Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (18 November) . . Page.. 4197 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
the quality of the education offered by our institutions and as a result of the Canberra amenity. Certainly, there is a widespread and well held-justifiably held-view of Canberra as a wonderful destination and a safe place in which to live. Canberra is competing particularly well with other universities around Australia and throughout the world as a destination of choice.
I think it is a fact that to date the most direct array of connections that have been made with China as an emerging market for Canberra and Australia has been in relation to education services. We now are home to a significant number of students from China as well as many other places in Asia.
This is a significant issue. It is of significance to the universities. It is essentially their primary responsibility; it is not a primary responsibility of the ACT government. We have a major interest, however, in student accommodation and in ensuring that the ACT does maximise our capacity to play host to as many students as our educational institutions can handle. We are very keen as a government to work with all of the educational institutions in the ACT, private sector providers and student associations to ensure that we do have the capacity to provide as much accommodation as there are students to take it.
In that regard-and I will just say this by way of conclusion-I think many of us look with some regret at some of the decisions that particularly the ANU has taken in recent years in reducing its stock of student accommodation. We are now seeking to fill the shortfall created by these decisions. I think the ANU must seriously now regret these decisions which were taken to maximise what I think it saw at the time as opportunities for a fairly quick buck on some decent property that it held at the time.
MS DUNDAS: Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, do you agree that hotels are not appropriate long-term accommodation for students? Will you convene an urgent meeting of the stakeholders to resolve the current issues facing the sector?
MR STANHOPE: Thank you, Ms Dundas. As I said, the ACT government is currently working with the full range of stakeholders in relation to the issue of student accommodation, and we will continue to do so. As I said, the ACT Council of Education Export met just this morning and identified the issue of ensuring that Canberra remains as attractive a destination for students as possible. In addition to that, my officers are meeting with a range of stakeholders. My colleague Ted Quinlan, through business development, is meeting with a range of stakeholders. He is working actively, particularly with the Australian National University where I think the greatest pressure is being felt.
Yes, the government is keenly interested in acting as a facilitator in relation to the development of student accommodation. A number of ministries and a number offices are working jointly to ensure that we coordinate our response. My office is involved. It is an all-of-government issue. The minister for economic development, Ted Quinlan, is involved. His officers and his office are working on this issue and the Minister for Planning is keeping a weather eye on the need for ensuring that we do have a capacity to meet the needs of student accommodation as they arise. It is something that we are very mindful of, something that we are working diligently to address and something that we are already heavily involved with the community in achieving.