Page 729 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 26 February 2013

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Higher education—policy

MS BERRY: Chief Minister, you went to the 2012 election with a clear policy and commitment in relation to health, regional development and a vision for diversifying our economy through the continuing development of our higher education sector. Can you outline some of the main points of that policy?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Ms Berry for the question. Yes, indeed, the central themes of the commitments that we outlined to the community in 2012 did focus on our role in the region, around our views and our vision in higher education and also in looking at how we diversify our economy. These are important planks of the work that we will be undertaking over the next four years; indeed we have started and have hit the ground running.

I spoke in the last sitting week around our role as a regional centre in the hub of south-east New South Wales. I firmly believe that our own economic prosperity and growth are intrinsically linked to that of the surrounding region. There is a lot of support from the local region for better links, closer working links, and planning and discussions around services between the ACT, New South Wales and the local councils. I think issues like planning adequate infrastructure and services to accommodate population growth are critical. There is and has been acknowledgement of this by the New South Wales government.

The area of health is perhaps where we have developed the best linkages to date, but there are obviously other opportunities, including being a regional education hub. Increasingly, as the population grows alongside our borders, we are seeing more and more New South Wales students come and use the ACT education system. There are other opportunities in terms of our regional role. Hopefully these will be explored. If the Assembly makes a decision around the establishment of a select committee on Thursday, there will be an opportunity for Assembly involvement in this.

The MOU with the New South Wales government that we have signed looks at three areas—economic opportunities, land use and planning and infrastructure and cross-border service delivery. Those are the three main areas for intergovernmental cooperation to focus on. But higher education and our role in the region are also critical if we are to plan our regional future.

The ability of the sector to attract tens of thousands of students from around the region I think was well outlined in the work that the Learning Capital Council provided the government in 2012. It certainly focused on some of our commitments that we made around studyCanberra. It will be great to roll out the commitments of studyCanberra and make sure that we are doing what we can to support our local university and vocational education and training system.

I had a good meeting with the Catholic University. I have ongoing meetings with the University of Canberra and with the vice-chancellor of ANU in his role as chair of the Learning Capital Council. There is much more work to be done, but I think there is a

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