House debates

Wednesday, 24 February 2021


Education Legislation Amendment (2021 Measures No. 1) Bill 2021; Second Reading

12:03 pm

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak today on the Education Legislation Amendment (2021 Measures No. 1) Bill 2021, and I move:

That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

"whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House notes:

(1) the Government has damaged Australia's world-class higher education system, abandoning university workers during the pandemic, and threatening Australia's capacity to produce high-quality research; and

(2) the Government's actions will make it harder for Australia to recover from the COVID recession".

This bill is largely administrative. Schedule 1 of the bill amends the Australian Research Council Act 2001. It applies current indexation rates to existing appropriation amounts and inserts a new funding cap for the financial year commencing 1 July 2023. These amendments are part of the standard budget processes, but they do mean an increase in the amount of ARC funding provided in 2020, 2021 and 2022 to reflect anticipated inflation. The ARC administers funding for both primary and applied research through the National Competitive Grants Program's Discovery and Linkage programs. Grants are awarded competitively through a peer assessment process and are awarded primarily to universities. Although this increase in funding is really just keeping up with inflation, any increase in funding is good news for universities at a time like now when they are in crisis. I'll talk more about that a bit later in this speech.

Schedule 2 of this bill recategorises the University of Notre Dame as a Table A higher education provider from 2021. The University of Notre Dame is currently a Table B provider. That means they are self-accrediting and eligible for research funding but not for general Commonwealth supported places. However, Notre Dame are currently allocated some Commonwealth supported places in fields that are deemed national priorities by the Minister for Education. Notre Dame currently receives Commonwealth supported places in a number of fields, including education, nursing and law. Table A higher education providers are those typically thought of as the public universities. As a Table A provider Notre Dame will be eligible for all funding under the higher education support amendment act, including Commonwealth supported places.

The new categorisation will mean more rigorous grant conditions and reporting requirements. This amendment will mean that all non-medical domestic undergraduate students at the University of Notre Dame will have access to a Commonwealth supported place, including future students and eligible current full-fee-paying students. As a Table A provider Notre Dame will be eligible to receive Commonwealth contribution amounts, including from the new Indigenous, Regional and Low SES Attainment Fund and the National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund. I welcomed the decision to list the University of Notre Dame as a Table A university.

To that extent, this bill is uncontroversial and, as I said, largely administrative. But unfortunately the bill does nothing to address the serious erosion of research funding caused by the Morrison government's abandonment of Australian universities during the COVID-19 crisis. The bill does nothing to address the harm done to students by the government's job-ready graduates legislation, and it does nothing to help Australia recover from the COVID recession.

Since COVID-19 first appeared in Australia early last year, Australia's international borders have essentially been shut. International students who were planning to travel to Australia for the commencement of the academic year were unable to do so. As for the international students who were already here, the Prime Minister told them to 'go home'. Seriously, that's what our Prime Minister said. A Prime Minister who used to have a job in advertising, who had a job trying to recruit tourists to Australia, said to international students, 'Go home.' International students—guests—who were enrolled to attend our universities and who are one of the best advertisements for Australia when they return to their countries, taking back their knowledge of our universities and of our culture et cetera, were told to go home.

So, for the universities, a major income source dried up overnight when the Prime Minister closed the borders. Universities lost $1.8 billion just last year, and it's expected that by the end of this year they will have lost $3 billion, and these losses will continue for years to come. And what did the Morrison government do, faced with this devastating hit to Australia's fourth-largest export sector? The Morrison government abandoned universities. And they not only abandoned universities but also changed the rules of JobKeeper three times to exclude universities so that they'd be cut off from receiving any support. More than 17,300 university workers have lost their jobs. That's 13 per cent of the pre-COVID university workforce, more than one in 10 university jobs—gone.

Many of these 17,300 university workers obviously have families, have mortgages, have bills to pay. These workers are researchers, tutors and lecturers, as well as cleaners, groundspeople, counsellors, gardeners and admin staff. In regional areas these job losses will hit hard. Often the university is the biggest source of jobs and economic activity in regional towns, and regional kids will miss out as well. Often universities use the income from international students' fees at their city campuses to support the kids attending their regional campuses, which aren't as economically viable. We've already seen campuses close in the regions, in Yeppoon, the Sunshine Coast and Biloela—three examples from Queensland that have been hit hard by Morrison government decisions.

It's unbelievable that the Morrison government not only did not step up to help universities but went out of their way to make sure they could not access any government help. If there is one group of people who we have valued in the last year more than ever before, it is our incredibly talented researchers. They've worked tirelessly to find a vaccine, and at the University of Queensland, they came oh so close to beating the rest of the world—but I do thank them for their efforts and their research that will be utilised in other endeavours. Sadly, it's a fact that a major source of research funding in Australian universities is international student fees, and they have all but dried up. We learned from a report late last year that another 7,000 researchers will lose their jobs in the first six months of this year. Many of those will be early-career researchers whose careers in research may never recover. Sadly, Australia will forever lose the benefits of their scientific endeavours, their developments, their innovation, their inventions and the commercialisation that might have flowed from their research. This is a national travesty—an international travesty—and it's short-term, reckless economic management by the Morrison government. University research is an engine of economic growth. For every dollar invested in university research, there is a $5 return to the Australian economy.

There will be more Commonwealth supported places for students at the University of Notre Dame now that they're a table A university, but that will not make up for the harm done by the Morrison government's Job-ready Graduates legislation, which makes it harder and more expensive for Australian students to go to university. Students studying degrees including law, commerce, accountancy, economics and communications—about 40 per cent of students—will have their fees increased to $14,500 per year. Students studying some humanities will see their fees double. Australian students will graduate with American-style debt, and that debt will have lasting consequences for their lives, including whether they can save for a home.

This is a devastating hit to students, particularly the pandemic class of 2020, who surely had one of the worst final years for decades and decades and now, coming out of that, are going into university to embrace a lifetime of debt. The last thing the class of 2020 needed was the Liberals making it harder and more expensive for them to go to university. For some, this Morrison government policy completely smashed their dreams. I took the shadow education minister to meet some graduating year 12 students from my electorate last year, and they told me of how they'd had to change courses. I think the government can sometimes forget that the policy decisions they make then have real-life consequences. I spoke to students and looked them in the eyes as they told me how their dreams were crushed.

And for what? There is no evidence that studying these degrees will make you less job-ready than any other degree. I would suggest there is evidence to say that some of the humanities subjects do make people ready to go, as we can see from the government frontbenchers. For humanities students, their employment prospects are very healthy. Research from Victoria University found that people with humanities degrees have higher employment rates than science or maths graduates. Australia needs skilled workers to get us out of this COVID recession. Making it harder and more expensive for students to go to university is not going to achieve that. In fact, that will achieve the opposite.

