Labor has done the hard work and is ready to govern - Transcript, Doorstop

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
DOORSTOP INTERVIEW
CANBERRA
MONDAY, 29 APRIL 2019

SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan to help boost Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander entrepreneurship; Labor’s Pensioner Dental Plan; Labor’s plan to make childcare more affordable. 

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning. My name is Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer. I'm delighted to be here at the University of Canberra with the Labor candidate for Canberra Alicia Payne, who is also a former researcher here at the University of Canberra at NATSEM. And with Peter Radoll - Peter and I worked together at another university a bit down the road. Peter in spearheading the Indigenous programs here has been tremendously important not just for helping to close the gap within the University of Canberra, but also in playing a leadership role nationally.

The University of Canberra punches above its weight when it comes to Indigenous programs. Tom Calma, the Chancellor, has led a university which is looking to engage right across the spectrum. My youngest son Zachary was in the Wiradjuri early learning centre here in the University of Canberra. On the walls of the Wiradjuri centre are the photographs of two men, Gough Whitlam and Vincent Lingiari. No child leaves Wiradjuri without knowing the stories of both men. The University of Canberra also has important programs in ensuring that it attracts and retains more Indigenous students. This is absolutely vital as we look to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in areas such as employment and education when presently the Closing the Gap targets are not on track.

We're here today to announce that a Shorten Labor Government, if elected, would provide $600,000 of funding to an Indigenous entrepreneurship program here at the University of Canberra. The program would build on the University of Canberra's strengths in Indigenous engagement and in business start up promotion. We need more start ups in Australia. A recently published study by Sasan Bakhtiari looked at the start up rate in Australia and found that over the last decade the start up rate had fallen from 15 per cent a year to 9 per cent. We've got a seven fold increase in mergers over the last generation, yet a decline in the start up rate. To turn that around we need more entrepreneurship. The University of Canberra has strong academic entrepreneurship programs. It also hosts Entry29, the co-working innovation space and through this program it will work in that vitally important area of encouraging more Indigenous start ups. That might involve non-Indigenous students better understanding the opportunities of working in Indigenous communities. It might also involve Indigenous students getting opportunities to have not only greater education around entrepreneurship, but also those internships and mentoring opportunities which we know are so vital to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

On top of this naturally a Shorten Labor Government would provide additional funding to equity programs within Australian universities. We want to attract more students to Australian universities, whether Indigenous or first in family, from groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education. We would take off the arbitrary cap on university places. The reintroduction of those caps has been a retrograde step for an Australia that needs to educate more young people. It has been estimated that 200,000 more Australians will get to attend university as a result of Labor's uncapping of university places and returning to the demand-driven system.

So this is an exciting initiative we’re announcing today, here appropriately enough in the Ngunnawal Gardens. It will build on initiatives a Shorten Labor Government would put in place to spur entrepreneurship and start up rates, to get more small business formation and to help close the gaps across Australia. I'll hand over now to Peter to say a few words about the program.

PETER RADOLL, DEAN OF ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER LEADERSHIP AND STRATEGY: Thank you, Andrew. This program, we welcome any program that actually encourages and supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at university. In particular, this is about job creation, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander jobs and what we do know from research is that Indigenous businesses are 100 times more likely to employ an Indigenous person than a non-Indigenous business. So it's really important that we actually create Indigenous entrepreneurs and Indigenous CEOs, so we can actually employ, address the unemployment, the high unemployment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as well. This program will enhance the programs that we already currently do undertake at the University of Canberra. We have a very strong Elder in Residence program. We already have a very strong entrepreneurship program. We have the Mill House Social Enterprise Entrepreneurship hub. We’re actually currently supporting start ups, indigenous start ups, through that program as well. This will enhance what we currently do. So we encourage and we thank very much the opportunity to actually have this announcement today and look forward to working through the program and making our students even more successful.

LEIGH: Thanks very much, Peter. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Is this $600,000 part of a nationwide feature or is it just locally here?

LEIGH: This $600,000 is for the University of Canberra, but it complements important initiatives that we're pursuing at other Australian universities in order to improve Indigenous educational engagement and also to improve Indigenous completion rates. Peter and I were speaking on the way over about the important role of mentoring programs for Indigenous students, ensuring that we can raise the completion rates of Indigenous students who start a university degree.

JOURNALIST: What are completion rates like at the moment for Indigenous students? Or Torres Strait Islander?

LEIGH: Let’s hand over to the expert. He’s got the statistics at his fingertips.

RADOLL: The nine year completion rate for universities, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at university is just 47 per cent as opposed to 74 per cent for non-indigenous students. And that's been a protracted issue for over a considerable time. We've had a doubling in enrolments of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in the past 10 years, but those completion rates in terms of statistics hasn't risen a great deal. And then all universities are actually doing their best to try and lift this and it's about balancing, I suppose, the accessibility and then success.

JOURNALIST: Can you give us some examples of, I guess, projects that have just been passed through entrepreneurship program?

RADOLL: Well, we've got a - there's a number of programs that have been running for a considerable time. We have one of the few, I think it's the only Indigenous professor of entrepreneurship in the country and we run an Indigenous entrepreneurship unit and we actually use Indigenous pedagogy in the class. Those programs are quite successful and the feedback is absolutely quite high, so we know there's a need for this and there's a desire for students to actually undertake this. And I think as Andrew was saying, the focus – there’s two elements to this focus. One is the opportunity to actually have more Indigenous focus in the classroom and actually understanding what Indigenous entrepreneurship looks like, but also have the opportunity for Indigenous students to be entrepreneurs themselves.

JOURNALIST: Just generally about the election campaign at the moment. The polls show Labor’s just in front at this stage.

LEIGH: Look, we know this is this a tight race. It’s only three times since World War Two that Labor has managed to go from opposition to government. We’re united. We’ve been working for the past six years not on how to topple our leader, as the Liberals have with their three prime ministers over six years, but on how to produce policies that will make a real difference to the lives of Australians. You saw yesterday Labor announcing our early childhood plan, which will mean a saving of childcare costs of around $1200 for families with family incomes below $174,000. A really important cost of living measure, but also an important productivity measure since we know that one of the impediments to women returning to work is high childcare costs.

We announced too Labor's Pensioner Dental Plan, a vital plan which will extend the program that currently exists for children to pensioners and Commonwealth Seniors Card recipients. That's a program which allows up to $1000 every two years to be spent at the dentist on programs such as getting teeth extracted or fillings or even check ups. It'll put in place important supports for seniors who in many cases are unable to afford the costs of a dentist.

So it's through these sorts of positive plans that we're seeking the honour of government. We're taking to the Australian people a more comprehensive policy platform than any opposition in the post-war period. We've done the hard work. We're ready to govern. We know it's a hard task. We're up for that challenge.

No other questions? Thanks everyone.

ENDS

Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra.


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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | Andrew.Leigh.MP@aph.gov.au | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.