NATIONAL PRESS CLUB – Q&A
WEDNESDAY, 19 JULY 2023
SUBJECTS: Australian Universities Accord Interim Report.
JOURNALIST: Thank you so much for your speech. There’s obviously a lot of very big ideas being kicked around under the Mary O’Kane’s review. I just make the note that two of the big‑ticket items mentioned here today are – and obviously the key one to you is improving participation and completion rates among poor and disadvantaged students, and central to that is also increasing the integration between the vocational sector and the higher education sector. If I just take you back to 2008, 2009 when Denise Bradley wrote her very important report, they were also two of the big‑ticket items but neither of those major goals have been – have ever eventuated. Participation among rural and regional students is only marginally higher than it was and the VET and higher ed sectors are still as far apart as they were. So, what’s going to be the critical key to changing this?
JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Thank you for the question, Julie. Look, I’ll take you back further. Whitlam tried to do this. Same with Dawkins. Julia and Denise. All with limited success. What this report says, what Professor O’Kane is arguing is that this is not just the right thing to do; it’s what we have to do. The question is how you do it. Now, you can’t put all of the obligation at the front door of university. We’re not going to tackle this problem if we think that we can solve all the problems at the door of university when someone turns 18. It’s why I spent so much time and attention in my speech today talking about what we’re doing in school education and early education. Unless we fix some of the problems there, then you’re not going to fix this.
If children from poor backgrounds are three times more likely to fall behind at school and they’re more likely to not finish high school, what chance do we have of them going on to TAFE or to university? If children from poor backgrounds are less likely to go to preschool than other children in Australia, and going to preschool is what sets you up for success, then what chance do we have of those young people making it all the way through the school system and then going to university? That’s what I mean when I talk about a common thread.
There are ideas that Professor O’Kane is thinking about that knit in with what Dr O’Brien is thinking about. There’s ideas that Professor Brennan is working on with the Productivity Commission that will make what the schools review is doing a success as well. Unless this all works together, then the outcome that we want to achieve won’t happen.
Professor O’Kane talks about having population parity by 2035 in this report. That’s a bold ambition. Denise made a similar recommendation back in 2009 and we failed. I don’t want to be sitting on a rocking chair in 2040 looking back and thinking that we have failed here. What this report says is that more jobs are going to require a university qualification in the years ahead. That means more people finishing university, and they make the cogent argument that the only way that you’re going to have enough people with those skills is to make sure it’s not just young people who live within a 10km radius of the CBD; it’s all young people wherever you live, in the suburbs, in the bush, in our regions. This is something that we have to do.
It’s dear to my heart. I grew up in a place where there were more McDonald’s logos than there were university signs. And Barney is not here but Professor Barney Glover is part of the Accord process. He’s recently built an 18‑storey university in the heart of Bankstown. It used to be a carpark with 46 spots in it. Now it’s got thousands of students. And if you drive through Bankstown at nighttime, there is only one sign that you’ll see: “Western Sydney University”. And Barney tells me that the logo is 15 per cent bigger than any sign he’s put up anywhere. And it sounds funny, but by god it’s serious. I want young people in Bankstown to drive down Rickard Road and think, “I could go there one day.” When I was kid, university seemed like it was somewhere else, for someone else. And for a lot of the young people I went to school with, that’s what it was. They either dropped out at the end of Year 10 or they finished high school but never got a chance to go to university. That’s not the future I want to see.
JULIE HARE: Okay. Our first question, Laura Tingle from the ABC.
JOURNALIST: Thanks, Julie. Minister, Julie took you back to 2008. I would like to take you back to 1986 or thereabouts. Bruce Chapman, who’s here with us today, delivered to John Dawkins the HECS model, and it was supposed to help revolutionise and stabilise the funding of the university sector, but the argument was that it would provide a whole range of new spots for people who couldn’t go to university; that it would sort of facilitate them by the model that they would pay back later. I suppose what I’m asking is – I understand what you’re saying about the schools process and people not getting to school and dropping out of school, which is shocking, but at the bottom line, how much is the question of people not going to university enough or it not being open to people enough a question of a cost of the university education itself?
