Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 30 November 2021) . . Page.. 3854 ..
MRS KIKKERT: Chief Minister, have any lobbyists representing UC met with your office, including with representatives of UC, since you have been Chief Minister regarding any commercial development at UC?
MR BARR: Yes, the university through its vice-chancellor, chancellor and, indeed, others met with all sides of politics in this place, as I understand it, in relation to the university’s master plan and its desire to undertake a more diverse range of activities. Those meetings were all appropriately declared and the enabling legislation was brought before this place and debated. I understand—I cannot be certain—but I believe that the former Leader of the Opposition met with the University of Canberra. I know the Canberra Liberals formed a view that they did not support the legislation, but it did pass this place with the support of the majority of members.
Its intent was to allow the university to not only attract commercial investment on to the campus but also, as has been evidenced by their recent announcements, to utilise some of their land for accommodation purposes. The ACT government seeks to work in partnership with the territory’s only university that is under the remit of this place in order to grow its education offerings and its engagement with the community. That is evidenced by, amongst other things, the presence of a major public health facility—the University of Canberra Public Hospital—on the campus and the election commitment the government made to bring a new elective surgery centre on the north side to the campus as well.
We want to see the University of Canberra flourish and we will undertake activities in partnership with the university to achieve that end—to deliver for this community the skills that our community needs and the services our community needs. (Time expired.)
MR CAIN: Chief Minister, did the recent review of the University of Canberra Act improve the transparency of commercial development at UC?
MR BARR: I believe so. The act is regularly reviewed; this is all very transparent. If it was not transparent you would not be asking questions about it and we would not have brought legislation to the Assembly to enable it. It should not come as a surprise to those opposite what is happening on the campus. It is part of a deliberate strategy to diversify the range of activities on the campus, to support new educational offerings and to deliver services to the broader Canberra community in partnership with the university.
In an environment where federal government support for Australian universities has been nothing short of atrocious, particularly during the pandemic when they were deliberately excluded from federal government support this attack on the universities from those opposite is a little bit much, particularly given the university sector is the ACT’s largest export earner and the next largest employer outside of the public service.
So yes, we want the universities to grow. We want them to play an even greater role in our economy and our community, and Canberra is a better city because of the presence of so many world-class higher education institutions.