Labor believes that education and jobs go hand in hand. When Labor was last in government, we opened up universities and an additional 190,000 people obtained university places. Labor boosted investment from $8 billion in 2007, after 12 years of the Howard government, to $14 billion in 2013, when Tony Abbott came into office. Labor made it possible for students from poorer backgrounds, Indigenous students, students with a disability and—just to step in where the National Party deserted the bush—students from country areas to go to university. That's good education policy. It's education policy that will drive our economy and give Australia a skilled workforce, and it's education policy that's aspirational. Labor will support the administrative changes in this legislation, and we welcome Notre Dame becoming a table A university, but it's time for the Morrison government to stop the harm they're inflicting on people's lives and on our economy by abandoning universities and research at this time of crisis.

Photo of Julie OwensJulie Owens (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the amendment seconded?

Photo of Jason ClareJason Clare (Blaxland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government) Share this | | Hansard source

It is, and I'm happy to reserve my right to speak.

12:14 pm

Photo of Russell BroadbentRussell Broadbent (Monash, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This morning, in the Federation Chamber, I spoke about opportunity in adversity, and this bill reflects exactly what I was talking about. This nation is in an adverse position because of COVID, and we have many issues confronting us. I outlined some of those issues today, as to how Australia should respond and take the opportunities that may present themselves in the adversity that the nation faces.

The Education Legislation Amendment (2021 Measures No. 1) Bill 2021 amends the Australian Research Council Act 2001 to ensure the Australian Research Council, the ARC, can continue to support and serve Australia's vibrant research community. The Australian Research Council is fundamental to the support of both blue-sky and applied research, and its peer-reviewed competitive funding schemes are the essence of many of the most significant research endeavours in the country. This appropriation bill increases the Australian Research Council's funding caps in line with inflation and ensures that government support for thousands of research projects does not weaken. If we are to address the great challenges of our time to improve the quality of people's lives, to support the development of new industries and to remain competitive in the global knowledge economy, then we need a strong research community. This bill is underwriting that strength.

Although routine in nature, the Australian Research Council Act is updated annually. In the past, the ARC amendment bill has proven non-controversial and forms part of the standard budget process. There has been continued and repeated bipartisan support and recognition for all schemes under the National Competitive Grants Program, which will support the Australian higher education system and strengthen Australia's research workforce. The bill makes funding adjustments to the Australian Research Council Act in order to: (1) facilitate the ongoing operation of the Australian Research Council; (2) update the special appropriation funding cap administered by the ARC to include policy approvals and indexation adjustments; and (3) extend the forward estimates through to June 2024 for existing schemes within the National Competitive Grants Program to allow continued funding of quality research in Australia.

This routine update to the Australian Research Council funding caps provides inflationary growth so that the government can continue to support thousands of individual research projects. These projects represent the cutting edge of Australia's research effort undertaken in universities and research institutes across the country. These efforts have also been part of the Australian response to the COVID virus. In July last year, a research team from Monash University and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology developed a test to detect positive COVID cases in about 20 minutes and identify whether someone has contracted the virus. As early as March last year, research teams at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research developed the first wide-ranging global assessment of the effects of the COVID virus to help policymakers prepare a coordinated response to the economic costs of a pandemic as the virus evolves. These Australian Research Council funded research examples are helping us to qualify and understand the transformative effect that COVID is having on people's lives and workplaces, not to mention the thousands of other projects funded by the ARC. Any delay in passing this bill will negatively impact on the ARC's available funding envelope and will influence new grant payments moving forward.

This is an important legislative bid which will advance our efforts to build a more prosperous Australia through innovation. Excellent researchers across all areas of the university system rely on the ongoing nature of ARC funding and must be able to compete, with some certainty, for funding if we are to keep world-class academics in Australia working in our universities and teaching the next generation of researchers.

The Education Legislation Amendment (2021 Measures No. 1) Bill 2021 also amends the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to swiftly implement the government's 2020-21 MYEFO decision to recategorise the University of Notre Dame as a table A provider. Providers listed in table A of the act are eligible for all Australian government grants, and their students can receive all forms of assistance under the act. This recategorisation will allow UNDA—the University of Notre Dame—to better serve its students, as they currently perform on a par with table A providers: (1) the UNDA's domestic bachelor student load has been similar to or greater than that of other table A providers; and (2) according to a 2018 to 2020 graduate outcomes survey, 88.7 per cent of the University of Notre Dame's graduates found employment within four months of graduation, exceeding the national average of 86.3 per cent. In a 2019-20 course experience questionnaire, the University of Notre Dame also rated significantly higher for graduate satisfaction, at 91 per cent, versus the national average of 80.4 per cent.

With the UNDA as a table A provider, all non-medical domestic undergraduate students at the UNDA will have access to Commonwealth supported places. The University of Notre Dame will also have access to the Job-Ready Graduates package; to reforms such as the National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund, which will support better university-industry engagement; to demand-driven funding for its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students; and to Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program funding. This funding helps to improve access for people from regional and remote Australia, people with low-SES backgrounds and Indigenous students—all of whom, of course, are close to my heart. HEPPP also helps to improve the retention and completion rates of those students. These changes will be in place from 2021. In the MYEFO 2020-21, the government committed to investing $27.2 million over the four years from 2020-21 and $133.3 million over the 10 years to 2029-30, to support the University of Notre Dame 's current and future students.

The university and its community fully support the recategorisation of this university as a table A provider. Until this legislation passes, I'm putting transitional arrangements in place to ensure that UNDA students have access to Commonwealth-supported places in time for semester 1 of 2021. However, this bill needs to be introduced in autumn 2021's sitting period to give the University of Notre Dame access to the full Job-Ready Graduates reforms as soon as possible in 2021. This will better position the university to serve its community and meet the challenges of the future.

On that last line—meeting the challenges of the future—for the last 25 years Australia's had a pretty good run. Our universities have had a good run. Our economy has been a powerhouse that has led the world in many aspects of what we're doing, and this government has been able to capitalise, on behalf of the Australian people, on that general benefit that came to this nation. However, we hit a T-intersection last year and it was called COVID-19. The government acted quickly to move on every front it possibly could for the benefit, wholly, of the Australian people, of the nation. But now we have a challenge before us, and part of this legislation that outlines research capacity means that these researchers are on the front line for our recovery. They're on the frontline for our future. We need every researcher working for us, on behalf of us.

