SUBJECTS: Turnbull Government’s failure to match Labor’s $150 million University of Tasmania investment, Labor’s $2,500 student guarantee, Andrew Nikolic failing on higher education

LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BASS, ROSS HART: I welcome everybody here today to Inveresk, which is the heart of Labor’s positive plan for Northern Tasmania and Tasmania as a whole. We have the Bill bus here today as well as Senator Kim Carr and other members of the Labor team to talk about our positive policies for the nation and our positive policies for this area. Of course, Inveresk is the centre of our plan for the redevelopment of Northern Tasmania with the relocation of the university campus from Newnham to Inveresk. I’d like to Senator Helen Polley

SENATOR HELEN POLLEY, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR AGED CARE: Thank you. Well as you know, Bill Shorten’s team has already announced $150 million for the University of Tasmania. We have the Government talking about jobs and growth but they’re not here today, we’re left wanting and community doesn’t know whether they’re supporting the university or not. It’s time that Andrew Nikolic actually came out and said whether he supports this university or whether he’s still holding on to deregulation as a catalyst for any investment. This site, this university can be the catalyst for other universities around the nation. We can take the opportunity here in Tasmania to show what good investment will do in regional Australia. We need these jobs and we need these injections of money which will create over $1 billion over the next decade. What we’re calling on today, and I’l l hand over to Kim Carr, but what we want to see is the Turnbull Government and the local Member Andrew Nikolic to come out and say whether or not, once and for all if they are going to meet our commitment to fund this very important economic development for Northern Tasmania and for Tasmania in general.

KIM CARR: Well I’m very pleased to be able to tell you that a Shorten Labor Government would spend a $150 million on the development of this campus and it would be an important pilot for the rest of Australia. It’s not just really important for Northern Tasmania but it provides lessons for the rest of Australia. This is a project that means that we can attend to the serious problems we face in regions such as this where we have far too few people being able to get a serious higher education qualification, whether it be through TAFE or universities. We have high unemployment rates and we need to be able to do something about it. This is not a problem just unique to Launceston, but a problem that we face in many parts of Australia. And we think the experience here will provide the lessons that we need for other parts of Australia. So its $150 million well spent, it is money that will be spent in cooperation wit h the State Government. This is a model for commonwealth-state cooperation, a model of TAFE-university cooperation and an opportunity here to actually do something about the level of disadvantage that the region faces. When it’s all said and done in a country like this there is no more important issue than jobs, no more important opportunity for people to be able to share in the prosperity of the nation. And the commonwealth has a responsibility to work with the universities and with TAFE colleges to improve opportunities for people of this region and that’s what we’re doing.

JOURNALIST: Senator Carr you’ve just had a look at the plans, what do you think they look like?

CARR: I’m very impressed that are presented to us. This is a project that has had serious study put behind it and there have been important opportunities opened up. Particularly with what we call a sub-degree program where people are able to build a pathway between TAFEs and universities. Already in this country we have too many people being enrolled in universities and not being successful. We have plans by the Liberals to increase peoples fees and increase peoples debts. We need to turn that around. Under a Labor Government you won’t need a $100,000 degree, but you will need quality education and this is a plan to provide those opportunities. Particularly for people that haven’t been successful in school, people who are older or people who haven’t had all the opportunities that life has to offer, this gives them a second chance. We want to open up those possibilities for people and education is a really important part of that process- and we can do it without the $100,000 degrees. Now this Government committed to continuing the deregulation of the university system and the $100,000 degree. What would happen here with the 20% Budget cut which was in the Budget brought down just a few weeks ago, is that the University of Tasmania would have to increase its fees by at least 40%, a minimum of 40%. It’s not hard to see how you ge tot the $100,000 degree. So the Liberals are committed to cuts to universities, cuts to peoples opportunities and increasing student fees. We are saying that we will improve opportunities by increasing the investment in universities by providing a $2,500 student guarantee from 2018. That’s $2,500 extra per student so that students can attend the university through their universities and at the same time do so without increasing student fees to where we have the $100,000 degrees.

JOURNALIST: When would the $150 million be delivered should you win Government?

CARR: It would be available almost immediately upon taking office. We will of course have to phase it in over time, it’s not immediately $150 million upfront, but it is about ensuring that we build within the milestones and that we negotiate with the State Government and the university to make sure that the university puts their share on the table and the State Government puts their share on the table.

What interests me is that the Liberals have come nowhere near this project. Where are they? Why won’t they declare their position? Why won’t they say whether or not they’ll back this project? I find it extraordinary. The rumours are they’re going to wait until the last week or so of the campaign, well that’s not good enough. We simply need a commitment from them now to match our commitment, the university’s commitment and match the State Government’s commitment. This is a Government that’s actually about cutting university funding not about investing in universities.

JOURNALIST: Why is it important that they commit now rather than wait until the end of the election?

CARR: Well because we actually want to have a look at what they say. See this is a Government that runs around as they did at the last election and told us there would be no cuts to universities and then in 2014 we saw there were massive cuts to universities. So they say one thing before the election and another thing after. It’s not satisfactory. We want to see the detail of any proposals. We’ve studied this carefully, we’ve investigated it, we’ve seen what the consequences are and we know that this could have national implications. We’ve invested $150 million in this project, a very, very significant commitment from the Labor Party and we want to see what the Liberals have got to say.

JOURNALIST: The Budget’s already been done so where are you going to pull this $150 million from?

