Doorstop – La Trobe University, Melbourne – Wednesday 22 May 2024

THE HON JIM CHALMERS MP
TREASURER

THE HON JASON CLARE MP
MINISTER FOR EDUCATION

E&OE Transcript
DOORSTOP
LA TROBE UNIVERSITY, MELBOURNE
WEDNESDAY, 22 MAY 2024

SUBJECTS: Budget, support for students and education, Coalition’s nuclear policy, Angus Taylor speech.

GED KEARNEY, MEMBER FOR COOPER: Good morning everybody. My name is Ged Kearney. I’m the Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care. And I’m absolutely thrilled to welcome everybody to La Trobe University at the Bundoora Campus, which is in my wonderful electorate of Cooper. I’m thrilled to have the Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, the Minister Jason Clare, my fabulous colleague the Member for Jagajaga, Kate Thwaites, who is here. We share this campus, it borders both of our electorates. And a big thank you to the Honourable John Brumby, who is the chancellor, Theo Farrell, the Vice Chancellor, and Chris Pakes, the deputy vice-chancellor for having us here this morning.

La Trobe University is a great university. It’s very close to my heart – it’s my old alma mater. I did a Bachelor of Education here. My three kids all came here. It has a wonderful reputation for taking local residents – over 40 per cent of the students here are first-time goers to university. It is strong in the health profession. Of course, being an old nurse that is also very dear to my heart.

But the reason we’re here is to talk about the wonderful things in the Budget that are going to have a massive impact on the cost of living for students. I’m part of the Albanese Labor Government who listens. And we have certainly listened to our young people, and I’m very thrilled to say that the Budget will make a huge impact on the cost of living for students but also young people more broadly.

I’ll hand over to the Treasurer to elaborate on that.

JIM CHALMERS, TREASURER: Thanks very much Ged, and for having us in your part of the world – two of the absolute best in Ged and Kate and here at this wonderful, wonderful campus of La Trobe University, and with the Education Minister as well.

The Budget was a budget for every Australian, but it contained a better deal for students and young people. There has probably not been a bigger focus on students and young people in budgets in recent memory than the one that we handed down together last week. This is about easing cost of living pressures on students and young people, and it’s about teaching and training a new generation of people and prosperity.

The economic benefits which flow from a focus on young people and students and universities and research are immense. Hundreds of billions of dollars of value will be created when we get these investments flowing in education so that we are teaching and training more people to grab the immense opportunities which are presenting themselves in this country now and into the future.

We’re taking the edge off some of these cost-of-living pressures that young people feel. One of the main motivations when we recast the tax cuts was to provide a tax cut for every taxpayer, including younger people and students who would have otherwise missed out. We’ve got billions of dollars in investments in housing because we know the housing pressure that young people and students are under. One of the really important parts of the package of reforms that Jason put together for the Budget was to ensure that we’re building more student accommodation as part of building more homes for Australians right around the country. We’re providing energy bill rebates. We’re providing HECS debt relief. We’re making medicines cheaper. A whole range of things to try and make life a little bit easier for students and young people and, indeed, for every Australian.

And so we’re really proud to be here today. Teaching and training a new generation of people and prosperity is absolutely core to the Albanese Labor Government. That’s why education and young people and students are a focus of the Government itself but also of the Budget that we handed down. And when you walk around this campus and you speak to the people who are doing the teaching and the learning, the people who are doing the research, you see the really immense and vast industrial and economic opportunities that will flow from our investment in universities and also in TAFEs, bringing together our ability to adapt and adopt technology, bringing together the opportunities of a Future Made in Australia and the care economy as well. So much of that is happening here in a really exciting way. The Budget is about backing in universities and TAFEs and students and young people and we can see the vast potential of that here at La Trobe.

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Thanks Jim. There’s big stuff in the Budget for students. We’re wiping more than $3 billion of HECS debt for more than 3 million Australians. For the first time ever the Commonwealth is going to fund paid prac. This is about of financial help for teaching students, for nursing students and social work students to help them while they’re doing the practical part of their training. It’s practical support while you do your practical training. As Jim said, there’s also support with extra rent assistance for young Australians as well.

Another part of the Budget though is about encouraging, supporting, helping more young Australians to get a crack at going to university in the first place and then supporting them while they’re at university. Under Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, the number of kids finishing high school jumped from about 40 per cent to almost 80 per cent, and that was nation-changing stuff. In the Budget, we set a new target – that by the middle of this century 80 per cent of our workforce won’t just have been to school and finished school but have been to TAFE or university as well.

And if we’re going to do that, we’ve got to break down that invisible wall that stops a lot of young people from poor families, from the outer suburbs of our big cities and from regional Australia from getting a crack at going to university in the first place and succeeding when they get there. So the Budget also includes funding to uncap fee-free courses at university to get you ready to do a degree. The sorts of courses that can transform people’s lives as well as a new funding system to provide more support and help more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to get to university in the first place. And then the new needs-based funding system to give them the academic and wraparound support so that they succeed at university and finish their course.

In addition to that, for the first time ever we’re going to roll out 14 suburban study hubs in the outer suburbs of our big capital cities. These are places that allow you to do almost any degree closer to where you live. Now, I know and Jim, I suspect you know growing up in the suburbs of Brisbane, that when we were kids university seemed like it was some place else for someone else. I saw a lot of golden arches and KFC logos and Westfield logos; not a lot of university crests. And it didn’t seem like it was a place for kids from the western suburbs. I want to change that. We want to change that. We want to bring university closer to where people live. And so today we’re opening applications for those 14 suburban university study hubs in the outer suburbs of our big capital cities to make it easier for kids from the outer suburbs to get a crack at going to university and to go to university closer to where they live. And I’m encouraging local councils, TAFEs and universities to put their hand up and apply to run one of these study hubs.

