Question Time: Universities

Ms SCRYMGOUR: My question is to the Minister for Education. What is the Albanese Labor government doing to make it easier for people in regional Australia to go to university, to earn more money and to keep more of what they earn?

Mr CLARE: I thank my friend the legendary member for Lingiari for her question. A couple of weeks ago, I was in Taree with the member for—

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order!

Mr CLARE: Did something happen? Did you smile again? Once only—only once a week!

The SPEAKER: Order! The minister will ignore the interjections.

Mr CLARE: I will try, Mr Speaker. A couple of weeks ago, I was in Taree with the member for Lyne and we visited the Taree university study hub. On the wall as you walk in there is a sign that says, ‘Go further closer to home.’ In Taree, there are about 270 students at the moment doing more than 80 different degrees and courses at universities right across the country, and they don’t have to move away from home to do it.

We want Australians to earn more and keep more of what they earn, and a key part of that is helping more Australians to get a crack at going to TAFE or to university. If you have a university degree, you earn on average $30,000 a year more than somebody whose last year of education was year 12. Almost one in two young Australians in their 20s today has a university degree, but not everywhere—not in regional Australia. In regional Australia it’s about 28 per cent, and in the more remote parts of Australia it’s even less.

That’s why these hubs are important. The evidence is that, where they are, there are more people who go to university and there are more people who finish their university degree. In other words, they work. At the moment, there are 34 right across the country, and as part of the Universities Accord we’re doubling that. There will be 20 more in the regions and 14 more in the outer suburbs of our big cities. Yesterday I announced the location of the first 10 of those new regional university study hubs. They’ll be everywhere from the Pilbara in the north-west of WA to East Arnhem Land in the Territory to King Island off the coast of Tassie. There’ll also be new hubs in Innisfail, Warwick, Chinchilla and Longreach in Queensland; Victor Harbor in South Australia; Gippsland in Victoria; and Katanning in WA. Yesterday I also announced more funding for two existing hubs, in Mudgee and Cowra in New South Wales.

Applications for the new suburban hubs will open shortly, and applications for the next 10 regional hubs will open after that. As I’ve said in this place before, I urge members to talk to their communities, talk to their local TAFEs and universities, and encourage them to apply. These hubs are a key part of helping more Australians to get a crack at going to university, and that’ll help them to earn more, and our tax cuts will help them to keep more of what they earn.