Question Time: Tertiary Education

Ms STANLEY (Werriwa—Government Whip) (14:51): My question is to the Minister for Education. What is the Albanese Labor government doing to give people from the outer suburbs the opportunity to go to university, and why is it important for a future made in Australia?

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Education) (14:51): I want to thank the wonderful member for Werriwa for her question. In the budget we’re wiping around $3 billion dollars of HECS debt for more than three million Australians, including about 26,000 Australians in the member for Werriwa’s electorate. That helps with the cost of degrees. We’re also providing financial support for the first time for teaching students, nursing students and social work students while they do their prac placements. That helps with the cost of living while they’re at uni.

We’re also doing something about the cost of a lot of young people missing out on going to university altogether. Almost one in two young Australians in their 20s or 30s have a university degree, but not everywhere—not in the regions and not in our outer suburbs. In Mosman in Sydney, 71 per cent of young adults have a uni degree today, but 50 kilometres away in Mount Druitt it’s 33 per cent. In St Lucia in Brisbane it’s 75 per cent. In Logan City it’s 20 per cent. In Elizabeth Bay it’s 68 per cent. In Elizabeth in South Australia it’s only seven per cent. That’s not fair and it’s also not good for our country because the fact is we need more people to go to TAFE and more people to get a crack at university.

The Universities Accord set a target that by 2050, 80 per cent of our workforce will have a TAFE qualification or a university degree. It says that we’re not going to get there unless we help more people from our regions and from our outer suburbs to get to uni and to succeed when they get there. One of the things it recommends is university study hubs in our outer suburbs. We already have them in our regions and we’re rolling out more.

Now, for the first time, we’re going to put study hubs in our outer suburbs. Applications for 14 are now open, and I’d encourage all members who represent the outer suburbs of our big cities to work with your local community and put in an application. We’ve got to smash that invisible barrier that makes a lot of young people in our outer suburbs think that university is not for them and that it’s somewhere else for someone else. These university study hubs in their local suburbs are part of that.

This is not just about fairness. It’s good for our economy because more people going to TAFE and to university means more skills and more jobs and more people earning more money. Economic analysis from the Department of Education indicates if we hit that 80 per cent target that $240 billion in additional income will be earned across the country over the next two decades. That’s more Australians earning more money and it’s more jobs in our cities, regions and outer suburbs.