Release type: Media Release


Interview - ABC Mid-West & Wheatbelt


Senator the Hon Anthony Chisholm
Assistant Minister for Education
Assistant Minister for Regional Development

BRANSEN GIBSON [HOST]: Well, yesterday, the Federal Assistant Minister for Education and Regional Development, Anthony Chisholm, and new Labor Senator for WA, Varun Ghosh, were both in Geraldton. Now, the Federal Government has announced that it is opening 10 new University Centres for regional Australia, with one of them set to open in Katanning in the Wheatbelt. The two politicians were here to visit the Geraldton University Centre, which is being used as the model. Now, I had to chat with them about why these new hubs are important, as well as a new research centre that's focused on renewable technologies. Minister Chisholm started off by explaining why he wanted to come to Geraldton.

ANTHONY CHISHOLM [ASSISTANT MINISTER]: I've been to other parts of Western Australia, but never been to Geraldton before. And one of the main reasons was your Regional University Centre, which was one of the first set up across the country and has been a really great success. But it's obviously better if you can come and hear it in person. So, that's the aim of today, as well as visiting local schools and the Port as well.

GIBSON: Varun, the Federal Government has announced 10 new University Hubs for regional Australia. One's going to be in the Pilbara and one in the Wheatbelt at Katanning as well. Why is that a big deal?

VARUN GHOSH [WA SENATOR]: Well, these new hubs are particularly important because they give students a chance to continue their tertiary studies while living at home, staying in their communities, surrounded by their family and friends, which is obviously sometimes a better way of studying and a more enjoyable way of doing it. But it also means that when they finish their studies, they're more likely to stay in the regions and take jobs in the regions because they haven't left.

GIBSON: And why is that important? To be able to have that connection to home, both while you're studying and then after graduating as well, do you think?

GHOSH: Well, I think we all understand now the importance of community and family, particularly in terms of providing for people's wellbeing. So, while universities are very good at training people academically, having your family and friends around you and being part of your local community while going through that experience provides a more holistic experience, I think, for most students.

GIBSON: Minister Chisholm, you're going to be hosting a roundtable while you're here as well. What's going to be discussed there?

CHISHOLM: It'll be an opportunity for me to learn more about the local economy. So, I've been to other places which are obviously a bit more resource rich than we are here. So, I understand there's other factors that drive the economy here in Geraldton - I just saw a big cruise ship terminal boat turn up this morning. So, it really is an opportunity for me to hear more. We're obviously also thinking about what we can do better from a Federal Government point of view. And we understand that if the economy is going well, economies in Geraldton are going well. So, it's an opportunity for me to learn and listen and add to that regional development opportunities that we've got to support local economies.

GIBSON: Minister, you've just opened up the $18.6-million-dollar Curtin Venture Studio. What is that?

CHISHOLM: Yeah, so that's part of the Trailblazer Program. So, there's been six rolled out across the country. This one is associated with Curtin, but also University of Queensland and James Cook in my home state of Queensland, and it really is focused on critical minerals and developing critical minerals as the jobs of the future, but also the important role that they will play in new cars, in solar, in wind and so many other applications. So, the $18.6 million dollars specifically will actually work to commercialise these projects. So, probably the best example we saw yesterday, which was quite amazing, was the ability to make graphite by heating up products to 3000 degrees Celsius in the matter of seconds. So, this work has been created through the support of the $18.6 million dollars.

GIBSON: Senator Ghosh, how do you think that studio will help development of renewables in regional Australia and WA in particular?

GHOSH: Well, the focus of that program is on resources, technology and critical minerals, which is obviously a very important part of how we make the transition in our economy and in our society to a net zero state. In terms of how it's going to operate, often industry and research in universities are siloed or kept separate from each other and this program essentially bridges that gap by embedding researchers into industry, or potentially industry people into the research environment, so that they can cooperate more to develop those solutions.

GIBSON: Minister Chisholm, we've been talking in recent days about green hydrogen. It's a big renewable technology. It's expanding in Queensland, in WA as well. There's a project planned for the Murchison, but many locals in the nearby town of Kalbarri are really concerned about the impacts that some of these constructions as part of the plant will have. How do you think renewables and communities can co-exist?

CHISHOLM: I think this is an important question and I see it in many parts of the country that I travel to. I see really good examples of companies doing the right thing, engaging with local communities and really tailoring their project to ensure that they can work with local communities as a result. But I also understand that that hasn't been done. I'm not absolutely aware of that project that you're talking about. But I certainly know from a Federal Government point of view, we want to ensure that local communities are being listened to and that state and federal governments need to ensure that they play their role in the approvals process in a robust way as much as we can to take the community with us.

GIBSON: I suppose expanding on that, will it be more than just listening though? Will their concerns actually be factored in? Or is it the kind of thing where you share your opinion but it sort of stops there?

CHISHOLM: I understand the point you're making. It shouldn't be like that, is the point I'm making is that if there are genuine concerns, they should be able to be raised and they should be able to be dealt with as part of the process, and as I said I see good examples of that, where you see reputable companies working with local government and communities to achieve good outcomes and that needs to be the standard and we shouldn't accept anything less.

GIBSON: Minister Chisholm, Senator Ghosh, thanks very much for taking the time to have a chat.

CHISHOLM: Good to be with you.

GHOSH: Thank you very much.

GIBSON: Federal Assistant Minister for Education and Regional Development Anthony Chisholm, and new Labor Senator for WA, Varun Ghosh. There, they were in Geraldton yesterday. That was them speaking about new Regional University Study Hubs that are opening up. There's one plan to open in Katanning. Geraldton University Centre is the model for those and they're also speaking about renewable energy.