CLARE: Yes. Thanks, Laura, and thank you for recognising Bruce. He’s a national treasure. And the work that he did in crafting HECS has helped more young people than ever before get a chance to go to university. If we get in that time machine you just described and we go back to 1986, a lot fewer people went to university than now. If we go back to when I was born, 1972, it’s even fewer still. Single digits – the number of people that went to university. As I said, now 36 per cent of the workforce have a degree. About 45 per cent of young Aussies in their 20s and 30s have a university degree and that’s in large part because of the work that Bruce did and because of the work that the Hawke and Keating governments did. It enabled more young people to go to university.
If we got rid of HECS today, the number of students at university would be cut in half and that means more young people missing out. This report says we need more people to go to university, not less. I don’t want to put words in Bruce’s mouth but he’s doing a mountain of work for Professor O’Kane and the team on what are the changes that should be made to HECS, or what we now call HELP, to set us up for the future. It has done great things to help expand our university system over the last few decades, but some of the changes that have been made in the last few years aren’t working, and here is an opportunity with the architect of HECS for us to make changes that will set us up for the next few decades.
JOURNALIST: But is it a question of cost? Or to what extent is it a question of cost?
CLARE: Cost is part of it. So, is the cost of living. You ask a lot of students and they will talk to you about – with an income-contingent loan – they don’t make a decision about what they’re going to study based on what the cost of the degree is, but they will make decisions about going to university around the cost of living. And then there is the cost of those kids I spoke about missing out: young people from the suburbs, young people from regional Australia, young Indigenous people. We need to set up a system that’s sustainable for the long term that helps all young people get a crack at university.
HARE: Next question is from John Ross from Times Higher Education.
JOURNALIST: Hi, Minister. Thanks for your speech. Another cost question, really. Fantastic that the government has agreed so quickly to implement those five immediate recommendations from the panel; even better if it could fund a lot of those spiky ideas you mentioned. What are the chances?
CLARE: Well, first, John, thanks for coming along to my old high school yesterday, Canley Vale High; I got to show you around. It’s changed a little bit since I was there.
The purpose of the next couple of months is to have a debate. Part of the reason that I said to Professor O’Kane is “I want some big spiky ideas” is I think an interim report is a perfect opportunity for us to do two things. One, crack on with the things that have to happen now and that’s what those immediate recommendations are about, and then, secondly have a real debate here. I want to build a consensus for reform amongst universities, unions, business, students, everybody that’s got a stake in this. And the opportunity we have now between July and December is to have a genuine, good, constructive debate about these ideas. Tell us what you think. Tell us what you like. Tell us what you don’t like, because that will do a mountain of good for the work that the Accord team are doing to work out what they might recommend for government at the end of the year.
As I said in my speech, we won’t be able to do everything. We won’t be able to do everything right now. So what I’m expecting to see in the final report is a bit of a timetable, or a sequencing of priorities, so that we can identify: What are the things we need to do in the next four or five years? What do we need to do over the course of the next 10 years? What are the things that we need to do in the decade after that?
HARE: Next question, Sarah Ison from The Australian.
JOURNALIST: Hi, Minister. Thank you for your speech. As you said we’re going to have some time to hear what everyone thinks about this. But can I ask you what you think about the idea of the levy on international student fees and the concern that this would be a tax on high achieving unis as has been raised as one of those concerns? And if I may, sorry Jules, also just on getting more disadvantaged students to go into university, would you ever rule out the idea of means testing so that students from disadvantaged backgrounds don’t pay exactly the same as maybe a student from maybe a very affluent background?
