Page 2051 - Week 07 - Thursday, 4 June 2015

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A vibrant, appealing and connected University of Canberra campus will improve amenities and create opportunities for all on the campus and nearby. Canberra will be a city renowned for its learning opportunities and for the skilled workforce we develop.

As Canberrans we can be proud of our higher education sector, our world-class tertiary institutions and the brilliant possibilities our city has to offer our students. With two world-ranked universities in our city, we are showing the region and the world that we welcome new ideas, new people and new innovation. Today we are taking another step to create an innovative city, with a distinct identity, where our business and our university sectors can join to create a new and exciting economy.

But this does not just happen by accident. It takes hard work and it takes a vision for what this city can be. I commend the minister for his work in delivering this reform for the university, its students, its faculty, its commercial partners and the people of Belconnen and the people of Canberra. This government is committed to growing our higher education sector. From what we have heard opposite, the Liberal Party are once again attacking our city’s universities. They do it federally, and they are doing it locally now.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (11.25): The bill effectively creates a greater range of economic opportunities for the University of Canberra, broadening its revenue base and reducing its future dependence on government funding and support. It is designed to set them free in some regards, and is mostly driven by a consensus that the higher education sector is changing too rapidly to sit still. We need to take bold action now to prepare for the continuing impacts of the federal Liberal government on the ACT economy and cuts to university funding across the country.

The recent performance of the federal education minister in seeking to use the jobs and livelihoods of scientific researchers as a threat against the Senate’s vote on the deregulation of universities was a new low in this debate. It is high time the debate is reset and a more steady and sensible policy agenda produced. It is in that context that we are discussing this today—that is, ensuring our universities are not subject to the vagaries of federal government policy but, in fact, have an opportunity to provide themselves with stronger foundations.

The ACT Greens are broadly supportive of both the current vice-chancellor’s vision for the University of Canberra and the legislation before us. I will be supporting the bill as it stands, but I also put on the record that we will continue to watch the subsequent legislation, developments and changes they bring.

This bill will deliver wideranging benefits to the Canberra community by helping the University of Canberra strengthen its foundations and ensure its viability into the future by diversifying its income streams. 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 a sustainable future not only for Canberra but for our region and the nation.

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