THEO FARRELL, VICE CHANCELLOR: Thank you Minister Clare. I have great pleasure to welcome the Treasurer and Jason Clare and Ged Kearney and Kate Thwaites to La Trobe’s campus here in Melbourne’s north. We greatly welcome and support the Albanese Government’s investment in higher education. You know, this investment this government is making in the skills base is really going to produce the future workforce that will look after people in the future, the future teachers that are going to be in our schools as well as the scientists and technologists that will power the Australian economy. And one of the things that we know as a university that is committed to supporting young people, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, and with our four regional campuses, people from rural and regional Australia, is we know that many students are having it tough. And so the measures that are in the Budget, cost of living relief for students, is really important because these people are Australia’s future. It’s incredibly important that we support them to succeed in their studies because they’re going to build a future for this country and look after us all as we get older and our kids in their classrooms.

So the prac placements support for nursing students, occupational therapy and teachers, incredibly welcome. Also the measures to contain student debt. And in addition, we’re looking forward to working with Minister Clare on the very important work that he’s taking forward, long term looking at the future of higher education in this country and how we can all work together to build a stronger and more equitable society in Australia. So thank you.

JOURNALIST: The Chief Prosecutor of the ICC says he’s seeking arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders. US President Joe Biden says seeking arrest warrants for the Israeli leader is outrageous. Do you agree with him?

CHALMERS: The issuing of arrest warrants is fundamentally an issue for the ICC. We respect the very important role that the ICC has to play here. We’re not party to those decisions or part of those decisions to pursue those arrest warrants. Our focus as Australians is we desperately need to see the end of the killing of innocent people in Gaza. We desperately need to see that. And so our efforts, our focus, has been to use our voice in the international community to argue for a humanitarian ceasefire, to argue for the release of the hostages, to argue for the humanitarian aid to reach people in harm’s way. There are too many people in harm’s way. There have been too many innocent lives lost already, and that is our focus.

The last thing I’d say about this is that there is no equivalence between Hamas, the terrorist organisation, and Israel. We have made it really clear in condemn the actions of Hamas on October 7. We’ve made it very clear that we want to see the hostages released, and we’ve made it really clear that we want to see the Israeli response comply completely with international humanitarian law. Those are the points that we continue to make, and they are our focus.

JOURNALIST: Just on CSIRO’s GenCost report, the report has found large-scale nuclear-powered plants could be built for around $8 billion and in about 15 years. What do you make of those findings?

CHALMERS: I think the CSIRO has completely torpedoed this uncosted nuclear fantasy of Peter Dutton’s. Nuclear costs more and it takes longer, and Peter Dutton won’t tell us where the reactors are going to go – which suburbs, which regions, which towns, which cities are going to house Peter Dutton’s reactors. And the madness of this I think is laid bare in the CSIRO report. For Australia we have immense opportunity in the renewable sector as the world transitions to net zero. And one of the key motivations of the Budget was to ensure that Australia grabs the vast industrial and economic opportunities presented by the global net zero transformation. It makes absolutely no sense for Australia to go down the nuclear road when there are options available to us which cost less and which can contribute to the grid sooner. And so there’s an important task for Angus Taylor today at the National Press Club – it’s time to tell Australians where the nuclear reactors will go and why they prefer a method of energy or an energy source which costs more and takes longer to build.

JOURNALIST: A question for Minister Clare. I just wanted to get your thoughts on the university encampments and whether we should move protestors at the University of Melbourne.

CLARE: I want to see more people go to university; I don’t want people being blocked from getting into their classrooms. There’s a place for protest, but there’s no place for hate or intimidation or anti-Semitism in this country. I think we’ve seen in the lifetime of our grandparents the evil that anti-Semitism can wreak. Jewish students have made it clear to me that they’re being made to feel unwelcome at university and that’s not on.

I’ve said to vice chancellors that it’s the safety of students and staff that have got to be their top priority and that they’ve got a job to make sure that they implement their codes of conduct. I think Melbourne University has made it clear to students that are in that building that unless they leave the building then they risk either being suspended from the university or expelled altogether. And if you’re a student that’s gone to all the effort to get to university and get into the course you really want to do, to then end up losing that, forfeiting that opportunity, you want to think again. I want more kids to get a crack at going to university. I don’t want them being blocked from getting into their classroom.

CHALMERS: I might just say a couple of things in advance of the Shadow Treasurer at the Press Club today. We are now into the third year of a three-year parliamentary term, and the Liberals and Nationals still won’t tell us how they’ll cut the budget, what that means for Medicare and for pensions and payments or where they’ll put the nuclear reactors.

So Angus Taylor has an opportunity today at the National Press Club. He has talked about hundreds of billions of dollars in overspending which includes the indexation of pensions and payments, including the aged pension. The last time they were in office they attacked Medicare, they brought in Robodebt and they tried to make it harder for people to make ends meet.

It is long past time for Angus Taylor to make it clear how will he find these hundreds of billions of dollars in savings and what does it mean for Medicare and pensions and payments. It is long past time for them to tell us where the nuclear reactors are going to go. When he talks about coming after people’s wages and working conditions and dramatic slashing of the budget, this will send a shiver up the spine of every working person, every aged pensioner and every family who relies on Medicare.

It’s time for him to stop the platitudes. It’s time for him to stop scaring people talking about savage cuts to the budget and unwinding the industrial relations changes which ensure that people earn more and can keep more of what they earn with our tax changes. He needs to come clean today. Where are these hundreds of billions of dollars going to come from? Will it be Medicare? Will it be pensions and payments, including the aged pension? And where will the nuclear reactors go? Thanks very much.

ENDS