CLARE: I’m going to disappoint you and not spike the spiky ideas on day one. I genuinely want this debate and I do want people to think particularly about this levy. Some people will say yes or no. Other people will say “Well how would you raise it? How much would it raise? What would you use it for?” Government can’t fund everything. And there are things that people in this room want funded, whether it’s research, or whether it’s more infrastructure, whether it’s student housing. And I gave those as a couple of ideas in my remarks. There will be others that are on the minds of people in this room. And so I genuinely want people to have a conversation about, one, is it a good idea or not; and two, if it is an idea that’s has got some merit, then what might it look like and what might it do?
JOURNALIST: And on the possibility of ever seeing a means-tested system; what do you think about that?
CLARE: I guess I take you to the ideas in this report. Some of the big ideas there are about effectively a demand-driven system for equity groups as well as extra support for students who are from disadvantaged groups or underrepresented groups to help them complete their degrees. There’s other ideas there as well about funding placements, providing support for students who are doing compulsory placements. I talk to lots of students, whether they’re teaching students or nursing students, who talk to me about placement poverty, about having to give up their part‑time job in order to do the work they have to do in a hospital or in a school to qualify for their degree. And that’s one of the things that I think deserves a lot of attention and a bit of a conversation in the community about value of in the months ahead.
HARE: Natassia Chrysanthos.
JOURNALIST: Thank you, Minister. So we’ve heard that this is a report about ideas but one of the things that the report is pretty unequivocal about is its assessment of the former government’s Job-ready Graduate program. The report said it would cause long-term and entrenched damage to higher education if it continued. It was having a particular impact on female and Indigenous students. And your sentiments in your speech reflected that as well. So, is your Government committed to scrapping the scheme? And will we see student fees for humanity degrees come down?
CLARE: I pretty much said the same thing in the speech, that it hasn’t worked. The intention the government had was by changing the rates, that you would create an incentive for some students to do teaching and nursing rather than arts. We’ve got more people studying arts today than we did a couple of years ago, and that in a sense makes sense because people make a decision about what they want to study not based on what the cost is but what they’re passionate about, what they love, what they want to do in the future. There’s also a disincentive built into the Job-ready Graduates scheme. Vice-chancellors in the room will tell you while it was designed to create an incentive for students to study certain things, it created a disincentive for universities to offer those courses that the government deemed so important. So, yes, the report says that there need to be changes here, but it’s one part of a bigger piece of work that Bruce and Mary and the team are doing here to make sure that we set up our HECS or HELP system for the future. In the course of the next couple of months you are going to see a lot more work by this panel on what that model might look like.
JOURNALIST: But that concept of differentiated fees based on the course, are you committed to getting rid of that?
CLARE: I shouldn’t preempt that. Have a look at some of the submissions that some of the groups in this room made. Different groups have got different ideas about whether you get rid of it altogether, whether you have different types of differentiation. Some very eminent people who work in this area have said you need a model here that makes sure that everybody pays off their HECS roughly at the same time. And because different people do different jobs when they leave university and earn different incomes, you need a model that works for that. Now, I have got an open mind. The purpose of an independent report here is to get the biggest brains in the country to help make sure we build a system for the future. I’m very, very lucky to have Professor O’Kane in my corner. You are indomitable. The work that you’re doing is fantastic and I’m very much looking forward to the final report.
HARE: Paul Karp, the Guardian.
JOURNALIST: Paul Karp from Guardian Australia. Thanks very much for your speech, Minister. One of the report’s other criticisms of the Jobs-ready Graduates package was that regional universities disproportionately benefited from that despite the fact they’ve had a bigger fall in enrolment than metro unis. Now I know that the report is working towards having a new funding model but is there an argument that in the interim the government should be providing more support for overenrolled metro universities to bring them up to the level of funding increase of the regional unis?
