Subjects: TAFE; Commonwealth Higher Education Institutes; Higher education options in Petrie.


HEWSON: The future of the Moreton Bay regions universities projects has been quite uncertain, but we are in the middle of an election campaign, so what do the major parties have planned. This morning we get the answer from Labor. Senator Kim Carr is the Labor Party’s Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Industry. What are your plans for Petrie should the ALP win the election?

CARR: We want to work with the Council, with the State Govt, with TAFE, with the university to ensure that we can provide up to 1,600 places for degree, sub degree and advanced diploma courses so that we can fill the gap that exists within our higher education system at the moment and provide the necessary assistance for people that aren’t getting a share shake from the education system at the moment and to provide a more industry focused program to provide opportunities for either jobs, or preparation for university.

HEWSON: So this is not a straight up promise of funding for the proposed University of the Sunshine Coast campus that has been talked about, instead, you’re announcing a new model today that will be not just in Petrie but elsewhere around the country as well.

CARR: We’re providing $98 million for this project, but the project is one of up to ten sites across the country because this is an important initiative which has been generated by the local Council – they approached us – and it fits squarely within our critieria of ensuring that we are able to provide better education opportunities, better work opportunities – and particularly given it is a former industrial site highlighting the need to meet the requirements of a changing economy, so we are providing support on the basis that we can build these connections with TAFE, with the University, with the State Government – and of course with the local government, to provide the assistance directly to the people of this region.

HEWSON: There is a new term – we are going to have to get used to a Commonwealth Institute of Higher Education?

CARR: That’s right. Because we have a bit of a gap in the education system at the moment. The universities are enrolling a lot of people, but they’ve got incredibly large drop-out rates. We’ve got a significant problem in our system. It’s just not good enough to enrol people, we’ve got to make sure they are successful. So we want a pathway to ensure that we are able to provide students with the opportunities, with the preparation to ensure that they are able to do well at university, or do well at a technical diploma which means they get employment opportunities. So it’s no good just enrolling people and giving them a debt; it’s about making sure they get the education or the work opportunities.

HEWSON: So in simple terms, this is a co-location of a TAFE and a university together?

CARR: It’s a consortia between the two of them together. Across the country we are looking at opportunities whereby people are able to work together. One of our big problems in the Commonwealth/state arrangements is that different levels of government don’t work that well together. This is an attempt to make sure we get better opportunities for students and better work opportunities for industry so that they get qualifies people who are better able to get quality jobs.

HEWSON: OK. We are very familiar with the way funding works these days. You say $98 million. You must be going to the state for something as well, as part of the deal, are you?

CARR: Of course; we don’t want to see students who are normally in TAFE just transferred to this program. We want to see states maintain their effort, but we also want to provide support for up to 1,600 students, through the Commonwealth Supported Places Program, for this. So it’s a sub-degree program as part of our higher education (inaudible). So the Commonwealth provide money for student places, provide money to assist with the refurbishment of the buildings and more importantly, provide the network support you need to ensure that students are successful.

HEWSON: Would you see TAFEs co-locating with other existing universities going forward? Would the University of Queensland have a TAFE presence as well?

CARR: Well this is a pilot program, so we want to make sure that we get it right. We want to learn the lessons and apply them more broadly. But this is an opportunity to get better connections between TAFE and our university system for technical education, higher education, to make sure people are prepared for work, but are also able to develop new skills that we need for the new industries of the future. Now it’s appropriate on TAFE Day that we make this point more clearly about the future role for TAFE within our higher education system. 

HEWSON: Let’s go to Moreton Bay Mayor, Alan Sutherland, who’s been pushing for federal support for that university site at Petrie.

SUTHERLAND: Good Morning.

HEWSON: What do you think of Labor’s proposal for a Commonwealth Institute for Higher Education on that site?

SUTHERLAND: I’m absolutely delighted. This is the first positive move forward on that site. It’s the first time we’ve been offered anything whatsoever. It’s the proverbial ham sandwich – it’s been talked about for a bit – but let’s say that there has been nothing on the table so far and we know this model works. It’s a very similar model to a model that’s already working with our partner, the Sunshine Coast University. I’ve been speaking with people from the University yesterday and they said the two coexist very well together, in fat, we’re talking about five to six thousand students a year. Young people in the Moreton Bay region that haven’t got an opportunity at all at this stage, so this has got to be a great thing for us.

HEWSON: You say that up until now, you haven’t had so much as a ham sandwich – this is a turkey roll. It’s not exactly what you were asking for, is it?

SUTHERLAND: No; but I’m delighted with the entire program, because as the Senator says, you’ve got to try all sorts of mixtures and at the end of the day, it’s all about getting kids into the workforce and getting kids an education. We can establish a university on that site and have this co-location – as long as its funded – and kids get jobs – I think the region is the winner. We were at a stage where we were ready to go to Jonathon Thurston to be a lobbyist, because he had more success at getting a football stadium for Townsville than we’ve had in this area, with three federal members, getting a university established. You know, I’m going to write to Jonathon and invite him down to the region and we will pay him a percentage, because at this stage we’ve had nothing. To be quite honest, if the Prime Minister is fair dinkum, and being fair dinkum in what he states to the people of Australia, I’m appealing to him to come forward and put something on the table, because we have had absolutely nothing. Two years of promises.

HEWSON: We invited Federal Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham, to come onto the program this morning and make any announcements he might have for Petrie. He’s not available. But the Coalition have two weeks and two days to respond to Labor’s proposal and/or, put forward their own. Mayor Sutherland, what would be your ideal model for funding for this site? Is it what you have just heard Senator Carr announce, or is there a better model that you would like to see the Coalition announce?

SUTHERLAND: The best model for me would be to have those five or six thousand kids that haven’t had educational opportunities in the tertiary sector and haven’t got job opportunities – to have that dream come true for them.

HEWSON: And do you think the University of the Sunshine Coast would be happy with this colocation, with this Commonwealth Institute for Higher Education plan?

SUTHERLAND: I spoke to them yesterday afternoon and they are very happy.

HEWSON: Senator Carr. Sounds like you’ve got a good response there from the mayor.

CARR: I thank the Mayor for his response. This is a model that has national implications. This is a problem that is faced by the Moreton Bay Council that is faced across the country. There are big gaps in our education system, particularly as there are areas of the country with entrenched disadvantage. People are missing out. We want to step in and help and make sure that they are provided with the quality of opportunity that everyone in this country has the right to expect.

HEWSON: Thanks for coming in this morning, Senator Kim Carr.

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