Question Time: Budget

Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle—Deputy Speaker) (14:56): My question is to the Minister for Education. What is the Albanese Labor government doing to help more young people from the outer suburbs and regions get the opportunity to go to university after a decade of coalition cuts to education?

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Education) (14:56): I thank the sensational member for Newcastle for her question. I’m really glad that she asked me this question because, for 50 years, Newcastle Uni has been running fee-free uni-ready courses, and she has been a champion for all her time in the parliament and a defender of these courses. These are courses that have changed the lives of about 70,000 people in Newcastle and the Hunter. Today, one in five people who get a degree from Newcastle Uni start doing one of these fee-free courses. One of those is Jennifer Baker. Jennifer is from Maitland. She was a mum at the age of 19. She worked in hospitality for 10 years. One day, she saw an ad for one of these courses in the local paper. Now, she has got a science degree and an honours degree and a PhD. She’s a Fulbright scholar. She’s now a computational medicinal chemist. That’s what these courses do. They’re a bridge between school and uni, giving you the skills to get to uni and succeed when you get there.

Fee-free TAFE has been incredibly successful, and what we announced last night in the budget is that we are essentially going to uncap these fee-free uni-ready courses, like you see at Newcastle, right across the country. They’re expected to increase the number of people doing these fee-free uni-ready courses by about 40 per cent by the end of the decade and double the number doing them by the end of the decade after that.

Last night, we also announced that we’re going to uncap places at uni for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds who get the marks to go to uni. On top of that, we also announced a new needs based funding system so that students from disadvantaged backgrounds and students who study in regional Australia get the extra support that they need to succeed when they get there. We know that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to finish their degree than other students, and this is all about fixing that, giving them extra academic support and extra wraparound support.

Bob Hawke and Paul Keating saw an increase in the number of kids finishing high school from 40 per cent to almost 80 per cent. That was nation-changing stuff. This is the next step. In the budget, we’ve set a target that, by 2050, 80 per cent of our workforce will have not just finished school but gone to TAFE or university as well. To hit that target, we’ve got to help more young people from the outer suburbs and the regions to get to uni and to succeed when they get there. That’s what these reforms are about: fee-free, uni-ready courses; uncapping places; and needs-based funding—more spots and more support, opening the door of opportunity for more Australians. This is the sort of change, the sort of reform, that helps to make sure that no-one is held back and no-one is left behind.