There were times when we as a nation found ourselves not able to deliver for our people the way we should have been able to because of our reliance on international supply chain deliveries. I just name drugs for one. For the common drugs that we need—for instance, blood pressure drugs and all sorts of normal-activity drugs that make life better for older Australians and some younger Australians—we found that all those generic drugs were being produced somewhere else. These researchers can take us to a place where we as a nation will become far more resilient, with the supply chains that we need within the nation so we can deliver to other countries in times of stress, such as now.

It flows on even to other things. We found that we were relying on other nations for our merchant shipping. It is time for us to have our own fleet. It is time for us to look to ourselves through these research programs and through lots of other measures and activities. I'm sure the innovative and inventive nature of Australians and the research that we undertake will make a huge difference to how we recover and where we find ourselves in five, 10, 20 and 30 years. We as a nation have the responsibility as people with our backs to the wall to do what our forefathers did. Our forefathers were innovative and creative and they gave us this amazing nation we have today which is more resilient because of these researchers than we would otherwise be. Thank you for the opportunity to speak on this very important bill.

12:26 pm

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fenner, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury) Share this | | Hansard source

As a former professor at the Australian National University, I hadn't expected that I would have the opportunity of being in a parliament when two higher education bills were being debated consecutively, this one being the Education Legislation Amendment (2021 Measures No. 1) Bill 2021. It's indeed an exciting day for higher education to have received so much focused attention from the parliament. But there is some slight tension between these two bills. We have just finished debate on a bill ostensibly about academic freedom of speech and we are now debating the Australian Research Council, a body in which the coalition has meddled, thereby reducing the freedom of speech of academics and reducing the tradition of careful, impartial scholarship and independent peer review.

Academic freedom of speech is a great thing. It was Gough Whitlam who said:

Academic freedom is the first requirement, the essential property of a free society. More than trade, more than strategic interests, more even than common systems of law or social or political structures, free and flourishing universities provide the true foundation of our western kinship, and define the true commonality of the democratic order.

Just imagine how much more significant those words would have sounded delivered in Whitlam's mellifluous baritone.

Is there a free speech crisis in Australian universities? The government sent former Chief Justice Robert French to investigate, and he came back and said:

From the available evidence however, claims of a freedom of speech crisis on Australian campuses are not substantiated.

The only reason we had the former bill before the House was that the government did a dirty deal with Senator Hanson and One Nation to pass laws to cut universities and jack up fees.

And yet, when it comes to the Australian Research Council, the government has been unwilling to follow through on the principles of freedom of speech and academic integrity that demand that the Australian Research Council not be politicised. As a former academic, I spent many hours putting together Australian Research Council grants, of which I'm grateful to say a number were successful, and a number of hours also assessing the grants of others. It's a painstaking process. There is committee upon committee set up to carefully ensure that, when a grant is put forward to the Australian Research Council, it is scrutinised by Australian and sometimes overseas assessors to ensure that it is operating to the best standards of scholarships. Australian Research Council grants are difficult to get. The rejection rate is high. Many good applications are not funded. What scholars expect is that when they put forward a grant proposal their track record and the ideas they put forward will be appropriately scrutinised by their peers. What they do not expect is a process that comes in from left field and knocks them out.

This occurred in 2005, when the then education minister, Brendan Nelson, set up a secret committee at the instigation of the then Quadrant editor, PP McGuinness, to scrutinise grants to work out whether they accorded with the secret committee's views. That resulted in at least three grants—perhaps as many as 20; we still don't know the number—being knocked out by then minister Brendan Nelson. It was a travesty. It went against the principles of academic freedom, intellectual integrity and the independence of the Australian Research Council. Yet 13 years later Senator Birmingham did it again—with, it must be said, the connivance of the Australian Research Council; he ensured that a number of grants were knocked out. These included early career awards on 'Price, medals and materials in the global exchange', 'Legal secularism in Australia', and 'Soviet cinema in Hollywood before the blacklist 1917-1950'. It saw the rejection of future fellowships on 'The music of nature and the nature of music' and 'Writing the struggle for Sioux modernity'. It saw the rejection of discovery project grants on 'Music heritage and cultural justice in the post-industrial legacy city' and 'Greening media sport'.

The victims of this partisan political meddling by Senator Birmingham were overwhelmingly in the humanities, but those who spoke up came from across academia. There was outrage, naturally, from the Australian Academy of the Humanities, with Joy Damousi saying:

The Australian research funding system is highly respected around the world for its rigour and integrity … This interference damages Australia's reputation on the world stage. Withdrawing funding by stealth threatens the survival of a strong humanities teaching and research sector, something no democratic society can do without.

There was also criticism from the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, saying 'the integrity of the research funding system relies on a robust, independent peer review process'.

John Shine, from the Australian Academy of Science, said:

Much of the value provided by research to policy makers and the public is due to its unbiased and independent nature and this should not be eroded.

Mike Ewing, from the Australian Business Deans Council, said:

The intervention disregarded, and undermined the integrity of, a world-class peer-review process in favour of a politicised agenda.

We heard from Catriona Jackson, the CEO of Universities Australia:

The current system is internationally-recognised as the best practice process for awarding research grants. Political interference in funding decisions undermines the integrity of the system.

Colin Sterling, the chair of Innovative Research Universities, said:

We have heard many calls in recent weeks for universities to defend intellectual freedom on campus. This includes the freedom for academics to pursue and express ideas without fear of political interference or retribution. It seems that we must redouble our efforts in defence of the humanities, arts and the social sciences.

Likewise, from Vicki Thomson of the Group of Eight:

This is a government that demands freedom of speech on campus but at the same time walks all over academic freedom; a government that, without transparency or explanation secretly vetoes some $4 million in research projects that have undergone a rigorous peer review process and have been judged worthy for recommendation to the minister by the ARC.

The analogy from Catriona Jackson is apt:

You don't expect the federal sports minister to choose Australia's Olympic team. In the same way, we rely on subject experts to judge the best research in their field, not politicians.

I know from speaking to former colleagues at the Australian National University and other universities how dispiriting it was for those who had pored over grant applications for hours, who had flown to the consideration meetings and spent time in airless rooms eating stale pastries and sipping coffee as they worked through hundreds of applications for grants, winnowing out those they felt were just not quite as good as the very best grants—then to have them knocked off by a minister who probably didn't even read the applications, a minister who probably just looked at the titles and decided to knock them off.

Minister Fletcher, who is at the table, is chuckling away. For him, this is just a laughing matter. He doesn't mind that his government wasted the time of academics. He doesn't mind that his government got in the way of the independent peer review process.

