THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
ABC AM WITH SABRA LANE
TUESDAY, 25 SEPTEMBER 2018
SUBJECTS: Labor’s $300 million University Future Fund.
SABRA LANE, HOST: The Federal Opposition is promising to set up a $300 million University Future Fund if it wins the next election. It says money from it will be used to invest in new research and teaching buildings, and projects that would help support jobs in communities around Australia. Labor's already identified the Western Sydney University as one of the first institutions that would benefit to expand greenhouse facilities there, with the aim of producing more drought resilient crops. Tanya Plibersek is the Shadow Education Minister and Acting Opposition Leader. She joined me a short time ago to discuss it.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: There's been very little investment in university buildings, infrastructure, research equipment in the last five years. What we've seen from the Liberals are constant cuts. Cuts to the number of students attending university and an absolute freeze on spending on the infrastructure that makes our universities world class.
LANE: And the University of Western Sydney is one of the first beneficiaries. Why?
PLIBERSEK: Well today, we're announcing the second project from this $300 million fund, and it's a brilliant investment in the University of Western Sydney's Hawkesbury campus. The university has already built an $8 million glasshouse. It's done that in partnership with industry to do research into agriculture, but a particular part of the agriculture sector, the peri-urban food production. So the goods that are grown at the edges of our cities and of course, feed our cities but also a target of export into our region. The University of Western Sydney has built this terrific glasshouse and we've committed now to providing funds for them to expand the research that's done in conjunction with that glasshouse. It's a $20 million investment for an agri-tech and protected cropping research facility. We think that building up agri-tech in the outer western suburbs of Sydney, with the building of Badgery's Creek over the next decade is a good investment in jobs for the area. It's also a good investment in the sort of research that can be used right across Australia, and perhaps even in our region.
LANE: The university is also in a marginal Labor seat. Is that any factor?
PLIBERSEK: Well there's about three dozen - just over three dozen universities across Australia, and I'll be talking to all of them about projects that they might have. As I said, this is already the second project. The first project was the University of Sunshine Coast Morton Bay campus. That's an area with very low attainment rates for university studies and we wanted to make sure that we were really boosting attendance at university in that Morton Bay region. This is a project that the University of Western Sydney have come to us with. They've already invested millions of dollars of their own money. We think by boosting that investment, we can provide jobs throughout Western Sydney and also make an impact on agricultural research right across Australia. So we see it as a very good investment.
LANE: Your announcement says money will be made available to fast track projects. How quickly do you want the money spent and how will you ensure value for money with these projects. Some voters might recall the school halls project and feel a little bit uncomfortable about this.
PLIBERSEK: Well first of all, anybody who's got kids at school will tell you that the Building the Education Revolution project at that school was fantastic and transformative. We had very low rates of complaint, I'm not surprised that Tony Abbott campaigned against that because what you see from the Liberals right now is a determination not to invest in public schools right across Australia, so I won't accept that criticism for a start. But we are confident that working with universities, we can identify great projects. Most universities have projects ready and waiting to go. What's been missing is a preparedness from the Commonwealth Government to invest in those projects to make sure that we've got world-class teaching facilities but also world-class research facilities.
LANE: There is already a $3.8 billion Education Investment Fund, it was created under the last Labor Government. It was originally the Higher Education Endowment Fund which was set up under John Howard. It's been idle since 2015. The Coalition had wanted to close it down and put the money into the National Disability Insurance Scheme, it didn't get Senate support. Will the $300 million to set up the fund come from this?
PLIBERSEK: Well the - as you say the Coalition have been trying to get rid of the EEF as it's called, for years now and so we can't rely on that money being available when we come to government -
LANE: To the point of the question, where will you get that money from?
PLIBERSEK: Well we've budgeted for all of this spending. We have made very clear where our funds are coming from. We've made very difficult decisions like restricting negative gearing and capital gains tax on housing, like taking on dividend imputation, like the changes we've made - suggested to family trusts, like the reduction in multinational tax avoidance. We've made really hard decisions Sabra, and they've been controversial at times when we've made them. That allows us to back our priorities. Our priorities are health and education, productivity-enhancing infrastructure, those things that make sure that Australians have a decent job and decent quality of life.
LANE: Tanya Plibersek, thanks for your time this morning.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you Sabra.