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Monday, 26 February 2018
Page: 1978

Mr VAN MANEN (FordeGovernment Whip) (17:16): It is sad to say that there was another contribution from those opposite which has added nothing useful to the debate. For the member for Lindsay's edification, she might wish to consider the fact that, when Labor was last in government, they succeeded in producing savings out of higher education funding of some $6.6 billion between 2011 and 2013. We never hear those opposite talk about that. In fact, this government is delivering record funding for higher education. The member for Lindsay touched on school funding. School funding in the past has never been higher than it is under this government. There is record funding for schools as well as for higher education.

When Labor left government in 2014 funding for higher education was nearly $15 billion, so it's increased by several billion dollars over and above that. In addition, when Labor left there were 1.1 million students. Today there are 1.5 million students in higher education. So this higher-education reform package is again an attempt by this government to ensure we maintain a sustainable higher education system going forward with no up-front fees. But it's those opposite who have blocked changes in legislation we sought to pass in the budget last year, so we have sought to make some adjustments in MYEFO to proceed with what we need to do to ensure that higher-education funding remains sustainable.

Equally, the motion mentions regional education funding. To share with the House: there is also over half a billion dollars for the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program to ensure that regional students are supported with access to higher education. There is some $24 million over four years for the rural and regional enterprise scholarships, which will support some 1,200 regional and remote students to undertake STEM studies. There will be some $285 million over the next four years for regional loading for regional campuses and another $15 million to establish and maintain up to eight regional university hubs over the next four years.

So we can see that not only in the cities but also in the regions is the government seeking to support students who wish to go to higher education. It's time to stop the argy-bargy on funding for higher education. We've had 29 reviews into higher education since 2011. We have seen as a result of that the review of reviews in 2015 to try to bring this matter to a resolution. The committee that reviewed it reviewed some 1,200 submissions, and out of that we have seen, in the announcements we made last year, an attempt to manage the cost increases but ensure the system remains sustainable. With what has been proposed, there will be no student fee increases, there will be no changes for New Zealanders or permanent residents, and we will see students from all backgrounds retain the important opportunity to go to university.

Just outside of my electorate, in the neighbouring electorate of Rankin, there is a campus of Griffith University, which does a tremendous job. With their various programs that they run locally they ensure that students from low-socioeconomic communities get the opportunities to get to university. Not only students but also young parents—there are the programs they run to help young parents re-enter the education system when they might never have had the opportunity to build their skills to do tertiary studies. The successes that those people—mainly young women—are having as a result are to be highly commended.

This government continues to focus on providing funding for higher education. (Time expired)