Page 1964 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 14 May 2013
we were the only party to set a longer term target to invest one per cent of GDP to fund universities, to bring Australia into line with the OECD average to ensure that Australia maintains a quality tertiary education sector and remains internationally competitive.
We believe that we can fund universities properly and sustainably without reducing funding to our primary and secondary schools. As I said recently in response to the Gonski reforms, I just hope that by the time the children of this generation have benefited from the proposed reforms there will be a strong, world-class higher education system waiting for them.
It is only the Greens who have made these kinds of commitments, who have moved the positive motions to call for change and who have the policy to back them up. I thank Mr Seselja for bringing on the matter of public importance today, discussing the tertiary education sector in the ACT. We in the Assembly all know how important it is, as I said, for both the economy and the social life of the territory. Having the universities in town brings great benefit to this city. We need to get behind our university sector and ensure it has a prosperous future for both the good of this city and the good of the nation.
MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Chief Minister, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Health and Minister for Higher Education) (4.15): The ACT government fully understands the vital place of tertiary education in our economic success and in the vibrancy and energy of our community. This is why I created the higher education ministry and have worked so hard over a number of years to grow the size and international profile of our universities. The government’s vision is for Canberra to be Australia’s learning capital, the home to world-leading research, a highly educated workforce, and a large and diverse student community.
The contribution of the ACT’s universities to our city is clear. Based on official data from 2011-12, international students contributed $321 million to the ACT economy, which was a growth of $16 million on the previous year; interstate students contributed $180 million to the economy and Canberra attracted more than eight per cent of national funding for research, supporting the work of nearly 4,000 academics and postgraduate students, which is an amazing result considering we constitute just under two per cent of the population.
Overall, the sector is worth more than $2 billion to the ACT’s gross state product. This money flows through the economy to benefit our hospitality, retail, tourism and transport sectors. Investment in university facilities and student accommodation also produced benefits for our construction and property industries. This is on show in the University of Canberra’s work in Belconnen to turn former office blocks into accommodation for the thousands of new enrolments it expects in coming years. These are among more than 2,000 affordable student housing units the government is contributing to at the campuses of the ANU and the University of Canberra.
The other crucial quality of our education sector is to act to cushion our economy against downturns in other sectors. When growth is lower and unemployment higher, people invest in education and re-skilling. This keeps more local people in work,