CLARE: Have a look at recommendation 4. I think there’s a good argument, which I have accepted, that universities need funding certainty over the course of 2024 and 2025 as the reform work takes place and rolls out. Otherwise, what you have is some universities going off a funding cliff. That’s not in anybody’s interests. But what I do want to make sure happens is that if you have some of those universities that you’ve described in regional Australia where they may not use all of that funding, then whatever money is left over needs to be used to provide extra support for students from poor backgrounds, students from the regions, students with a disability, to be able to make sure they finish their degree.
Remember recommendation 2 that talks about the 50 per cent rule? It’s hitting those universities hard and the students that are there. But if we’re going to get rid of that rule, we’ve also got to make sure that we’re providing the support students need to pass, and that’s what that funding is about. That’s why it is so important as we work on the broader reform plan.
JOURNALIST: With respect, the question wasn’t about taking money off the regional universities. It was if we all agree that we need more people to go to universities and the metro unis are getting less funding growth than the regional unis, should they be brought up to that standard?
CLARE: They get some of that out of the extra 20,000 places that we’re rolling out in the budget over the next two years, this year and next year, but these are the sorts of things that Professor O’Kane and the team I suspect will look at in the course of the final report.
HARE: Melissa Coade from The Mandarin.
JOURNALIST: Hello, Minister. Melissa Coade from The Mandarin. If you will indulge me for a moment, as the child of a Cambodian refugee who went to public school in Western Sydney, it sounded like you were talking about me! In answer to your rhetorical question –
CLARE: Which school? I need to know the school now.
JOURNALIST: – I went to East Hills Girls Technology High School in Bankstown and Glenfield Public School. But in answer to your rhetorical question, “Where are those people?”, they’re asking the Education Minister questions at the Press Club!
JOURNALIST: Now for my question to you. There’s a really interesting section in the interim report about this independent Commonwealth education commission and its mission as proposed in the report is to deliver on the Accord. So, my question is: how does this proposed independent body differ from the mandate of your department? But then I have another question which goes to this idea of parity of esteem. So, the proposal of that independent commission was to sort of bridge the gap between the import we put on higher education and university qualifications and vocational education and training. So, can you talk about that issue of parity of esteem in the context of wanting more people to go to uni?
CLARE: They’re both as important as one another. I want more young people to finish school and then to be able to make the choice that they want to make about whether they go to TAFE or other forms of vocational education or go to uni. They’re both as important as one another. In my job as the Minister for Education, I’m responsible for higher education but Brendan O’Connor, Minister for Skills, is responsible for vocational education. In the work that we do, we’re talking to each other every second day because we both understand how interrelated our jobs are. I didn’t mention it, but the report says that nine out of 10 jobs that will be created in the decade ahead will require you to finish school and then go to one of the two, TAFE or uni. Four of those nine, TAFE; five of those nine, university. So they are of equal esteem. No doubt – full stop. My job is for the young people who make that leap out of high school and want to go university, that they get that chance and they succeed.
In terms of the Tertiary Education Commission I touched on this in my speech. There’s been commissions like this before. Been successful and then been taken away. This is an idea that the panel has asked people to contemplate to do some of the things that are recommended in this report: to provide long‑term advice to the government, rather than dealing with day‑to‑day issues; to help with the implementation of the reforms; to negotiate those compacts with individual universities about what they should specialise in.
Now, one of the things that I didn’t labour on in the speech but is talked about in the report is whether all universities should look the same. If we’re going to have more jobs requiring a university qualification, it means more young people going to university, but it also means more universities. Today, most universities are about the same size, do roughly the same things. What this report touches on, talks about, is whether in the future we might have universities of a different size and scale and specialisation; and one of the things that this commission could do is play a leading role in helping to shape that through the agreements it strikes with universities, but also through the work it might do in identifying where new universities should be.
JOURNALIST: And just on that point because so much of the report goes to the democratisation of access to higher education, if you do set up more specialised institutions, how are you going to make sure that’s accessible to everyone demographically across the country?
