Labor supporting higher education in Canberra - Transcript, Doorstop

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
DOORSTOP
CANBERRA
MONDAY, 13 MAY 2019

SUBJECTS: Labor’s $6 million commitment for ACT students, Labor’s plans for affordable housing.

ALICIA PAYNE, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR CANBERRA: Good morning. I'm Alicia Payne, Labor’s candidate for the seat of Canberra. It's great to be here at my former workplace the University of Canberra with Andrew Leigh, Carrie Graf and Michelle Lincoln to talk about this great investment that a Shorten Labor Government will make in a sports program here at UC to boost disadvantaged students, to be able to access higher education and using sport as a pathway into that. I'll hand over to Andrew to give a bit more detail about the announcement.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Terrific. Thanks, Alicia. It's a great day to be talking about a great program. Two strengths of the University of Canberra have been reaching out including more disadvantaged students in higher education and their capacity in elite sport. There’s 132 elite sports players currently enrolled at the University of Canberra, playing for the Capitals and the Brumbies. Triathletes, power lifters, cheerleaders. And the University of Canberra is keen to provide opportunities to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to engage in higher education. We know across Australia there are ‘Lost Einsteins’ and ‘Lost Curies’, brilliant young people who don't get a chance to do those studies that will benefit them and the nation. New research out today from RMIT University highlights the importance of boosting education levels in Australia in an increasingly technologically engaged era. We know it's vital to increase university places and that's why a Shorten Labor Government would uncap university places, ensuring over the course of the next decade another 200,000 Australians have a chance to attend university.

Today we're announcing that under a Shorten Labor Government, we would provide $6 million to the University of Canberra for the Sport and Health Empower Program, a program which would bring high school students - Years 10, 11 and 12 – on to campus twice a year. It would give them exposure to some of the best sports science that’s being done, provide tips for their own sporting lives so they’re able to combine studies and their sporting careers, and set them up with mentors - elite sportspeople, sports researchers - so they can better understand what they can achieve by going to university. It's a program that will then work with students in their own communities, to reach out to students in the ACT and the region from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It's absolutely vital if we're to become a more prosperous society, a more equal society, a society that uses the talents of all its members, that we boost university attendance among disadvantaged people and disadvantage populations. So I'm very pleased to be here with my friend and colleague Alicia Payne, making this announcement today. I hand over now to Michelle and then to Carrie to say a few more words about the specifics of the proposed program.

MICHELLE LINCOLN, EXECUTIVE DEAN OF HEALTH: Morning everyone. Australian children have high levels of engagement with sport and physical activity, but we know that during their high school years that that tends to drop off. This program is aimed to encourage those children to keep on engaging with sport and to keep engaging with physical activity as they move through high school years and to university. Sport is a great grounder for everything you need to succeed at university – it teaches you teamwork and cooperation, it teaches you resilience and persistence, it teaches you to look after your own body and mind, so that you can perform to the best of your ability. And we want students in the ACT to know that those are the characteristics that help you succeed at university. So the sport empowerment program helps students to understand that they have what it takes to succeed at university, that there’s a place for them at university and that they will like university. So we’ll be bringing those students onto campus, but also engaging them in their schools so that they develop an aspiration to come to university. So through this program we’ll be creating a link between sport and physical activity and university. We’re looking forward to welcoming many more students to the University of Canberra through this program, particularly those from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander background, and we’re very grateful that Mr Leigh could announce this funding today. I’m going to hand over to Carrie Graf to speak further.

CARRIE GRAF, UC DIRECTOR OF SPORT: How do I follow that?

[laughter]

GRAF: Crack a few jokes?

