Parliamentary speeches

La Trobe University

June 12, 2020

I acknowledge the contribution just then by the member for Bass, which was a very affecting one, and I associate myself with her remarks.

La Trobe University is a critical institution in Melbourne's north. It is the university of the northern suburbs. Its vision for a future that is more closely connected to community and business across the north is something which I've been very excited about and deeply engaged in. It is a plan not just to continue to transform individual lives through the power of world-class tertiary education, but to reshape a regional economy. The university's impact is not just about Melbourne's north. It touches Bendigo, Wodonga, Shepparton and Mildura through campuses that are critical to those communities. And the significance is deeper: I think about the world-class research that is conducted at La Trobe University across a range of disciplines every day.

My engagement with that university community is very important to me, as it is to my colleagues the member for Jagajaga and the member for Cooper. Our electorates abut the Bundoora campus. I've been engaging deeply with the Vice-Chancellor, John Dewar, and his administration, staff and students, and the unions representing both as well, as the university grapples with extraordinary challenges—extraordinary challenges today and deeper challenges into the future.

I am devastated, on behalf of the communities I represent and the university community more broadly, by the fact that the Morrison Government has turned its back on students at Australian universities, putting at risk 21,000 jobs and so much more than 21,000 jobs. I am particularly devastated by the decisions which have treated La Trobe University with contempt. I think about the continuing moving of the goalposts with the sole intent to deny JobKeeper to save jobs at La Trobe University. Of course this neglect is nothing new. We have seen no policy certainty when it comes to higher education throughout the life of the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments. That makes it galling that the Liberals seek to blame universities for problems not of their making, when Minister Tehan should be taking responsibility.

I am proud that the petition I have organised to save jobs at La Trobe has had nearly 1,000 signatures already. I am so proud that the community is standing by jobs at La Trobe and that the university and the broader community is also standing by the international students who have been cruelly abandoned by this government. This is something that stands as a great indictment. A good society and a wealthy society such as ours should not be letting people starve.

Next year will be even more challenging for the university, which is why Minister Tehan cannot keep ignoring La Trobe University, nor can the members for Nicholls and Mallee. I ask them to join me and my Labor colleagues in standing up for La Trobe University.