LIBERAL CUTS TO UNIVERSITY FUNDING

Ms Bird (Cunningham) (16:58): I am very pleased to rise to support the motion moved by the member for Griffith relating to cuts to university funding. I appreciated the member for Hinkler going through the numbers. What those opposite always do is say, 'If you look from this year to that year, the number gets bigger.' They completely fail to recognise that, firstly, population increases will drive that and, secondly, there may be a thing called inflation, which means that the amount of money and the capacity to utilise that to provide spaces for students is actually decreased if you don't seriously address the funding that's required.

That's exactly what the government has done. There is a $2.2 billion cut to universities across the country. The member for Hinkler talked about the University of the Sunshine Coast. I will leave that to my colleague, the member for Herbert, who I'm sure knows a great deal about regional Queensland, but I would be very, very surprised if any of us who have university campuses in our electorates have got those universities, including the University of the Sunshine Coast, saying: 'There's no cut. There's no problem. We don't have any issue with the government's funding.' I would suggest that it is exactly the opposite.

In my own state, in New South Wales, universities are losing $736 million in funding.

In my own seat, the University of Wollongong will lose $51 million in funding. That means that, as the new university year starts after Christmas and students start looking to enrol in university, there will be some hard decisions for those universities on the back of these funding cuts.

I have to say that since this government was first elected, its investment in my university has been fairly poor. I'm very proud that, under Labor governments federally, we saw significant investment in my university that drove opportunities not only for students to study but also for our economy as a regional city to develop and grow, and some great initiatives for working with local businesses. For example, we put just over $25 million into the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre, at the University of Wollongong, which is doing excellent work on renewables—and at the end of my speech I want to talk about a little project that's a great example of that. The Australian Institute for Innovative Materials turned 10 recently, and I celebrated with them; we put $42 million into that institute. We put $35 million into the SMART Infrastructure Facility; and $31 million into the Early Start Research Institute, a great facility in the early education space. We invested in regional universities when we were in government. We have supported students, many of whom, like me, were the first in their family to have that opportunity and go to university. By contrast, under this government we have these cuts that the member for Griffith has, rightly, been so critical of.

The member for Hinkler mentioned the other post-secondary sector. Technical and further education, through our TAFEs; vocational education and training, through our VET providers, particularly through apprenticeships and traineeships; and further education more broadly, where people are looking to get a second chance at learning, are critically important, but the government have cut $3 billion out of that sector over the time they have been in office. And we've seen the result of that. We've seen 140,000 fewer apprenticeships and traineeships available across the country. We now have this very rushed announcement about some sort of review of the sector, led by someone from New Zealand. But he was known as Mr Fix-It and he cut billions from the sector in New Zealand, so I can't help but think that there are more cuts on the way for the sector.

In the small amount of time I have left to speak, I want to mention a group called Team UOW, a joint initiative by the University of Wollongong and TAFE students in my electorate, who competed in the Solar Decathlon Dubai, an international competition. The team designed the Desert Rose House, powered by renewable energies but also dementia friendly. The competition just wound up, and our team came second in the world. Congratulations to all of them. It was a big target because they won the last competition, but second is absolutely wonderful.


Watch Sharon’s speech here.