As Brett Hutchins and Libby Lester, a pair of applicants whose grant was rejected, said:

One cannot help but wonder: did the minister or any of his staff read our application or any of the other ten he chose to reject?

They pointed out that they had been told by the Monash Research Office:

This proposal is in the Top 10% of unsuccessful proposals within the discipline panel.

But that was not the case. It was not the decision of the Australian Research Council. The Australian Research Council, in fact, recommended that their grant proposal, 'Greening media sport', be funded. It was the minister who decided to knock it off.

I think it is particularly disappointing that the Australian Research Council connived in the cover-up of how these grants were knocked off. As an independent body, the Australian Research Council should have had the gumption to say very clearly, 'These 11 grants were recommended by us and knocked off by the minister.' They pretended to applicants that their grants were not sufficiently meritorious. That was a lie. It just wasn't true. The Australian Research Council should not have done that. They should have been very clear with applicants that those applications were successful on the grounds and criteria under which they had been submitted and they were knocked off by the minister.

It does speak to the lack of any sensible process on this that Minister Tehan, when he succeeded Minister Birmingham, made the decision to backflip on a number of these grants. He said, 'The projects are now markedly different.' I suspect the only thing that was markedly different was the minister. We moved from one minister to another and caprice from one turned into a modicum of generosity from another. The decision by Minister Tehan was the right one. It recognised the importance of the Australian Research Council grants process being upheld.

It would make far more sense to simply rein in the ministerial veto—either to have no process for the minister to veto grants and to have the Australian Research Council's independence entrenched in legislation in a way that would prevent future ministers from meddling in grants when they didn't like the title or, at the very least, to require a minister who knocks off grants to tough it out and give a statement to the parliament—to be absolutely honest to this parliament—as to why they're not listening to the advice of their own independent body. Why would we waste the time of academics reviewing independent research grants and setting up a process that ultimately the government doesn't follow?

My personal view is that there shouldn't be ministerial veto. The Australian Research Council process should be respected. We don't have this sort of meddling with other grant-giving bodies, such as the National Health and Medical Research Council. We haven't seen it in the past in the allocation of science grants. There's no reason that we ought to see it in the case of grants in the area of the humanities and social sciences. It would give much greater integrity to the process and it would give greater strength to the Australian Research Council if it had formal independence. But, if we can't have formal independence, let us at least have some honesty and transparency from ministers, like Minister Nelson and Minister Birmingham, who have chosen to knock off grants because they didn't like the titles.

Academic integrity is of supreme importance. It matters not just to universities but to us as a society. We are better off for having academics who are able to pursue projects based on the rigour and the importance of those issues within their discipline. We can never be sure where particular lines of academic inquiry will lead. Think of the development of wi-fi in the CSIRO. It was developed not because the CSIRO were looking to create a technology that would some day be used in all our homes and our smartphones but because they were interested in the mathematics of fast Fourier transforms. That mathematical inquiry led to a technology which sits in all of our pockets. In the same way, allowing free academic inquiry has led to breakthroughs in every discipline one can think of. It is a key principle of a strong democratic society, and it should be respected wherever you stand on the political spectrum. Robert Menzies and Gough Whitlam knew of the importance of universities. They recognised not only how universities add to our productivity and make us wealthier and more egalitarian but also the power of universities to change minds and allow us to better understand the human condition.

We are currently engaged in a world in which we face significant challenges ranging from climate change to China and to consideration of our national identity. We've seen a significant debate over Australia Day this year. We have conversations in this place which are informed by academic research. We have conversations in the public arena where academics play a critical role. Encouraging the integrity of the academic process is fundamental to a strong, vigorous and exciting society. It is critical to Australia better understanding ourselves and better understanding the world in which we live.

12:41 pm

Photo of Anne WebsterAnne Webster (Mallee, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Research, development and implementation are key to the future of Australia, and you would be hard pressed in this House to find anyone who doesn't agree with that statement. I am passionate about higher education and I'm passionate about supporting a strong research community in this country. As a PhD myself, I've spent my fair share of time at university and I understand the value that academic research has in our society at large. The bill currently before the House is underwriting the strength of our research community, and that's why I support this bill. The Education Legislation Amendment (2021 Measures No. 1) Bill 2021 amends the Australian Research Council Act 2001 to ensure that the Australian Research Council, ARC, can continue to support and serve Australia's vibrant research community.

As with many parts of the economy, we know that universities and other higher education providers are facing extreme difficulties due to the outbreak of COVID-19. That's why it's so important to support higher education providers to increase their offerings and protect students at this difficult time. A highly educated, well-trained and skilful population is a key element of Australia's strength as a democratic nation and will be instrumental to our economic recovery on the other side of the coronavirus pandemic. We need highly educated minds to build, restore, innovate and grow. The delivery of priority infrastructure projects announced in this year's budget, the Technology Investment Roadmap in the energy sector and the implementation of the Modern Manufacturing Strategy will deliver enormous economic benefits to our country. This is why it's so important that the government, through measures such as those contained in bills, support the higher education sector and the invaluable research that is conducted at university.

In regional areas such as my electorate of Mallee, there is also an ever-growing need for healthcare professionals, and the current crisis has laid bare the extent of this need. Delivering sufficient healthcare service provision for Mallee is a key priority for me. In Mallee, we face shortages of general practitioners, nurses and primary and allied healthcare professionals. In 2017, work was completed by the Victorian Skills Commissioner in the northern half of my electorate to identify the future workforce demands of the region. The Mallee Regional Skills Demand Profile estimated that, between 2017 and 2020, up to 4,400 new workers would be needed to support growth in the region. The report identified that almost one-quarter of these workers would be needed in the healthcare sector.

It's been incredibly encouraging that La Trobe University has been investing in regional health qualifications through a number of initiatives to meet the expected demand. Since being elected, I've been working closely with the vice-chancellor of La Trobe University, Professor John Dewar, to support La Trobe's Mildura campus and build on their offerings for regional students. La Trobe is doing a fantastic job with their Rural Medical Pathway program in partnership with the University of Melbourne. This program is the first to commence as part of the Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network, an initiative announced in the 2018 Commonwealth budget. Under this program, 15 students from regional and rural areas begin their studies at either of La Trobe's Bendigo or Albury-Wodonga campuses and undertake a three-year Bachelor of Biomedical Science degree before going on to study a four-year Doctor of Medicine at the University of Melbourne's Shepparton campus.

The Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network is one part of the $95 million investment to set up the Train in the Regions, Stay in the Regions program. The guiding logic behind this program is to train local to stay local. We know that people from a regional city or town who learn in a regional place have the best possible chance of graduating and staying in the regions to work. There are seven Mallee students undertaking this program in 2020: Alfred, Isabella, Abdo, Abigail, Kunind, Madeline and Oscar. When I met these students virtually, all indicated that they aspire to work in regional and rural areas after completing their study. Alfred, who was born in India, says he wants to travel Australia, work in remote communities and ultimately return to Mildura to work locally. Kunind wants to pursue a career in craniofacial surgery and hopes to bring this area of medicine to areas of rural Victoria.

I have asked La Trobe to go further with this program, and they have now developed a proposal to extend their highly successful Rural Medical Pathway to Mildura, giving students more options to train regionally. This proposal will bring the Bachelor of Biomedical Science to Mildura, which is incredibly exciting. La Trobe is seeking funding to establish this degree and to construct a wet lab at its Mildura campus. The La Trobe Rural Medical Pathway is end-to-end and maximises opportunities for people with rural backgrounds interested in practising medicine in rural and regional areas. It flips the current city-centric medical training model, with the majority of medical training undertaken in the regions. It's a brilliant proposal, and Professor Dewar and I have taken it to Minister Tudge for his support.

Over the past 30 years, La Trobe has become integral to the Mallee community. Eighty-seven per cent of students that graduate from the Mildura campus stay and work locally, and there are around 1,600 La Trobe graduates working in the region. The importance of this university to our region cannot be underestimated.

I've also been speaking with Professor Geoffrey Lord, the head of Federation University's Wimmera campus in Horsham. Professor Lord, together with the Wimmera Health Care Group, has a proposal that aims to reintroduce a Bachelor of Nursing to the Wimmera campus. Although the campus provides a Diploma of Nursing to around 75 students per year, Professor Lord and the community see the need and the demand for higher levels of nursing training through a bachelor program. Federation University is seeking funding to accelerate its plans for a state-of-the-art bachelor and graduate education and training facility in Horsham to house the Bachelor of Nursing. A program such as this would support the health workforce needs of the area and support the economic and population stability in the Wimmera Southern Mallee.

To support ideas such as these proposed by Federation University and La Trobe University, we need to allocate more Commonwealth support places for degrees based in regional areas. The government has made recent changes to give universities greater flexibility to use their Commonwealth support places for postgraduate courses, but new places need to be allocated to allow for the expansion of higher education in the regions. I have been advocating strongly for this.

There are many more reasons why higher education is so important for Mallee. Recently I also spoke about the need to improve access to vocational education and training opportunities to meet the rising need for skilled local jobs in Mallee due to a number of emerging industries with massive growth potential. In Mallee, we have seen extensive investment and growth in solar energy. We are becoming increasingly reliant on new technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics in agriculture and horticulture, and we are pushing for more value-driven innovation and value-adding manufacturing. I believe Mallee can be a leader for 21st century innovation, but bright minds will be required to lead these developments into the future. Again, the 'train local, stay local' approach will be crucial to supporting this growth and development. I am eager to see increased opportunities to be offered in STEM degrees in regional areas, similar to what we've seen with the Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network and the Rural Medical Pathway program by La Trobe University and the University of Melbourne. Supporting higher education providers to increase their offerings and making it easier for students to take up these opportunities will improve outcomes for regional areas and will help regions like Mallee meet and make their full potential.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to speak to another bill introduced by the government which is aimed at providing stronger protections for academic freedom and freedom of speech in Australia. The Higher Education Support Amendment (Freedom of Speech) Bill 2020 is important for fairness and equality at our academic institutions. The issue of free speech is essential in an educational context. I believe that robust debate is critical in the academic experience. Presenting ideas and being open to challenges on those ideas are essential to teaching and learning. Freedom of speech is crucial to our democracy, which is why it must be protected.

Clearly, there are circumstances where freedom of speech must be limited in order to prevent harm. Recently I've spoken about such situations in the context of social media platforms. Social media is an incredible tool for global communication, but it can also be used as a tool to abuse, harass, bully and defame. We need to develop certain limitations in the social media context to deal with these negative aspects of the platforms. The Parliamentary Friends of Making Social Media Safe, chaired by myself and the member for Newcastle, Sharon Claydon, aims to consider these ideas and continue this important discussion.

Limiting free speech in any context will always be a challenge, and this is especially true for universities. I believe that students need to feel comfortable expressing themselves, regardless of their opinions. Other students should also feel confident challenging these ideas with respectful debate. This is the best way for students to learn from each other, formulate their opinions on certain topics and learn how to convince other people of their perspectives. I fear that we have arrived at a point where students are no longer comfortable expressing themselves for fear of recrimination. Discourse has become binary with an us-and-them, left-and-right, black-and-white mentality, where the grey sits uncomfortably. This fissure is not helpful for either side and only serves to further entrench biases. Recently I read that the Australian National University published a gender inclusive handbook which recommends that staff replace the terms 'mother' and 'father' with 'gestational' parent and 'nongestational' parent. This type of recommendation leads to a culture of fear of saying the wrong thing. If a student or teacher is to be worried about saying something so simple as the word 'mother', one can only imagine what else a student might be worried about expressing. I believe that if academics are constantly worried about saying the wrong thing robust debate cannot take place, diminishing the overall learning experience for all involved.

Through several measures, including those outlined in the bill before the House, the Commonwealth government is supporting the quality and sustainability of higher education in Australia. Whether it's through ongoing support to Australia's vibrant research community or through measures to protect freedom of speech on campuses across the country, the Morrison-McCormack government is delivering for students and universities.

12:53 pm

Photo of Matt KeoghMatt Keogh (Burt, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

It is with great pride that I get to speak on the Education Legislation Amendment (2021 Measures No. 1) Bill 2021 today. One of the things that this bill addresses is the University of Notre Dame Australia; I believe that I am the only graduate and undergraduate of that university in this parliament. So it is fantastic to see what is actually happening in this legislation, and I'm very proud to be able to support it today. Universities obviously hold a very important place in our education ecosystem, and a university like Notre Dame expands on that ecosystem by providing a different style of education—one that is certainly targeted towards smaller class sizes. As part of the university ecosystem in which it sits, it strives to be part of that ever ongoing search for truth.

Notre Dame, under this legislation, will be elevated to be a Table A provider, which will put it on a more equal playing field with the other universities around Australia. Notre Dame Australia has a proven track record on delivering high-quality teaching and outcomes for its graduates. Notre Dame has a great track record, averaging almost 89 per cent of graduates finding employment within four months of graduation over recent years. Indeed, it ranks No. 1 for overall university experience, with a five-star rating for overall experience, teaching quality and skills development for the last 13 years.