[laughter]

GRAF: Seriously though, we truly welcome this funding. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the University of Canberra to really take another step forward. Our mission here at UC is certainly to engage our students, our staff and the local community through sport and physical activity both from the grassroots and social level all the way through to elite high performance sport. This program, the UC sport empower program, provides a wonderful pathway for students from Year 10, 11 and 12 to engage, through their passion for the sport and physical activity, to engage in university, to get a sense of what university life might be, the opportunities there are to study in sport related industries that can provide wonderful opportunities following a university degree to work in industries. Often I think students think that ‘you know, I love sport, I might be an elite athlete’. Actually, it’s more than that. It's the opportunity to get to work in and amongst the industry, whether that be as a sports lawyer, whether it be as a physiotherapist or a dietician, whether it be in marketing or designs. And all of those courses are offered here at UC and we find pathways not only for elite athletes, but for future potential students that want to engage through sport, through their academics and through the potential to have employment.

LEIGH: Thanks so much, Carrie. Any questions about this program?

JOURNALIST: Just wondering how many students, school students this could potentially benefit?

LINCOLN: We’re thinking about 500 students a year.

JOURNALIST: 500 students. Just from the ACT or surrounding areas?

LEIGH: ACT and surrounding regions.

JOURNALIST: When students from Year 10 to 12 go through the program, would positions or university placements be guaranteed?

LEIGH: Let me give my understanding and my UC colleagues can correct me if I’m wrong. In some instances, places would be guaranteed. It would also be about encouraging those students to take on university studies, full stop. So if they choose to study at another university, that's great. That's gotten them through the door to higher education.

JOURNALIST: Following the results of the election, when would this program be introduced?

LEIGH: We'll be looking to set it up as soon as we could. We're an ambitious party with an ambitious agenda for Australia and part of that is having high aspirations for young Australians from disadvantaged backgrounds.

JOURNALIST: Is this funding coming from a pool? Is it likely to be set up anywhere else in Australia or is it just UC?

LEIGH: Labor's announced that we'd have an equity fund to fund the programs of this kind. The University of Canberra has come to us with what we believe is an innovative program. So that's why we've said we'll be supporting this program if a Shorten Labor Government is elected on Saturday.

JOURNALIST: How do you feel about overall in the lead up to the election the funding that you have been able to secure and the commitments you have been able to make for the ACT ahead of the election?

LEIGH: It’s significant. If you look at the infrastructure budgets, the last big infrastructure project federally funded in the ACT was the Majura Parkway, half funded by federal Labor. We haven’t seen anything like that in six years under the Coalition. But we’ve said a Shorten Labor Government would commit $200 million for light rail stage two. A Shorten Government would provide more funding to every public school in the ACT. There’s a commitment to Kippax Oval redevelopment, bike paths, waterways funding. This is the third election announcement we’ve made at the University of Canberra. This sort of thing you're able to do when as an opposition you've made tough decisions to close down unsustainable tax loopholes and crack down on multinational profit shifting. That provides the revenue that we need in order to fund great programs like this one and give more young people in Canberra and our region the opportunity to attend university.

JOURNALIST: Just from a national perspective, why has Labor jumped on the federal government’s first home buyer scheme when the Treasurer indicated this morning that there’d been no modelling done on this scheme?

LEIGH: We’ll support sensible proposals that come forward in order to tackle the home ownership challenge in Australia. Housing ownership at the moment is the lowest it's been since the 1950s. It’s dropped for young Australians by more than 10 percentage point since the 1980s. But no program for home ownership can be successful if it fails to tackle negative gearing. So we believe this will only work as one plank of a broader strategy. Labor's revamped National Rental Affordability Scheme will see 250,000 additional affordable rental properties. We've got a much broader package of housing affordability then the government. We’ll support this measure, but we'll go further in a holistic approach.

JOURNALIST: Is it sensible policy, though? Stephen Koukoulas the economist said this morning that it could put home owners at risk of negative equity and could put the government in a position where it has to pay out loans that are defaulting.

LEIGH: We're comfortable that it stacks up, but it needs to be part of a broader package. Only Labor is taking that broad package on the housing affordability to the Australian people. Any other questions? Thanks very much.

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.