House debates

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Matters of Public Importance

Tertiary Education

4:13 pm

Photo of Katie AllenKatie Allen (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I stand with pride about the fact that the Morrison government is going to lead us out of this COVID crisis. We have all faced an incredible health crisis here in this country, and Australians look to a government to lead us out of this crisis. I have to say, it's very clear that, going forward, this country needs to be clear about our direction—and that is to create more jobs. I've been in the university sector myself for many years. I've been a professor at the University of Melbourne and a professor at the University of Manchester. And I note that we have here in this House the member for Curtin, who has been a vice-chancellor at a university in Western Australia. So, both the member for Curtin and I are very passionate about the university sector. We're also very passionate about the opportunity for reform that this COVID crisis offers us.

We know, as we go into the 21st century, that jobs are changing. We know that the employed skilled workforce is changing, and we need to bring the economy with us. We need to bring the skilled workforce that is going to be prepared for the opportunities that a post-COVID crisis offers us. At the turn of the 21st century, there was a great flourishing of the internet. There was a great flourishing of the digital platforms that we all now take for granted in our daily lives, and it has delivered us the most extraordinary amount of inventiveness. But so too has our education system changed quite dramatically, and so too do we need to prepare the next generation for the future that they are going to see. It is so important that we reform our university and TAFE system in preparation for this. We've heard this afternoon about some of those reforms that are already commencing. And I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister is putting jobs at the heart of our future, underpinned by skills and training, and underpinned by understanding that universities and TAFEs are counter-cyclical to the economy.

We know that we are facing a recession—we know we've already entered into a recession. Now is the time to offer the opportunities for our young people to have the jobs of the future, and that is why I endorse the new recommendations that the Minister for Education, Dan Tehan, is making—that is, to focus the minds of our young people on what jobs there are on the other side of that training. They have to understand that it isn't the world of the 20th century, where you could go to university and one day come out the other side and think about what job you might get. We need our young to understand that the jobs of the future are in the healthcare sector, in the IT sector and in the services industries. We need to have these young people ready to grasp those opportunities. No longer is it about them going to university—like in The Game of Lifeand hoping that means they will come out the other side with a job. They need to go in with a forward-thinking idea, and for it to be supported by career advice and supported by what opportunities are on the other side. We don't want them blindly going in—as we know from the university sector, many of them go into their first year and change courses, because they haven't had good career counselling, they haven't had good skills mapping and they don't understand what it is they're going to get on the other side. So I welcome the fact that our government is supporting a National Careers Institute and a National Skills Commissioner. These are practical, pragmatic recommendations to ensure that our young people are ready for the next generation of jobs as they come online. We all know that the jobs of today are not the jobs of tomorrow. They are already changing. They're being pulled from underneath young people's feet as we speak.

I also welcome the fact that the Minister for Education has provided a lifeline for our universities. Even though there's been a change to activity—we know that we've been very dependent on the international students—he has guaranteed the $18 billion of funding to this sector. It has been incredibly important for this transition through the COVID-19 crisis. But there is also the fact that we have 20,000 new students applying for these short online courses that have been made available because we know that these students need short courses to upskill in this period of transition as we go through the post-COVID period. So I would like to commend the Morrison government for what we are doing for higher education in this sector.

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