Currently, The University of Notre Dame Australia receives a limited amount of Commonwealth supported places due to its status as a Table B provider. The number of places has not increased since 2015. This presents a huge equity problem. It means that many students, who clearly have qualified to study at the university, are not able to access a Commonwealth funded place for that study. It means that those students have to find the funds to pay for a full-fee place at the university. Indeed, it wasn't even possible to find any Commonwealth support to support those fees at all at the time I went to the university. We had to access the private NAB-run deferral of fees scheme which, unlike HECS, required repayment regardless of whether you landed a job and what your income was after university.

So the movement of Notre Dame into Table A is a fundamental part of providing equity to students at that university. It's about providing greater access to university education to students across Western Australia and New South Wales. And that's not just in metropolitan Perth but also in Broome, with its remote campus up there. It's one of the few campuses still operating remotely in Western Australia after a number of other universities have closed their satellite campuses. Obviously, that provides an enormous equity role in being able to provide the opportunity, particularly for Aboriginal students, to get access to a tertiary university education near country and on country for them. That's particularly around the very important areas of teaching and nursing. Also, expanding the opportunities in Fremantle and in Sydney will mean that more students have the opportunity not just of a university education but also of choice on the type of university education. That's choice which we have been providing across this country now for approximately 70 years when it comes to our school education and that will be better provided by moving Notre Dame into Table A. The bill before us will mean that those current full-fee-paying students and future students will have access to Commonwealth funded places. There won't be the requirement to pay for a full-fee place. As I said, that certainly beats having to use a fee deferral scheme through a private bank. This will be a $133 million investment over the next 10 years and it will go a long way to improving diversity of and access to education in Perth, Sydney and Broome.

As I said when I started, universities are a very important part of our overall education ecosystem. They're no more important than our TAFE system and our VET sector, and they're no more important than our schools' early childhood education. They all stand together as part of our education ecosystem. But one of the important things about university is the opportunity to challenge ourselves and to challenge ideas. Part of that comes from the opportunity we get not just in the formal lectures or in the tutorials and discussions but in the discussions that happen in the cafes, taverns and bars around our universities as well. Putting forward ideas and having them slapped down by your friends—and, sometimes, by your intellectual enemies—at the university is a very important part of your education. So as part of my commending this bill to the House, can I say to those people who I knocked around with at Fremantle campus of Notre Dame—known as 'the gang'—it was a pleasure to spend my university years with you. It's all your own fault that I am like this, with one exception—

Mr Fitzgibbon interjecting

Here we go! The member for Hunter is already heckling me on a bill about my alma mater. Here we go!

Photo of Joel FitzgibbonJoel Fitzgibbon (Hunter, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source


Photo of Matt KeoghMatt Keogh (Burt, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

I especially want to give a shout out to Lindsay Dodd; his 40th birthday is today. He's a great graduate of the Notre Dame campus at Fremantle. For anything that anyone has any concern with about my education I refer them to the member for Curtin, who admitted me to the university and lectured me in two of my units of law.

1:00 pm

Photo of Julian SimmondsJulian Simmonds (Ryan, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Education Legislation Amendment (2021 Measures No. 1) Bill 2021, obviously in strong support of the substantive bill because of the very important role it will play in assisting Australia's research community. The bill increases the Australian Research Council's funding caps in line with inflation, which will provide much-needed certainty and support to thousands of research projects. After the year we had last year, with COVID-19, certainty is what is most needed at this time. The bill makes important funding adjustments to the ARC Act in order to facilitate the ongoing operation of the ARC, updates the special appropriation funding cap administered by the ARC to include policy approvals and indexation adjustments, and extends the forward estimates through June 2024 for existing schemes within the Commonwealth National Competitive Grants Program to allow continued funding of quality research in Australia—and what incredible and quality research we do here in Australia.

I want to take the opportunity to speak about some of this research we are doing, and why it is important, and to give some examples, particularly in our home electorate of Ryan. We are very, very lucky in the electorate of Ryan to have within our boundaries the University of Queensland, one of the most eminent research institutions in the whole of Australia. I speak with absolute confidence, with not a hint of bias, when I say that UQ is absolutely top notch when it comes to research, if not producing research of the highest quality in this country. It certainly has some of the sharpest minds in our country, and I've had the pleasure of meeting many of them at the university to find out about the work they're doing and, in particular, to hear about the incredible passion they have for their work.

I have to say, to apply for funding through the ARC is no small feat for these researchers. It takes an incredible amount of work. It takes in some cases many years of preparation and preparatory research in order to facilitate these long-term funding agreements. They have a passion for what they do, and they have fleshed out their research in a way that allows them to cover ground that nobody has covered before and to really drill down into some important research propositions for our nation. It's because of the ARC funding that these very, very passionate people are doing some vital research that is changing and indeed bettering the way we do things right across the nation, whether that be for families or for farmers. The innovation work being driven by UQ is outstanding.

I want to go through a few of these projects, because certainly UQ punch above their weight in terms of getting access to these grants and establishing these centres of excellence around their specific streams of research. I had the pleasure of announcing a project being undertaken through the Morrison government's funding, and speaking with the researchers involved, which was establishing the Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course, which is being led by Professor Janeen Baxter and is based at UQ. Importantly, the research is looking at new ways to tackle disadvantage and to better Australian families. This was actually all established prior to COVID-19 and its associated health and economic impacts on Australian families as a result of lockdowns, often snap lockdowns, which have kept children away from schooling for long periods and have kept children in family situations that are disadvantaged. The centre was established before all that, and it's never been more vital than it is now. The centre is using new methods and enhanced data to enable it to present a deep understanding that shapes and informs programs targeted at supporting families.

So, as we institute new programs that support families—and as a government we put a lot of money into this space—it's going to be informed by the very best research that is not only coming out of an ARC centre of excellence but coming out of our very own University of Queensland. It's working towards the Morrison government's commitment to break down those barriers Australians may face in gaining greater independence and choices and a better future for themselves and their families, because at the end of the day that's what we're here to ensure. I often speak in this place about the fact that supporting Australian families is absolutely a front and centre priority for me, as I'm sure it is for many in this place, and I'm incredibly proud to have this investment and work being done within the electorate of Ryan at the University of Queensland.

Another ARC centre of excellence at the University of Queensland is embarking on research that will boost Australia's agricultural industry. This is a space I don't have as much familiarity with, but, in speaking to these researchers, it is quite clear that not only are they passionate about what they do, but that they are at the absolute forefront of this—and not just in Australia, but right around the world. The Centre of Excellence for Plant Success in Nature and Agriculture is led by Christine Beveridge at the University of Queensland. Again, as a government, we are continually speaking of the importance of new technologies and innovating the way that we do things. We are continually talking about international competition and how we want to fund farmers to be at the very forefront of international agricultural practices.