CLARE: I talked about those hubs that are recommendation 1. In a sense, I see them as beachheads for where universities could go in the future. It is a good start to make sure that that university sign is closer to where people live. Postcode is a brick wall that stops a lot of young people in the outer suburbs and the regions going to university, but a fully fledged campus is even better. So that’s one of the ways to do that.
The other, just to sort of circle back to your first question about the importance of vocational education and higher education, is how you knit the two together. So, at Meadowbank TAFE in Sydney, there’s an Institute of Applied Technology that has the TAFE working with UTS and with Macquarie University running microcredential courses in cybersecurity and other things to help set people up to go to university. There’s a classic example of where you’ve got universities and TAFE working together, creating something new, providing a stepping‑stone for people from school into university through these institutes, and the report says that maybe we need more of those as well.
HARE: Next question, Ben Westcott from Bloomberg.
JOURNALIST: Hello, Minister. Thank you for your speech. Ben Westcott from Bloomberg. International student fees are one of the most important sources of revenue for Australian universities and, in fact, the report says some universities are over-reliant on international student fees. But at the same time – sorry, statistics show that international students are up 25 per cent from a year ago, in fact, slightly higher than that. At the same time, we’re seeing rising housing shortages, rising rents and whether or not that’s partially due to international students, they’re certainly affected by it. Is it fair for us to keep welcoming growing numbers of international students when they’re coming to a country where they are paying very, very high rents – so high, in fact, that some of them are petering out – not petering out, spacing out their courses to work to afford to pay the rent?
CLARE: Well, you’re seeing domestic students do that as well. Talk to some of the Vice‑Chancellors here, they’ll tell you that we’re seeing more students on a part-time load this year than years before. And a part of that is paying the bills. The housing crisis that you touched on here is a challenge for all Aussies. International education is a national asset. This is the biggest export that we don’t dig out of the ground. And it makes us more than money. It makes us friends. When you come here and you study in Australia, you fall in love with the joint and you take that love and affection back home with you when you go home. This report to its credit talks about the soft power diplomacy that international education provides.
Now, in the teeth of the pandemic, a lot of students went home. The former government politely encouraged them to go home. They’re now coming back. But just to give your question some context, we still don’t have as many international students in Australia as we did back in 2019 and as universities, and some of them are in this room, think about what international education looks like in the years ahead, it’s not just students coming from one part of the world to Australia to do a university degree here. It might be doing half the degree in their country, and then half the degree here. But it also might mean the universities in this room setting up campuses overseas. So, Wollongong and Deakin are doing that in India – the first universities in the world to be given accreditation by the Indian government. I can see Ian here from Deakin. Good work, mate. Deakin is also off and running with Western Sydney University and Central Queensland University – Nick’s here as well – to set up in Indonesia. That’s part of the future here. Not every young person living on the other side of the world has the wherewithal or the means to fly to Australia, pay the rent and to be able to do a uni degree here. But we have the wherewithal to take our skills and our expertise to the world. And that’s what our universities are starting to do.
HARE: Next question, Maeve Bannister from AAP.
JOURNALIST: Maeve Bannister from AAP. Thanks, Minister, for your speech. An immediate issue facing graduates at the moment is the high levels of indexation on student debt, which you mentioned had been in the news quite a bit this year. Why did the government opt not to address issues with that this year given that it was going to be the highest-ever level of indexation? Is there a plan to do so in the future? And why should people study at university if it seems like they’ll be left behind when they graduate?
