to university. We want to make sure that every Australian child, no matter what their family circumstances, has the opportunity of a great education, and if they want to come to university, then that door is open to them.

JOURNALIST: How realistic is it to give every university almost a quota for low socio-economic numbers, because universities obviously would benefit from that in different ways perhaps?

JULIA GILLARD: Well we’ve set a national target of 20 per cent by 2020. We are going to work with universities on their mission and their goals for their university. We believe that all universities can play a role. Here we are at the University of Sydney with these wonderful buildings. This would obviously be known around this state and around the nation as a prestigious university and it is there working with local schools, making a difference. So this should be a shared task and a shared mission.

JOURNALIST: So how’s this going to run - how are these students from these schools going to be informed that university (inaudible)?

JULIA GILLARD: Well there’s no one way of doing this, and universities will be determining the best way of doing it. What we are going to do is to provide some money to facilitate university projects like this one, where they work with schools - students come here, they get to set foot on a university campus, they get to get a flavour of what could be studied here. There will be money for those sorts of projects, as well as money to reward universities for stepping up to the plate and enrolling more students from poorer backgrounds.

JOURNALIST: Ms Gillard, do you think that the Federal Government is doing enough to address the concerns of international students?

JULIA GILLARD: We’re working hard to address the concerns of international students. Both the Prime Minister and I have made it very clear that we want international students to be safe in this country and to feel safe. This country welcomes every year hundreds of thousands of international students, and overwhelmingly they tell us that they have a good time in Australia and that they enjoy studying here and getting qualifications from our great education institutions.

But there have obviously been problems, problems for Indian students. We want to make sure that they feel safe. Our state colleagues are moving forward, increasing policing efforts. The Premier of Victoria, for example, today has announced new initiatives to increase policing in areas that have had a problem. The police here and in Victoria are working with local communities, the Indian community and international student communities. We are working with the Indian Government to get the message across to students who might be contemplating studying in this country, what Australia’s all about. These are all important initiatives. Our universities themselves, through Universities Australia, have issued a new statement about safe universities and working with students to make sure they feel safe and are safe.

JOURNALIST: Ms Gillard, the Prime Minister was asked this morning by Neil Mitchell about the ABCC (inaudible). It doesn’t matter what the Labor Party Conference decides, he’s the Prime Minister, he’ll do what he wants. Do you think that the Government needs to abide by what’s decided at the Labor Party Conference?

JULIA GILLARD: I think what the Prime Minister was making clear on radio earlier today is that this is a Government that sought a mandate from the Australian people for workplace relations changes, and what we’ve said all along in relation to all aspects of a fair work system is that we took a very detailed policy to the last election, and we want to honour that mandate and implement that policy, including our policy about the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

JOURNALIST: So it doesn’t matter what the conference decides?

JULIA GILLARD: Well we’ve asked the Australian people their views, and their views were given to us in the 2007 election. We’ll honour that mandate. That mandate includes abolishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission in 2010 with a new specialist fair work agency to look after building and construction from then on. We’ve also made it very clear that there’ll always be a tough cop on the beat in building and construction.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) have forecast that unemployment might be as high as 8.5 per cent by the middle of next year, but today they’ve said that that’s a little bit pessimistic and it may well not be that high. Do you agree with that?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, the Government has published its forecasts and our forecasts say that in our view, unemployment, as a result of the global recession, will peak at 8.5 per cent.

These are difficult days with the global recession hitting Australian jobs. In these difficult days, the Government has acted decisively to stimulate the economy. Our economic stimulus package is out there working in communities. Earlier today I was with the Premier of New South Wales announcing the next round for Building the Education Revolution here in this state, supporting schools and supporting jobs. But we’re not trying to sugar coat any pills; the global recession is going to hit employment here. Australians, I think, understand that. They also understand that the Government can make a difference, and is making a difference through its support for economic stimulus.

JOURNALIST: Minister, the targets for growth for universities you say yourself are ambitious, and universities are saying we need some money right now to be able to cater for this extra influx. How much is available right now to universities?

JULIA GILLARD: Well the Budget package for the Bradley measures starts from the next academic year. We have money budgeted (inaudible) forthcoming financial year; our reforms are starting on the 1st of January next year. We will be putting universities on a path towards a demand driven system. Money is available to support the enrolment of low SES students. Importantly, of course, we’ve changed student financing arrangements to better target money to students who need the assistance the most. So our reforms as announced are coming on stream as soon as they can be brought on stream.

JOURNALIST: And would you hope that other universities would sort of step up to the plate, so to speak, and implement their own schemes like this?

JULIA GILLARD: We’d certainly be saying to universities around the nation and we did say it through the May Budget, that we want to be working with them to have them working with schools, to make a difference with prospects of talented young Australians from poorer families getting an opportunity for a university education.

JOURNALIST: There’s a lot of people with degrees with no jobs at all. Aren’t you giving false expectations to these people?

JULIA GILLARD: Well if you look at the statistics they’ll tell you that someone with a university qualification is more likely to be employed. Someone with a university qualification is more likely to be able to show resilience during difficult economic circumstances and maintain their employment. The Australians most at risk in adverse economic circumstances are Australians with the lowest education qualifications. We want to make sure that we are working with Australians; that we have a high skills, high knowledge economy, and that’s about supporting universities and supporting Australians from all backgrounds to get educational opportunities.

OK, thank you very much.


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