CARR: We’ve already indicated that we have a whole range of measures to improve the bottom line. We’ve said there will be changes to the way in which we treat taxation concessions, we’ve said that we would cut back on the extraordinary waste of the VET-FEE-HELP program, $6 billion; we said that we would change some of the arrangements in regard to cigarettes. We’ve made it very clear that the money is available. This is really an issue about priority. It is all about priority. We want to invest in schools, we want to invest in TAFE and we want to invest in universities. We know that this is the key that unlocks the door of inequality, this is the key that unlocks prosperity and we want to ensure that all Australians no matter where they live can get a fair go. You can’t do that unless the government is prepared to invest. What’s the Liberal alternative? A big tax cut for the very wealt hy.

JOURNALIST: Isn’t it true that Labor is also holding their cards close to their chest in announcing policies and funding? How is this any different?

CARR: We’ve made it clear from day one that this is a commitment that we regard very, very highly. It’s a very important commitment for us. Education is where we see the future of the nation. We’ve made it abundantly clear that this is our priority. What is the Government’s priority? To provide tax cuts to people who are already very wealthy.

JOURNALIST: is there any estimation of the figure that the university can expect over the next term of government?

CARR: Yes there is. The Government will lose under their university proposals. The university will have funding cuts of $168 million. A funding cut, not an increase. Under Labor the gap between Labor and the Liberals is 47%. 47% in our favour. This is a Government that wants to reduce public commitment to public education. We say this is a time in our nation’s history where we need to spend more on education because it is just so important to the welfare of this nation.

JOURNALIST: So how much can the University of Tasmania expect from a Labor Government in the first term of Government?

CARR: we’ve said that our funding guarantee would start from 2018. We would have a process of proper consultation and make sure that people understand what our plans are, because we’re not just going with the issue of a funding guarantee, we want to see improvements in our quality assurance. There is a real issue in our universities about building standards, about improving accountability, about ensuring that we do get value for money. So we want to have a conversation with universities about that. We want to see a higher education commissioner established so there is policy continuity and a real long term commitment to policy development. We want to also ensure though, that any plans we have are properly debated because they’ve got to be underwritten by a parliamentary guarantee, a legislative guarantee. We want to put legislation through the parliament. We would see a process whereby 2018  & nbsp;        our funding commitments would be put in place.

JOURNALIST: How long do you think it will take before UTas gets the whole $150 million?

CARR: The project will go over a number of years and we’ll make sure that the funding would be against milestones. We want to see commitments from other people as part of this funding arrangement and I’m confident the university will honour their side of the bargain as we are honouring ours. We also want to make sure that the State Government fulfils its commitment, so they’ll be a funding agreement             properly negotiated and the money would flow in accordance with the project.

JOURNALIST: So it’s not guaranteed that if Labor was elected it would fund the whole $150 million?

CARR: Yes it is guaranteed. We will fund it but it will be subject to a funding guarantee. We want to make sure that everyone else puts in their part. This is a very big project and you cant just simply say let’s shift off all the bills to Canberra. We want to make sure everybody signs up and that’s why we want to know what the Liberals are doing. Where do they stand? Why are they so silent on this project and are they going to reverse their policies in regard to deregulation?

JOURNALIST: $150 million is a fairly big bet on Mr Hart. Do you think you can win Bass?

CARR: Of course we can. This is about building community trust and consultations so that people understand what the real alternatives are. There are real choices before the Australian people in this election and on 2 July they’ll have real options available to them. I’m confident that the Australian people will have a really good look at what we’re saying and what the conservatives are saying and I’m confident that we’ll see a new Member for this region.

JOURNALIST: If Bass and Braddon don’t go to Labor but Labor still wins Government will you still commit to funding UTas?

CARR: Yes of course we will. This is not about that, it’s about the needs of the region. We are committed to finding solutions to major social and economic problems. This is a project which as I say, has national significance. It’s incredibly important, particularly to this region. But it is also of great importance to other parts of Australian with similar problems. We want to learn from this project, we believe it to be of very, very high value and we will be committed to funding it.

JOURNALIST: Just back to when UTas will receive all the $150 million. Will it be 2 years, 5 years, 10 years?

CARR: By the end of the project.  We want to make sure that funding is available so that this project can be completed on time and on budget.

JOURNALIST: So within 5 years?

CARR: Absolutely. It would be less than 5 years I would suggest to you but it will be in accordance with our funding agreements.

JOURNALIST: If the Government did match your $150 million have you got scope to go higher?

CARR: No this is not an option, this is about making sure that we have the resources to allow communities such as this to be able to deal with these really big problems of people being unemployed, people not being able to access prosperity, about ensuring that people are properly qualified to take on the jobs of the future. This is about building capability in the region. It is of national significance. We want to be able to learn from this experience and we want to face up to the fact that there are some families where people are unable to get access to higher education  and that means they are disadvantaged when they do go for jobs. We want to that that. We want to also see that there are ongoing jobs here. So this project will involve over 268 ongoing jobs, not just the 3000 jobs that are involved in the building of this project. So there’s an immediate benefit in terms of employment but also long-term bene fit to the region, to the state and to the country.

JOURNALIST: And just on to George Town, you’re committing $200,000 to George Town Council. What exactly would that money go towards?

CARR: Well we want to make sure again that there are economic opportunities opening up. So there is a question of dredging, there’s a question of new site development and economic development. There are also opportunities here to ensure that whatever projects are put forward make sense and we’re able to build on this study that will ensure that new investment is attractive.

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