6 July 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:42): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question without notice of the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of regional students.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Last week, the Malinauskas government announced plans for a new university to be created by the merging of the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia. The announcement was coupled with a commitment from the Premier for a $100 million perpetual fund to support students from low socio-economic groups to enrol in the new university.
According to the demographic data resource .idcommunity, 1.5 per cent of regional people in South Australia are attending university compared with 5.6 per cent of their metro counterparts in Greater Adelaide. My questions to the minister therefore are:
1. What proportion of the perpetual fund will be allocated to regional students?
2. What role has the minister played in ensuring that the perpetual fund will meet the needs of people from low socio-economic backgrounds in the regions?
3. Has the minister read the business case for the university merger?
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:43): I thank the honourable member for his question. First, we have had some very productive discussions within various forums of the government around the need for support for people from low socio-economic backgrounds, including those from regional areas—I certainly have raised the specific issue of regional students within those discussions.
The $100 million perpetual fund is a huge achievement, assuming the creation of the new university does proceed. It is a huge achievement in addressing some of the inequities that exist within our communities, including between metropolitan and regional residents. The ability to access high-quality education is something we as a government are absolutely committed to.
One of the things I am very pleased about is that the proposed new institution is being formed with a view to growing, and that may well result in growth into regional areas, either by expanding what is there or by expanding into new areas that do not currently have campuses. Of course, that will be the specific decision of the institution concerned, as decisions of the existing institutions are at the moment, but it is something I think is very exciting for our state and I look forward to seeing that further develop.
Since the honourable member also mentioned, in his opening remarks, that this was about regional students, I might take the opportunity to draw members' attention to another recent announcement we made, which was around the Regional Skills Fund, and specifically about enabling students in regional areas to better access TAFE courses.
Prior to now there has been a requirement that there be a minimum of 12 students to be able to run a course in a regional area, but that has now been reduced to five students. That means there is a real opportunity for more courses to be run in regional locations, and that is an additional boost for people living in our thriving regions.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:45): Supplementary: with whom has the minister had these discussions regarding regional students, have these discussions involved Flinders University, and has she read the business case?
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:45): I thank the honourable member for his supplementary question. In terms of the discussions I have had, that has been particularly with my cabinet colleagues. Clearly, this is a very important topic for our state, and it is something that has been the basis of numerous discussions in various fora.
Remembering that this was, if not the first—I think the Voice was the first commitment we made while were in opposition in terms of new policies—then it was certainly amongst the first few commitments we made while we were in opposition to encourage and promote the creation of a new institution that would better serve our university cohort and better serve our state, both in terms of offerings in the near future but also in establishing the sorts of skills, qualifications and future workforce we need for the many exciting projects occurring as a result of investment support and initiative by the Malinauskas Labor government.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:46): Final supplementary: the minister referenced the Labor Party's election commitment. Was the government's commitment—or the then Labor opposition's commitment—to hold a commission of inquiry into establishing a new university or was it to simply do it?
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:47): I am sure most members would recall that the commitment was to establish a commission of inquiry. What eventuated after the election, as I understand it, was an approach by the University of South Australia and the University of Adelaide indicating that they wished to progress the possible creation of a new university, essentially between themselves. Obviously, there is government support that is offered and provided, but that is what they were wanting to do.
As a result, our government put on hold the commission of inquiry given that was the stated desire, in terms of pursuing it under a different mechanism, from the University of South Australia and the University of Adelaide. It will be interesting to see whether those opposite, in particular, support the establishment of a new institution, if they support the opportunity to increase the capability here in South Australia, whether they are actually interested in the future of our state—
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: —or merely in its past.