SUBJECTS: Migration Review, Anastasia Palaszczuk Resignation, Deakin University green energy hub.
RHIANNON ELSTON [HOST]: Well, joining me live now is Assistant Minister for Education and Regional Development, Anthony Chisholm. Good morning, Senator. As we've been hearing this morning, the government is cracking down on international students as part of its migration shakeup, surely that's a blow for the higher education sector.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM [ASSISTANT MINISTER]: We want to make sure that students studying here are genuine and are here for the right reasons. So, we've been working constructively with the sector over the last twelve months as numbers have increased and I've met with a lot of universities in recent weeks and they all say that their student numbers are back to a level almost what they were pre-COVID. But we want to ensure that they're here for genuine reasons and there has been examples in recent times of that visa system not adequately dealing with that. So, we want to make sure that we end the rorts, but we have genuine international students here because it's great for the universities, but it's also great for our economy and the future of the country as well.
ELSTON: Well, it's been a very big weekend in Queensland politics. What's your response to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk stepping down?
CHISHOLM: I'm just really pleased for her. I know Annastacia quite well. I ran her first successful election campaign in 2015. She's won three elections, the first female leader to do that. And I'm just really excited for her that she goes out undefeated and on a high and I think she's made a tremendous impact on Queensland over the last decade and I wish her all the best.
ELSTON: There was a lot of speculation in the lead-up to this, were you expecting it?
CHISHOLM: No, I was surprised. I know Annastacia pretty well and she's pretty determined and when she says she wants to stick around, I believed her. But she's obviously had a change of heart and that's fair enough. It is a really tough job and I think being Premier for nine years in the modern age, that's quite a remarkable record. When you think about New South Wales, they’ve gone through three or four Premiers whilst we've had Anastasia in Queensland. So, I think that dealing with COVID was a really tough couple of years and obviously took a lot out of leaders. When you think about Mark McGowan, Gladys Berejiklian as well, who've moved on, I think it shows you how steadfast she's been, but also what a champion for Queensland she's been over a decade. So, quite a remarkable career, really.
ELSTON: Well, it's shaping up to be a three-way race to replace her. Who are you backing?
CHISHOLM: I'm happy to leave it to the Queensland caucus. I don't think they'd take too well to federal senators jumping in and telling them what to do. But what I know about the Queensland Labor Party is we're a really stable party. We haven't had a leadership ballot in Queensland since I was in primary school and that was a long time ago, Rhiannon. So, I'm confident that we've got a number of quality candidates and I'm confident that one will emerge who will have the unanimous support of the caucus and they'll take the party forward and they'll also take Queensland forward as well in what will be a big twelve months for whoever takes over.
ELSTON: Well, does Labor face a tough time in Queensland from here?
CHISHOLM: I think you do, obviously, going for your fourth election win in a row, but they obviously get the opportunity to refresh under a new leader. I imagine that will mean some new people will come into Cabinet, they'll have new ideas and new energy. So, I think that this is a good time for Premier Palaszczuk to announce a retirement and give a new team that opportunity. I think that they've got a good record, but obviously that's the opportunity that presents them over the next twelve months, is to present that in a new way to the Queensland people. And at the end of the day, it does become a contest and a contrast. And we know that in Queensland, the LNP just haven't been up to it for most of the last three decades. So, that will be the real focus of a stable Labor Government under a new leadership team versus an Opposition that really can't get their act together and haven't been able to get their act together.
ELSTON: Okay, well, to a different topic now you're launching a major recycling and clean energy hub at Deakin University today. Tell us about that.
CHISHOLM: Yeah, it's a really exciting announcement. I'm down here in Geelong and about to head to Deakin University and this will have a real focus on regional areas. So, Ballarat, Bendigo, Warrnambool will all benefit from this announcement. And it's about the economy of the future and Deakin University are right at the forefront of that. It's about how we can turn all that waste that we create, the millions of tonnes of landfill a year, and how can we turn that into fertiliser or clean energy and make it more productive. So, it really is an exciting announcement and it's really great that Deakin will be at the forefront of this, but regional areas will benefit from it as well in terms of the job and economic investment that will flow from it.
ELSTON: So, how does it work, the technology?
CHISHOLM: Well, I'll get a good briefing on that today, but what it's really focused on is using landfill and creating that into other products that can be used. So, fertiliser, for instance, feedstock for agriculture as well. So, it really is about using the circular economy and creating economic opportunity jobs that go with it. And obviously, Geelong is a real manufacturing hub. We're confident that this will lead to jobs being created, economic investment right across regional Victoria.
ELSTON: You're estimating that it will generate about $1.4 billion in revenue and two and a half thousand jobs in the next decade, how and what sorts of jobs will be available for locals in that area?
CHISHOLM: Obviously, the aim is to commercialise these products. So, the university program will be involved in research and then we want to try and commercialise that. So, they've already got ten partners from industry that are interested in it. So, what we want to see is the best scientific minds applying their research to products that can be used and commercialised. So, what we want to see is factories and hubs being created that will employ people and then those products will go to making the country more productive, making our farmlands more productive as well. So, it's a really exciting announcement and it's great that this can be based in a regional area where we do want to create those jobs of the future because we're excited about what that means.
ELSTON: Okay. Assistant Minister for Education and Regional Development, Anthony Chisholm. Thank you so much for your time.
CHISHOLM: Thanks for your time. Good to be with you.