We know that, post-COVID, the jobs of the future are going to be different. There are going to be different problems that we face, that we have to overcome, including in the agricultural sector, and this research is going to benefit our farmers in helping them to overcome these challenges and to further demonstrate the incredible resilience that Australian farmers already have in spades. Professor Beveridge and her team are identifying nature success stories within plants and translating these opportunities into a way to enhance yield and resilience within our crops. It's this kind of world-leading research—absolutely world-leading—using cutting-edge technology, that will help agriculture, which is a $100 billion industry, and create thousands of jobs for Australians.

They're just two examples. So when I say    there truly are some of the sharpest minds in Australia in Ryan, at the University of Queensland, doing that sort of work thanks to these grant and this funding, I know this bill ensures there is certainty for them, and this is no understatement. I have no doubt that the team of researchers at the University of Queensland will be a driving force in ensuring that Australia's research capacity and innovation capacity continues to be recognised on the world stage.

You don't want to talk too much about the positives that come out of COVID, because it has been a time of terrible stress for so many, but where there are a few positives to be seen then I think it's worth calling them out. One of the positives to come out of COVID-19 and the exceptional way that the Australian government and the Australian people have handled COVID is that we have, in fact, seen some of our best and brightest minds in research coming back to Australia or securing their future in Australia. When it comes to these incredibly talented researchers who are incredibly well-educated, there is obviously worldwide competition for their services. There's no end of governments who are willing to throw a lot of money at them to secure their services. But what we have seen is the fact that, beyond just the financial incentives, Australian researchers are seeing the value in the environment that we are creating here in Australia and the security that it's providing for their families. They're certainly coming back for the health security and also the economic security. They are coming back here to either re-establish their research fields and undertake their research fields in Australia, having previously been in international institutions, or they are looking at how they secure their research focus in the years ahead in Australia rather than looking to overseas for the next research opportunity. I think that's really, really encouraging for Australia. It gives us an incredible opportunity to leverage off their success, to leverage off their knowledge and to leverage off the incredible innovations that they are going to achieve.

With a bit of indulgence, while I am on the topic of research at the University of Queensland, I can't go past it without thanking those 100-plus researchers at the University of Queensland who were involved in the COVID-19 vaccine project thanks to this funding. I know they were bitterly disappointed that they didn't quite get there. They spent many, many hours—a lot of time away from their families—bunkering down so that they could go as fast as possible and try to make the COVID vaccine an Australian innovation. Despite their disappointment, we are not disappointed at them. We are certainly not disappointed at their efforts—in fact, we marvel at their efforts and we thank them very much for putting in the work that they have. I know, from speaking with them, that their efforts have not been in vain and that, in fact, an enormous amount of the work that they've put into the COVID vaccine will be reused and will put us at the forefront of vaccine innovation going forward—not only in Australia and not only at the University of Queensland but in the electorate of Ryan—and that is an incredibly powerful thing. That vaccine team have forged connections across the world, with counterparts in all four corners of the globe—connections that they simply didn't have before. They've forged those partnerships because of the way that COVID brought the international medical research community together, and they'll be able to leverage those partnerships for decades to come.

I want to take this opportunity, while I am on my feet in this House, to thank every one of those 100 people involved in those projects—not just the ones in the lab coats but all the support staff who made it happen, all the ones who applied for funding, all the ones who provided administrative support. To every single person who was involved in facilitating those long hours that those researchers were able to do to put Australia at the forefront of vaccine development going forward, we are so very proud of your efforts and we thank you very much.

I'm obviously in strong support of this substantive bill. It's going to help secure research funding going forward. It demonstrates, yet again, how the Morrison government is delivering for universities and, in particular, world-leading researchers. We know your value. We know the value of the innovations and talents that you're bringing to your selected fields. I hope that this bill's securing of funding going forward is a demonstration of how much we value your efforts. Please continue to do the great work you're doing on behalf of all Australians.

1:12 pm

Photo of Nicolle FlintNicolle Flint (Boothby, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm delighted to speak today in support of the Education Legislation Amendment (2021 Measures No. 1) Bill 2021, because I have two fantastic universities within my electorate. I'm very privileged to be the member for Boothby, which is a suburban electorate with not one but two wonderful institutions that do a lot of fantastic work for the South Australian community, the South Australian economy and the nation. They both make an international contribution, as well.

So I am delighted that our bill today will see funding going to the Australian Research Council and will demonstrate our continued support for the ARC. The bill will make sure that the ARC can continue to operate. It will update the special appropriation funding cap administered by the ARC to include policy approvals and indexation adjustments. The bill will also extend the forward estimates through to June 2024 for existing schemes within the National Competitive Grants Program, to allow for continued funding of quality research in Australia. Today I want to talk about some of that fantastic research that's going on right in the middle of my electorate and particularly at Flinders University.

I have spent a lot of time at Flinders University, because that's where I attended university and did my law degree and my arts degree. I was very privileged to study under incredible professors like Andrew Parkin, Dean Jaensch and Haydon Manning, who very much formed my views on policy and policymaking, taught me how to be a fantastic researcher and inspired me to be interested in politics, which is, in large part, how I ended up here.

I'm so lucky to be able to spend a lot of time at Flinders, talking to researchers and meeting with their wonderful vice-chancellor, Colin Sterling, who is a dynamic force and has done a wonderful job in his leadership of Flinders. Some of the projects that they currently have going have been made possible by Australian Research Council grants and include an interesting project between the College of Medicine and Public Health, at Flinders University, and Macquarie University. It will be looking at how hover flies and honeybees, with tiny brains and sensory systems, excel at making fast and accurate decisions while flying. It might sound like a quirky project. However, they are going to use the information that they gather from looking at brain recordings, flight analyses and modelling to generate new knowledge on how animals may utilise movements to simplify the way they sample information. The reason that they're doing this is so that they can extrapolate and learn from these very clever animals. They can then apply those learnings to neuroscience to look at how we can enhance the performance of autonomous robotic systems operating in challenging environments, such as disaster relief, mining and remote exploration. That's the kind of cutting-edge, very interesting work that's going on right in my electorate.

These projects also demonstrate the beauty of the ARC system, which brings together researchers from around Australia to work on projects of common interest. At Flinders University, in the College of Science and Engineering, they're researching coatings to control and eradicate unwanted marine biofilms. Biofilms grow on all surfaces and environments. They pose environmental threats and involve costly eradication efforts. This discovery project aims to develop novel electrically conducting carbon based paints that are stable in marine environments and to investigate how marine biofilms respond to these coatings. This could result in a green solution for controlling the biofouling of surfaces immersed in oceans.

