Page 959 - Week 03 - Thursday, 19 March 2015

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MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (3.53): I am pleased to have the opportunity to talk on the matter of public importance today—the importance of growing the higher education sector in the ACT. We are all aware that Canberra plays host to several higher education institutions, all of which have played, and continue to play, an important role in our city and our region. These include the Australian Defence Force Academy, the Charles Sturt University Canberra campus, the CIT, the Australian National University, the Australian Catholic University and the University of Canberra. In particular, I would like to draw members’ attention to the critical importance of the ongoing development and growth of the University of Canberra’s Bruce campus. It is developing its capacity and its facilities for the future.

As we know, the higher education sector is a key contributor to the ACT economy. It fosters innovation and research, provides jobs for Canberrans, and attracts bright and talented people to the territory. Canberra is a knowledge capital. It is one of Canberra’s strengths. It is a key part of our national and international reputation, attracting academics and students from across Australia and the world.

But in this highly competitive field, each and every institution must continue to improve and grow to avoid being left behind. It is important that we continue to see this sector thrive, particularly if the commonwealth government continues down the destructive path of attempting to deregulate the sector, restructure funding and change student support arrangements. Thankfully, the Senate seems to have at least temporarily blocked this retrograde step, given there was no mandate for these changes.

I note that Professor Stephen Parker, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Canberra, was quoted in yesterday’s Canberra Times. He was referring to the case for a change to higher education, given the handling of the reform package by the federal education minister, Mr Pyne. I am sure I can speak for many in this place when I say how absolutely unacceptable it was for Mr Pyne to suggest funding cuts to national collaborative research if he was unsuccessful with his ideological agenda. Whilst this threat, it appears, has now been withdrawn, our science community is likely left with little confidence in the current commonwealth leadership and must be particularly holding its collective breath waiting for Mr Pyne’s next bombshell.

Since 2002, the ACT government has made significant investments in the higher education sector in the ACT, both directly and through investments in facilities and policies which create a platform for growth. For example, our investment in the University of Canberra public hospital, which I spoke about in this place yesterday, prepares for the future health services this community needs, particularly as our population grows and our population ages.

However, more than this, it provides an opportunity for young people to get a good education and to have a strong career pathway, all the way from preschool to a career as a healthcare professional, while staying right here in Canberra. Furthermore, Canberra gains a workforce for the health sector tailored to service our community’s needs. The health profession is a career that I chose as a young woman and one that I can highly recommend as satisfying and fulfilling. It is one that offers many

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