SUBJECTS: Port Expansion, Hinkler Regional Deal, Opening of Regional University Study Hub Applications.
DAVID DOWSETT [HOST]: Live with me in the studio is Senator Anthony Chisholm, Assistant Minister for Education, and Assistant Minister for Regional Development. Anthony Chisholm, good morning.
ANTHONY CHISOLM [ASSISTANT MINISTER]: Good morning, David. Good to be with you and your listeners.
DOWSETT: Yeah. What brings you to our region today?
CHISHOLM: We’ve been on a "bush blitz", we've been calling it, so I've been through Rockhampton, Longreach and Winton over the last couple of days and got into Bundaberg last night, and we're here to officially open the Port Expansion, which is a great opportunity, creating new jobs and hopefully new industries, and that will be a good boost to the local area, and on the ground, listening, learning as part of the Federal Labor Government.
DOWSETT: Right. So, expansion of the port. What sort of opportunities do you see there?
CHISHOLM: So, the common user infrastructure that will be part of this with Pacific Tug being the business that's been a part of this, and the $5.7 million Federal Government commitment, really is about creating opportunity for businesses to be based there, but also the opportunity for more export/import as well. So, we think that this is an area that has a lot of potential growth in this area, and the port is the obvious place for this to happen. So, we think it will create economic opportunity, jobs for the long‑term, and we think that's a good thing for this local community.
DOWSETT: So, export/import. What sort of things are you thinking of there?
CHISHOLM: Well, obviously produce is what Bundaberg and the surrounding area is well known for. I think last time I was up I went through one of the macadamia plants, we've seen the growth in that area and the jobs that it's created. So, we think that there's good opportunity here. We'll be down at the port a bit later this morning, where we'll get a tour of the new facilities, and Pacific Tug have done a really good job there, where they're really keen to expand the port and create new opportunities for the region, which is great.
DOWSETT: Will that include some renewable energy opportunities?
CHISHOLM: That's something that I've been briefed on by Pacific Tug over the last couple of months. I know it's something that they're focused on. I think there does need to be a second stage of the expansion for that to take place, but we certainly see that as an opportunity. I'll have the Treasurer with me today, he's keen to be briefed on it as well, and I know that the Pacific Tug, the Council, the State Member, Tom Smith, are talking to the State Government as well.
DOWSETT: So that second stage, what will that involve?
CHISHOLM: I think it needs to be a little bit longer, as you could imagine, David, getting some of these materials in for the turbines, means you need quite substantial ports, but we think that, that is an opportunity, as I said, I've been briefed on it by the company, and I think that they're people who are really determined to see that expansion happen.
DOWSETT: Yep. When it comes to the Hinkler Regional Deal, where would you say you're at with that?
CHISHOLM: I think we've made really good progress on that. I've had a couple of meetings with Mayor George Seymour from Fraser Coast as well, and he's someone who's been ensuring that we deliver on our part of the bargain. So as far as the Federal Government are concerned, we're committed to delivering on the Hinkler Regional Deal, and ensuring that all components of that take place.
DOWSETT: So, looking ahead for our region, what do you see are some of the really big opportunities for this area?
CHISHOLM: I certainly think that the transition to renewable energy is an important one, and one that I think this local area can benefit from. I think the port is an obvious priority there in terms of seeing if we can get that second expansion done and it become a real input hub for turbines and so forth. Obviously, the produce and trade is significant here. We've really focused on ensuring that we can deliver on free trade deals, but we want to do them in a way that benefits local communities like this one, and local produce, so we think that is important, and obviously in terms of what my focus is on education, we want to ensure that local children here are getting the same opportunity as those other parts of the country, and we think we've got a really good opportunity over the next 18 months to put the resources where they're going to make the most difference in education, and I think places like Bundaberg and surrounding areas can be a key beneficiary of that.
DOWSETT: So that's where the regional university hubs come in?
CHISHOLM: Yeah, absolutely. So, we announced as part of the Interim Universities Accord that there would be an additional 20 regional university hubs around the country. We're announcing today that applications will open for the first 10 of those, and we're really excited about that. I've been to a number of them around the country. They're creating opportunity for local region, and the other thing that it is, is that it's training the next nurse or the next teacher in those communities, and we know that if someone trains in their local communities they're more likely to stay and work there, and I think that's a real key part of this, so that we know that we're got a shortage of teachers around the country, we know that medical professionals are always in demand, so that's the exciting part for me is thinking that in some of these communities we're going to train their next nurse or their next teacher from the local community.
DOWSETT: So how would they differ to existing university facilities in the region at the moment?
CHISHOLM: So what they normally are is in smaller communities that don't have a regional university presence, and the exciting thing for me, having observed a number of them now, is the outreach they do into the schools, so talking to the nine ‑ Grade 9, Grade 10, Grade 11, Grade 12 students, and encouraging them to think about going to university. I think someone like myself, who is the first in their family to go to university, often universities can be a bit daunting if you don't know anyone who's been there, and I think that's a challenge for a lot of the smaller communities where these regional university hubs have been established, is they don't necessarily have that cultural tradition of going to university. So we think that these hubs are a good addition, they're creating that opportunity so that people don't have to move away from their local communities, but they're also going out into the local communities and talking about what they provide so that children, when they're thinking about what they're going to do when they finish school, "Well, I don't necessarily have to leave town, I can study at any university around the country and stay local."
DOWSETT: So, looking at our region then, what sort of areas do you think should apply to this?
CHISHOLM: I would have thought, thinking about it this morning, David, I would have thought a place like Childers would be one, that if the community wanted to get together and put in a submission, I think that would be something that would be looked at, potentially Maryborough as well. I think that there, you know, obviously communities that are in the vicinity of university campuses, but the travel, it's not easy to travel between here and Childers, if you're a young person and don't have your own car, and I think that they do have young people there with a lot of potential. So, I would have thought communities like that would be some that have the potential to apply.
DOWSETT: North Burnett perhaps as well?
CHISHOLM: Yeah, absolutely, North Burnett, Eidsvold, those sorts of towns where, you know, they do have a vibrant school community, but it's about ensuring that that, you know, we just lose people who don't necessarily want to move away to study or can't forward to move away to study, they want to stay around home. Well, this means they can do that and study at university at the same time.
DOWSETT: And the process for applying, is that pretty straightforward?
CHISOLM: It is, so applications are now open. There's more information on the government website, and what we've seen is that communities, councils, often band together and put in a submission, and they're the ones that have worked best, when they've been community driven, 'cause it shows the passion of locals that we think that this is an opportunity we want to create for our young people.
DOWSETT: All right. Let's hope we get lots of applications from our region. Anthony, thanks for coming in. Enjoy your time in our region.
CHISHOLM: Thanks, David. Good to be with you.
DOWSETT: Senator Anthony Chisholm, Assistant Minister for Education and Assistant Minister for Regional Development, on ABC Wide Bay.