CLARE: Don’t create that impression in people’s minds, please. Put your hand up if you went to university in this room. Now put your hand up if you regret going to university. I just thought of that off the top of my head but I thought it’s a fair bet. Seriously, I don’t want Aussies thinking it’s not a good idea to go to uni. I said in the Parliament that the average income of someone with a uni degree is 100 grand. The average income of somebody that has finished year 12 and doesn’t go on to TAFE or uni is 70 grand. That’s a big difference – 30 grand a year, every year of your working life. The average uni debt in Australia is $24,000. I get that indexation issue important. That’s why we referred it to the Accord panel and I’m asking them to look at that. And as part of that to look at how that indexation process works, when the indexation actually happens. It strikes me as pretty strange that the ATO would do that work based on what your debt was 11 months before they actually make the decision. So, the ATO is looking at that, working with my department, working with the Accord team on that. There’s also things in this report around APRA and the way in which they operate that the Accord team is looking at.
Yes, it’s important, but it’s part of a bigger piece of work about how HECS works now and how it can work in the future. But I want everybody that’s thinking at school right now about what they want to be when they leave school to think about TAFE, to think about university, and think about it as a good deal and a great opportunity because it bloody well is.
HARE: Dan Jervis‑Bardy from The West Australian.
JOURNALIST: Thanks for your speech, Minister. Can I ask you a question about students with a disability. Your colleague Bill Shorten has spoken at length about the need for the states and territories step up and provide support and services for students – one of the reasons is to ease the pressure on the NDIS. Have you spoken to your state and territory colleagues about this issue? And, if so, what areas would you like to see them step up in? And do you envisage a situation where federal funding could potentially be tied to states and territories doing particular things to support students with disability?
CLARE: The short answer is no. I’ve had a couple of chats with Bill about it. We haven’t had it on the agenda for Education Ministers at the moment. I guess that issue more broadly is within the scope of the work that Dr O’Brien and their team are doing in terms of making sure that as we fund schools fairly, that we’re tying funding to the sorts of things that are going to make a difference.
HARE: Next question, Natalie Vikhrov from The Canberra Times.
JOURNALIST: Hi, Minister. Thanks for your speech. Natalie Vikhrov from The Canberra Times. The report released says that Australia should explore creating a second national university. It would be a national regional university. Does this suggest that the Australian National University and current regional universities are not adequately serving the rural and regional populations?
CLARE: No. Absolutely not. I think what the report says is that if you develop a university model like this, that it would create a university system of scale that might attract more of the best and brightest students and academics from the rest of the world to come and participate. It might reduce some of the cost centres that exist in all of these different universities that you can do by centralising some of those services, but it absolutely does not suggest that at all.
HARE: Soofia Tariq from SBS.
JOURNALIST: Thank you, Minister. Soofia Tariq, SBS. The government has flagged education as one of the four key areas it wants the Voice to advise it on. How would that practically work? How would the Voice advise you as Minister on education policy?
CLARE: The Voice is about two things. First, it is about recognising the fact that Australia didn’t start 253 years ago when Captain Cook arrived, that we’ve got this great story, this great history, that goes back tens of thousands of years. It’s also about listening. That when you listen, you make better decisions, better use of taxpayers’ money. The No Campaign seems to be based on this idea that everything is okay, that the status quo is all right, that all the best ideas exist in Canberra, that politicians know best. The evidence suggests otherwise. We have not got this right. If you’re a young Indigenous person today, you’re more likely to die at childbirth than the rest of us. You’re more likely to take your own life than the rest of us. You’re more likely to drop out of school than the rest of us. You’re more likely to go to jail than to university. The cost of having somebody incarcerated in our prisons for a year is 120 grand. The average cost of a CSP per year for a student at university is $11,000. That’s what we mean when we talk about taxpayers getting better value for money.
By listening to people, you make better decisions. This report wasn’t made up in my head. I sat down and listened. I asked experts including eminent Professor Larissa Behrendt, who knows more about this area in terms of how you help more Indigenous young people get to university than anybody I’ve ever met. Getting eminent people to talk to the rest of this room and beyond about what are the ideas that we need to take up to ensure that we have a better higher education system in the future than we have today? And in a sense, that’s what the Voice is all about.
