SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan to help Australians study at uni.

HOST: Moreton Bay's home of information - 101.5 FM, on the line, I'm very pleased and happy to have the Deputy Opposition Leader, the Honourable Tanya Plibersek on the line. A very good morning to you. 

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It's a very great pleasure to be with you.

HOST:NowI understand there's a brand new policy that you brought out and Labor will ensure that all Australians will get the chance to go to uni. Is this reminiscent of what used to be the case for young people getting into university back in the 1980’s? 

PLIBERSEK: Well we're very proud of being inheritors of the Whitlam tradition. Many people tell me that they had the opportunity of a university education because of the reforms that the Whitlam government made, that they were the first in their family to get that opportunity and we want to continue to expand the opportunity of a university education to more Australians. We know that a lot of the jobs that are being created today really do need either a university of a TAFE qualification to be able to do those entry level sort of jobs, where you can walk in off the street and get training on the job. But not many of those exist anymore so we want more people to get a uni qualification or a TAFE qualification, and today's announcement really is to target people who come from underrepresented areas to get a uni education. We know, for example, that there are parts of Australia where the majority of people have a university degree like if you look at the north shore of Sydney, 63 per cent of young people there have a university qualification. If you look at inner-city Brisbane - 53 per cent of young people there have a university qualification. But Moreton Bay, where I've been today it's only about 13 per cent. We don't think that's because there's no aspiration in Moreton Bay or because people aren't as clever, it's because they haven't had the opportunity. So today's announcement is really targeting communities like Moreton Bay and outer suburban, regional communities or underrepresented groups right around Australia to give them the opportunity of a great education.

HOST: Can I ask you on the cusp of that, now apparently there is a lot of kids out there who are quite intelligent, they are passing well at school and just can't get a place in university, there's a cap I understand that you want to try and release that so it allows more students to get into university, is that correct?

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, absolutely. When Labor was last in Government we removed the cap on university places, which means that essentially if you were prepared to work hard and study hard, if you were prepared to take on the student debt there would be a place for you at university. When the Liberals were elected they effectively re-introduced this cap. That means that year alone we estimate about 10,000 students have missed out on a university education that would have qualified under Labor's policy when we were in government and that number just grows. We reckon that over the decade if the Liberals' policy stays in place more than 200,000 people will miss out on a university education. We really want to give those people the opportunity if they're prepared to work hard, if they're prepared to study hard, there should be a place for them. So today's announcement comes on top of that uncapping that we've already committed to.

HOST: Now I understand this to the tune of $174 million investment into the level of students out there that have got the knowledge to go onto university will be able to take advantage of that. The question I've got to ask right now, what about the students that have missed out already, will we be revisiting them and saying 'look there's a place for you'?

PLIBERSEK:  Yeah of course, if students want to try, they don't have to go straight from high school to university, they can work for a few years and that can be very good for the level of their maturity and to have a bit of financial stability behind them, but we know also that there are mature aged - you know mums who have been home raising a family - there's people who have to retrain because the industry has changed so much. We want an education to be equally available to anybody who's prepared to put in the effort, who's got the ability and who's prepared to work hard. And age shouldn't be a barrier but neither should we live it’s just not right that people growing up in our fast growing suburbs, outer suburban areas, or our regional communities are missing out on this chance.

HOST: So just to recap, this is something that is going to involve not only students coming out of high school but also your older generation as well. So that is a commitment by the Labor Party to encourage people, no matter what your age, you can get back to university and can study. Is the net result, is it going to cost these people anything or is that being covered by the Government?

PLIBERSEK: You will be eligible for the same student supports as other, that already exist. So there is the higher education loans programs, you do take on a student debt but you pay that off once your income reaches a certain level. So there won’t be those upfront -  you don't have to pay upfront tuition fees - you can pay for that through the tax system down the track when you are earning a decent income. And some universities evening going out of their way to offer scholarships to particular groups. My experience as well, you are talking about mature aged students, it's sometimes mature ages students that are really particularly effective in these courses because they have got the life experience that they bring with them. So they might have not done great at school, because they didn't have the maturity then or they weren't interested. But life has a way of teaching you a lot of lessons along the way, those same students that were mucking up in year ten sometimes go on to be the most conscientious and successful students later in life.

HOST:Well this has all been built up, I mean back in the 1980’s there was lots of students going into university and of course those big brains became some of our leaders of today. We're missing out on that terribly. Labor, at the end of the day, wants Australia to be a country of a strong economy, secure decent well-paid jobs and well educated as well, and this is your plank to becoming perhaps the next Federal Government when the next election is being held, this will be on the back of that.

PLIBERSEK:A big focus of our offering to the Australian people is we want to invest in health and education. We don't want to give tax cuts to the top end of town. We want to spend that money instead for the benefit of our whole community by making sure that we have great education from early childhood and preschool education through schools and TAFE and university and that's part of our story, that's part of our commitment to the Australian people.

HOST: Well people will be able to read, not only listen to the podcast when we put it up online which will be this afternoon and they'll also be able to see the press release that you've given us as well. I always appreciate talking to you. You always give me a breath of fresh air. I appreciate it. The Honourable Tanya Plibersek, the Deputy Opposition Leader in the House of Representatives, we do appreciate your time on the radio.

PLIBERSEK: It's a pleasure. Talk next time.