Interview – Sky News Regional, Lucy Polkinghorne
SUBJECTS: Pilbara Kimberley University Centre, remote learning, offshore wind turbines, Varroa mite
LUCY POLKINGHORNE [HOST]: The Federal Government is opening another university hub in Western Australia and the Pilbara Kimberley University Centre in Broome will allow local students to achieve a tertiary education without leaving their community. The facility offers courses in numerous areas, including nursing, education, social work and medicine. It also provides Aboriginal Australians access to higher education as 20 per cent of students identify as First Nations. For more on this, I’m joined by Assistant Minister for Education and Regional Development, Senator Anthony Chisholm. Senator, good morning to you. Thanks so much for joining us. Now, how will this facility support and provide more opportunities for those in the region?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM [ASSISTANT MINISTER]: Thanks, Lucy, good to be with you from Broome. And what it does is it gives those young people and sometimes mature aged students the opportunity to study without having to leave home. We all know how difficult it is at the moment with the cost of living, so moving to a big city to study is not always attainable for everyone. So, having these centres based in regional areas gives people that opportunity to study. And I think the exciting thing about it is that the next teacher or the next nurse for Broome might be studying at this regional university study centre.
POLKINGHORNE: Is the hope also that with staff shortages and worker shortages right across the country, that by studying in their own hometown, that perhaps then, as you say, the example of a teacher, then they will stay within their communities and help support the workforce and work shortages we’re seeing there?
CHISHOLM: Absolutely we know that when people study in regional areas, they’re much more likely to stay and work there. So, we see that in many parts around the country where you’ve got regional universities based, but obviously with these study centres servicing smaller towns, we think the really the exciting part is that the next nurse or the next teacher will come from these centres. But if you grew up here and study here, you’re more likely to stay as well. And we know how hard it is, particularly with teaching at the moment, to attain and retain teachers. So, I think this is an important part of fixing some of those local challenges.
POLKINGHORNE: Now 34 existing regional university study hubs are currently operating across the country. How many more are you hoping to open up?
CHISHOLM: As part of the University Accord process that we’ve been going through this year, the interim report recommended another 20 to be built – to be funded in regional areas. So, that process will get underway before the end of the year in terms of how we identify which places they go to. And then we also identified 14 new facilities that will go to outer suburban areas as well, where we know that there is low rates of people going to university. So, again, they will be funded over the course of the next twelve months. So, we think that there’s a model that works. I’ve been to a number of centres already and it’s really exciting to see the opportunities that it provides. And as part of the Labor Government, we want to see as many people as possible have that opportunity to go to university and we think that the regional hubs and the outer suburban hubs are really important part of that.
POLKINGHORNE: And how are the regions chosen or identified as an appropriate spot to put a study hub? In other words, can regional communities apply to have a study hub opened up in their community?
CHISHOLM: We’re going through that process now, Lucy. So, we identified that we’d fund an additional 20 as part of the Interim Accord Report and before the end of the year we’ll release the guidelines and how you can apply if you are interested. I know from discussions I have with councils and representatives around the country, there is strong interest in this process. So, I expect when applications do open that there will be a lot of communities that are getting together and putting in an application. I think that’s the beauty of this is that the ones I’ve seen, they have been generated from the community up and it’s people who want to make a difference in their local community, want to make a more attractive place for people to stay and live. And these regional university study hubs have been part of that.
POLKINGHORNE: Yeah, it’s fantastic. Well, let’s focus on some other news now. The Energy, Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen, he’s attending a closed-door consultation meeting today over his plans to roll out offshore wind turbines and transmission lines. He’s meeting with leaders in the NSW Hunter region amidst widespread community backlash over these plans. I mean, is it likely he will change his mind on this?
CHISHOLM: Well, I think he’s doing exactly what you’d expect of a minister to do and that’s be out there consulting. I know that the process has a long way to go through. My understanding is that from the original proposal that was put forward, it shrunk significantly and that’s based on community feedback. I think it’s fantastic that the Minister is there on the ground listening to people. That’s exactly what you would expect him to do.
POLKINGHORNE: Yeah, I think some of the anger has come that the consultation didn’t come earlier, but no doubt that will be touched on today. We’ll certainly get updates following from that meeting. Another issue though, Varroa mite, I mean, it continues to plague beekeepers across NSW as the crisis does escalate there. Now there have been calls from the industry to get rid of the eradication process and replace it with a management plan and also among that calls for the process to be streamlined and the same across the nation. What are your thoughts on this? Is eradication working? I mean, it’s currently not in NSW. And should there be a nationwide management plan instead put in place?
CHISHOLM: I really feel for those farmers who’ve been impacted by this. I was in Kununurra yesterday and I spent a couple of hours with farmers talking about the challenges they face in biosecurity. I’ve got no doubt that eradication still needs to be the focus and I understand that this is being led by the NSW Department and the Federal Government are working constructively with them. That is still the case, that that is what we are pursuing. I’m sure that if there was alternative advice that would be considered, but my understanding is that eradication is still the focus, that’s what the government advice is and that’s what the group that are working on this within NSW are focused on trying to achieve.
POLKINGHORNE: Anthony Chisholm, I appreciate your time this morning. It certainly looks like a beautiful day in Broome there. Thank you again.
CHISHOLM: Thanks Lucy, good to be with you.