Now, what we have in this report are ideas about how you get more Indigenous people into higher education. And we’ve committed today to rolling out the demand-driven system for all Indigenous people whether you live in the city or whether you live in the regions, but if we’re really going to close the gap, it’s not just what’s in this report. It’s what Dr O’Brien recommends what we do in our school system to help to make sure that Indigenous children aren’t more likely than the rest of us to fall behind in school and aren’t more likely than the rest of us to not finish school. It’s what Professor Brennan does in making sure that Indigenous children are just as likely as the rest of us to attend early childhood education. And it’s what we do in health and it’s what we do in housing as well. And a Voice that can provide us with that general advice about sweeping ideas right across the board, in particular in education, that can help to make sure that one day someone doesn’t stand here at this lectern and says that a young Indigenous boy today has a better chance of going to jail than to university.
HARE: Claudia Long from ABC.
JOURNALIST: Hi, Minister. Claudia Long from the ABC.Priority action 5 in today’s report includes a dot point on student safety, which comes under working with National Cabinet. Now, that’s quite applicable to colleges, as I’m sure you already know. But the Federal Government has much more room to move on universities, with things like the Higher Education Support Act. Now, given that around 275 assaults happen in a uni setting every single week according to the National Student Safety Survey, is the government planning any immediate action, any guidance, any changes, anything concrete, on that problem?
CLARE: I raised this the first time I spoke to an audience like this at a UA conference over a year ago. The work that Kate Jenkins did, Kate didn’t just provide advice about how to fix what was happening on the hill. It was about what was going on in our universities. Something like 16 per cent of people who answered that survey said they’d been sexually harassed on campus; 4.5 per cent said they had been assaulted. Some universities do a better job at reporting what’s happening than others. What Professor O’Kane has said in this report is that this now needs to be elevated to the work that ministers do working together.
Now, the fact is, apart from ANU, every other university is regulated under an act of Parliament by a state or territory, and if we’re going to make real and meaningful change, raise the bar, lift the standards of what universities are expected to do when it comes to paying their staff properly or whether it’s the safety of students and staff in our universities, or the composition of their boards and councils, then this is work that should be done by ministers, including myself, working with universities on it. It starts today with me sending a letter to all Education Ministers across the country about the need to start work on this. That letter goes off today. I expect that this will be on the agenda of the next Education Ministers meeting when we meet very soon.
JOURNALIST: Respectfully, Minister, you can act in some ways on this without National Cabinet. And I get that you want to work with them to make this better, but given that this week 275, next week 550, the week after 825 – that number climbs very quickly. Is this something that the federal government is willing to use all of the powers that you have at your disposal without National Cabinet to act on before those numbers get even bigger?
CLARE: I guess what I’d say is don’t underestimate the seriousness with which I take this or my willingness to act. The recommendation here is that this is the way to do it and I want to implement that recommendation.
HARE: Next question, Nic Stuart from Ability News.
JOURNALIST: You referred to the terrific opportunity that you’re giving people with disability who fail a number of subjects to re‑sit them. That is something that people with disability will welcome with open arms. But they will be trying. The government will be paying for this in the meantime. What evidence is there that the universities will be changing possibly their way of teaching to assist people with disability or is that what you were talking about when you were talking about specific areas and specific new universities perhaps that are dealing with supporting particular groups that need extra support?
CLARE: Nic, I think we’re seeing it already. I suspect if some of the Vice‑Chancellors here grabbed the mic, they would talk about the way online learning has helped students with a disability through the pandemic. Online learning wasn’t crash‑hot for everybody, not at schools, not at university, but if you’re a person with a disability, some of the evidence, and it’s borne out in that report, is that people with a disability benefited from that online experience. Talk to Professor Paul Harpur from Queensland, one of the great disability advocates in the university sector and he’ll tell you the same thing. Paul’s part of the ministerial reference group here to provide us with advice to make sure we get this right.
HARE: Okay. On that note, it seemed like an abrupt end, but everyone please join me in thanking Minister Clare.