PMB – Universities funding

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Mr PITT: Those on the opposite side once again speak with forked tongue. We’ve heard this all before. It is like there is a pack of Edward Scissorhands on that side of the chamber. All we hear about is cuts, cuts, cuts and cuts. It is not true; it is dishonest and misleading. Every time we hear about cuts from the opposite side, I know automatically that it is not right. Here is the absolute reality: the funding for higher education and research in 2018-19 is $17.5 billion and the following year, in 2019-20, it is $17.9 billion. Even those opposite have to recognise that that is an increase. It is not a decrease, a cut or a reduction; it has gone up. In 2020-21 it’s $18.6 billion. In 2021-22 it is $19 billion. Every single year it increases. This is an increase in funding for universities; it is not a decrease. What has been put forward by the opposition is, once again, simple politics—plain and simple. We are providing record levels of funding for education and research, and it is to the advantage of our people, particularly in regional areas.

The University of the Sunshine Coast and Central Queensland University have campuses in my electorate—one in Bundaberg and one at Hervey Bay—and they continue to expand and train local students. I think that is a great advantage. As someone who did a trade first and then went to university in a capital city, simply because there were no offerings locally, I think that is a great advantage for our local regional people. In fact, it’s been recognised that where some of these challenges exist we have provided additional funding, such as the announcement recently of another $92.5 million to support more students at five regionally focused universities over the next four years. That’s $30.2 million for the Fraser Coast and Caboolture campuses of the University of the Sunshine Coast. That sounds like more money to me! That will result in 150 bachelor places at Fraser Coast, increasing to 210 from 2020 on. They’ll get an additional 468 bachelor places in Caboolture. These are all increases.

There was an announcement in recent weeks for a pilot regional deal in my Hinkler electorate, between Bundaberg and Hervey Bay. I know the Fraser Coast Regional Council is having discussions with the University of the Sunshine Coast about developing a town centre that includes the university campus. There are opportunities there, across the board, for stronger regional economies and more local jobs, and I’d certainly encourage that to continue. This regional deal provides that opportunity right through the electorate. It does overlay with our very, very tough policy—I admit it is a very tough policy—around the cashless debit card. So while we are looking at social challenges on one hand, we are looking to expand our local economy on the other. This regional pilot provides the opportunity for just that to happen.

As I’ve said to Bundaberg Regional Council and Fraser Coast, this is not a wish list; this is not a chance for them to stack up billions of dollars worth of requests. We need to ensure that we come up with reasonable projects that can be funded by all three levels of government, and that does include the Queensland Labor state government. They need to do their part, and I acknowledge that they are contributing, through their discussions, at an officials level. I look forward to seeing Jackie Trad or the Premier up in my electorate talking about what we can put together for a regional deal.

But not everyone in this country can go to university, and nor should they. I think there are great advantages for those who do go and do a trade. We have put $245 million on the table for Queensland through the Skilling Australians Fund—$245 million. What did the Premier do? Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said: ‘No, we don’t want $245 million. We don’t want to assist up to 50,000 apprentices and trainees in the Hinkler electorate and right throughout Queensland.’ We need that money. We need that funding. I have an unemployment rate of above nine per cent; I have a youth unemployment rate in the Wide Bay statistical region of 28 per cent and going up. It is unacceptable. All of these kids would like an opportunity to do a trade, to do a traineeship, to be employed, to have those jobs. The stronger we can make our regional economy, the more there are of those opportunities. But how can the Queensland Premier possibly knock back $245 million of federal funding to help those types of kids who are looking for that opportunity? This is not $5 in the back of your pocket; this is a substantial investment.

Queensland is one of only two states or territories across the country not to sign up to the Skilling Australians Fund. It is disgraceful. I call on the Premier to take the opportunity, and I say: ‘It is not about you. It is not about the Labor government. It is about the people we represent, the opportunities we can provide for those children, including mine, who will be looking for work in the years to come.’ I call on the Queensland government again to do the right thing.

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