SUBJECTS: Regional scholarship programme, AUKUS.
PAUL CULLIVER, HOST: The Assistant Minister for Education and Queensland Labor Senator, Anthony Chisholm, was here in Rockhampton yesterday announcing the establishment of the Commonwealth Regional Scholarship Programme. Assistant Minister, good morning to you.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Good morning, Paul. Good to be with you again.
PAUL CULLIVER: What is this programme? Why have you launched it?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Well, it was something the previous government announced, Paul, before the election last year but never got around to implementing. So it’s one thing that we committed to implementing, because we know that for many families there aren’t options in many rural, regional, remote, particularly for higher – for high school. So we think this programme supports those families because boarding school sometimes is the only option for
PAUL CULLIVER: Okay. How much is on offer?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: So there’s two parts to it. There’s 50 scholarships at $20,000 a year for those on low incomes and then there’s 50 scholarships at $10,000 a year for those on lower to middle incomes. So there’s two parts – 50 scholarships. But the important thing – and this is the change that we’ve made from what the previous government announced – is that it will be for the full secondary schooling. So for the six years. And that was based on feedback from the Regional Education Commissioner Fiona Nash, amongst others, we’re the indication was it’s better to support these students for the full length of secondary rather than sending them off to boarding school for, say, 10, 11, 12. So we think that this is a better scheme and one that will support families being able to make those decisions in what is a really tough environment with the cost of living at the moment, Paul, as I’m sure you’ve picked up amongst your listeners.
PAUL CULLIVER: So, I imagine since it’s for low and middle income earners it’s got to be means tested. Is that tested throughout the scholarship? Say, you know, for example, you get through three years of schooling and all of a sudden your parents perhaps are in a much better financial position. Does that scholarship get revoked?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Yeah, and that’s something that we’re working through with the department at the moment, Paul. So the guidelines will be established in coming months and people will be able to apply. And I expect amongst those guidelines there will be provision for the exact scenario that you identified.
PAUL CULLIVER: Yeah, sure. Is there some kind of rule or test on the distance or the remoteness that you have to be living in?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: There will be. And there’s – generally speaking it’s based on what the ABS decision making is around those definitions. But, again, that will be something that will be in the guidelines. But because we want this to apply or to start from next year, we wanted to make the announcement yesterday, one, so families could know what is coming but also, importantly, to start talking to some of the boarding schools, like I did at Rockhampton Grammar yesterday, so that they can start thinking about how many they could potentially accommodate as well.
PAUL CULLIVER: Sure. And so I’m imagining if there’s only 50 places – 50 places a year, is that the idea?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: It will be – it’s a pilot programme, so it will be 100 places for next year. So 50 for the $20,000 a year.
PAUL CULLIVER: Okay, sure.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: And then 50 for the $10,000 a year.
PAUL CULLIVER: And so there’s only funding at the moment for 2024, for the commencement in 2024?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Yeah, effectively this will be a pilot programme so that we can take on some feedback about how effective it is and then make decisions about what we do fund on an ongoing basis.
PAUL CULLIVER: Sure. And then so 100 places. I’m imagining there’s going to be – there’s a lot more than 100 students across Australia that would perhaps be eligible for this. So how do you decide? Is it competitive?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: It will go through a process that the department will administer. And we’ll also potentially bring on some partners who have some experience in delivering these programs. So there are across departments various programs that encourage boarding school, children to go to boarding school. So we’ll be seeking advice from those organisations as well.
PAUL CULLIVER: Is a student’s academic sort of abilities, is that going to be a factor in the decision-making?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: That wasn’t something that has been raised with me in the briefing. It would more be about the family’s socioeconomic status and location in terms of where they live as well.
PAUL CULLIVER: Yeah. I suppose what I’m sort of trying to get at here is the idea that while obviously for any family that is struggling to meet the costs of education and where distance is a big hurdle that’s going to be useful for them. But if you’ve got a much bigger cohort of students, you know, coming from low and middle-income households across Australia, I’m trying to figure out, is there a more equitable way to do this than just 100 students?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Yeah, and I suppose based on the feedback that we had our advice was that supporting the students for the full six years of secondary was more effective than just doing a larger group for a smaller period of time, their senior secondary, so to speak – so 10, 11, 12. But, again, Paul, that’s why this is a pilot programme. That’s why we do want to take on some feedback about how effective it is. But it also needs to be seen in the broader context of schools and education funding, and that’s obviously the new school reform agreement will be up for renewal and that’s going to be delayed for 12 months as we embark on a review to ensure that we’re putting in the effective mechanisms to lift standards across the country. That, I suppose, is the most important thing that we can do so that all schools are attaining a high level.
PAUL CULLIVER: So 2024, these will just be students going into secondary school that are eligible for this first round?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: That’s correct, Paul, yeah.
PAUL CULLIVER: So if there – I mean, if people are listening to this going, “Well, yeah, I’ve got a young person in my household who’s going into that; I’m very interested to find out more,” you know, what do they need to do to make sure they’re in for contention here?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: They’ll – further information will be released in coming months. So keep an eye on the Education Department website. I know that the Isolated Children’s Parents Association, so I spoke to them yesterday, their president, and they’ve shared information about it as well. So I’m sure if you stay connected to them via their social media channels that you’ll see the information become available once we do set out the guidelines and announce that applications can be submitted.
PAUL CULLIVER: I just wanted to ask you quickly as well about the AUKUS subs deal. Obviously you are a Queensland Labor senator. We spoke to Senator Matt Canavan of the LNP a couple of days ago. He was saying, “Look, maybe we could get these submarines to Gladstone.” We just actually happened to be speaking to the guys in the Ports Corporation, and they actually said, “Well, there’s no reason we couldn’t have submarines in Gladstone,” like, the facilities are there. Do you think there’s an angle here? Do you think AUKUS could see opportunities for central Queensland?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: I’ve got no doubt about that, Paul. And I know I met with a delegation of mayors from the Central Queensland region, I think it was towards the end of last year. It was a really sophisticated proposal that they put forward about trying to increase the amount of defence spending through the central Queensland region. It’s something that I am passionate about as well because whilst we do have some great establishments and do well in Rockhampton and Townsville for instance, I think there’s an enormous opportunity to grow that. So really committed to working with central Queensland mayors and residents to ensure Queensland’s best foot is put forward.
PAUL CULLIVER: Senator, thanks for your time today.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Thanks, Paul. Good to with you.
PAUL CULLIVER: Senator Anthony Chisholm, Assistant Minister for Education and, of course, Queensland Labor Senator for Queensland.