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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 14 May 2015) . . Page.. 1783 ..

It is my pleasure to introduce the Planning and Development (University of Canberra and Other Leases) Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 and its explanatory statement. It is no secret that driving the economic prosperity of the city and, through it, our region is of the highest priority to the ACT government. There was no better demonstration of that than earlier this week when the Chief Minister entered into agreement with the 12 surrounding New South Wales councils to form the Canberra region. The Canberra region brand will provide a strong platform upon which we can promote our competitive strengths to potential visitors, investors, students, residents and businesses. That is why I am pleased today to announce two significant planning reforms which go a long way to help achieving our goals.

Through presentation of this bill today and through the release of a draft territory plan variation DV37, the government is underpinning the future of our tertiary education sector, helping to create jobs, driving growth, encouraging investment and securing our role as the economic centre of our region. The bill will deliver wide-ranging benefits to the Canberra community by helping the University of Canberra to strengthen its foundations and ensure its viability into the future by diversifying its income streams. Whilst the federal government seems determined in its attempts to push ahead with higher education reforms to change the environment in which universities operate, we are certain the reforms we are working closely with the university to put in place will secure its future.

Our universities are operating in a tough global economic environment, made more worrying by the looming pressures from promised federal government reforms and cuts to higher education, following on from last year’s federal cuts to education more generally. A 2014 Deloitte report found Canberra has the highest percentage of population studying full time or part time compared to any other city in Australia, and the university sector is the fifth largest industry in the ACT, contributing more than $1.7 billion worth of activity annually. The university economy is critical to the future of our city and our region, and this government has a strong and coherent vision for the sector which is to be realised through close collaboration with our higher education providers. We must enable our universities to build on their strengths and attract the best minds, cementing Canberra’s status as the nation’s knowledge capital.

For UC to continue its growth and remain competitive as an elite education provider, the planning controls which govern development on the campus need to be broadened. This broadening of planning controls will allow UC to pursue commercial opportunities that benefit education and research on the Bruce campus as well as within the broader community. Such opportunities are also pursued by other universities around Australia and the world, such as the Australian National University, Monash University and Macquarie University. The ACT government is committed to helping the University of Canberra to pursue these opportunities sooner rather than later, and the campus master plans outcomes delivered through this bill and the proposed territory plan variation will together bring life to the plan and provide the means to deliver on the inspirational vision of the university.

Integral to this vision is significantly growing the existing student population to attract both national and international full fee paying students. Along with this increased student population is an increased academic population and an increase in families that will come to the ACT, for work either at the university or in associated businesses.

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