South Australia has a fantastic and very strong fishing industry. We are very proud of the fact that we were one of the first jurisdictions in the world—I believe—to protect our marine environment and to implement quotas for things like the southern rock lobster so that wild caught fish were not overfished. We have a very strong sense of commitment to environmental responsibility, to sustainability and to making sure that we can go on to have strong, thriving fishing industries forever. As we have such a strong fishing industry and so many passionate recreational fishers, this project will be of great interest to anyone who spends time in the ocean, whether that's professionally or for leisure.

The Flinders University College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work are undertaking a very important project on the issue of domestic and family violence, which I know is of great interest and importance to everyone in this place. The project looks at how we can better support the workforce that deals with people who have endured enormous trauma. This project will generate evidence based research on the nature of work within the domestic and family violence sector and look at the implications for the domestic and family violence workforce across victim, perpetrator and Aboriginal specialist services. The expected outcomes include workforce development strategies that best respond to the needs of this workforce. I'm sure everyone in this place would like to extend their thanks to everyone who works in the domestic and family violence sector, which supports people at their most vulnerable moments and tries to get them the support, safety and assistance they need to rebuild their lives.

The College of Medicine and Public Health is investigating a novel metabolic pathway in intestinal stem cells. This discovery project recognises that the gut is the most rapidly renewing tissue in the body. It is driven by a highly active stem cell niche that is critically regulated by bile acids. The disruption of bile acid has profoundly adverse effects on intestinal renewal and hence gut health. This project aims to look at how medical professionals and specialists can best assist people to look after their intestinal health.

As I mentioned before, the beauty of the ARC system is that it brings researchers together from around the nation. Flinders is partnering with a range of other universities. The College of Medicine and Public Health is also working with the ANU to look at understanding engagement to regulate the commercial determinants of health. The College of Science and Engineering is working with Adelaide university to look at the impacts of fire and rain on deep-time ecosystem assembly in Australia. The College of Science and Engineering is working with the University of Western Australia on saving seagrass from climate change. As I mentioned, South Australia has a strong and very beautiful stretch of coastline, seagrass and marine environment, and its health is of absolute importance to everybody in SA. The College of Science and Engineering is working on a University of Newcastle discovery project on bacterial polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon transport and degradation. The College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences is working with the University of New South Wales on a project titled 'Antipodean Geology: A Modern History of Southern Hemisphere Earth', and the College of Medicine and Public Health is working with the University of Western Australia on social practices of oral health in Australian preschool children.

We have a new vice-chancellor at the University of Adelaide, Peter Hoj, who I'm looking forward to working with. He has come back to South Australia, which is wonderful. The Waite Research Institute is one of the most unique campuses in the nation and even in the Southern Hemisphere, because it has the largest concentration of agriculture and wine research in the Southern Hemisphere. It's just on the edge of the city—it takes about 10 minutes to get there from the CBD—and it sits on 184 hectares. It is a unique and beautiful site, and we are so lucky to have such an incredible agriculture and wine research precinct. It works with CSIRO and with industry bodies to do research on wine, horticulture, plant biotechnology, cereal breeding and food and agriculture. The very historic site also includes the beautiful Urrbrae House—and I say hello to all of the wonderful friends of Urrbrae House—and the Waite Arboretum. I have a lot of amazing volunteers in my community that interact with the campus.

While the Waite campus of the University of Adelaide is not purely about research, it does have some wonderful Australian Research Council projects currently underway, including the ARC Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production. This is a really important project. Obviously we have a lot of climate challenges here in Australia, and we have long been a world leader when it comes to wine production, research, minimising water use, and the best vineyard and winemaking practices. The project will tackle new and age-old challenges to wine production through innovative, multidisciplinary research over the next five years. Through this project, the University of Adelaide, supported by Wine Australia, is bringing together wineries, vignerons, the Australian Wine Research Institute, the Australian Genome Research Facility, Charles Sturt University—again, partnering with another university—CSIRO and lots of other wonderful companies and groups, making this a very important project. The interests and capabilities of these groups extend from grape to glass, so it's about the entire production cycle of wine. They will be looking at industry challenges and, importantly, how to increase industry profitability. I will monitor this wonderful project with interest, as it looks at viticultural management, oneology—wine microbiology and wine chemistry—sensory science and winery process optimisation.

There are also some other wonderful projects going on at and around the Waite. Through the University of Adelaide's Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, they are involved in the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology. This project is looking at the ability of cells to move and maintain proper shape, which is very important for development, repair and survival in multicellular organisms. The University of Adelaide is also working with the Australia-China Joint Research Centre of Grains for Health, which is looking at the growth of seeds. They expect to provide economic benefits by increasing the yield of agricultural crops during increasingly challenging conditions. These are just a few of the many brilliant and wonderful research projects going on in my part of the world, at both Flinders University and the University of Adelaide, and they are all enabled by the Australian Research Council and the Australian Research Council Act 2001. I'm very pleased to support this bill today so that we can continue to make sure the university sector and our wonderful researchers continue to be supported to do this groundbreaking research, partnering with people around the nation and around the world.

1:25 pm

Photo of Michelle LandryMichelle Landry (Capricornia, National Party, Assistant Minister for Northern Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank all members who have spoken in relation to the Education Legislation Amendment (2021 Measures No. 1) Bill 2021. This bill amends the Australian Research Council Act 2001, to ensure continuity of funding to Australia's research community through the funding schemes of the Australian Research Council, or ARC. The bill also amends the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to swiftly implement the government's 2020 to 2021 MYEFO decision to re-categorise The University of Notre Dame—the UNDA—as a Table A provider.

This bill is necessary so that there is no disruption to the funding support to Australia's best and brightest researchers, who are leading the country's effort to provide the highest quality fundamental and applied research. This bill places UNDA on a more equal footing with Table A universities. It will better serve UNDA students and will continue to achieve comparable outcomes to other Table A providers.

This bill will increase the ARC funding caps by $855 million over the period 2020-21 to 2023-24 to support hundreds of new research projects every year through the ARC's National Competitive Grants Program. These grants are for research and research training in all fields of research, including science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as the humanities, arts and social sciences.

I thank members for their contributions in debating these measures, supporting the government's continued commitment to the higher education and research sector. I commend the bill to the House.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Moreton has moved as an amendment that all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The question is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.

1:34 pm

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

It being past 1.30 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour.