Release type: Transcript


Charles Darwin University - Doorstop


The Hon Jason Clare MP
Minister for Education

SUBJECTS: CDU Testlab, advance manufacturing and vocational training, Darwin development projects, COVID, remote schooling, universities


SCOTT BOWMAN: I’ll start by warmly welcoming our Chief Minister here today, the Minister for Education. And if I can just start, as always by acknowledging the traditional owners of the place where we’re meeting on this day, the Larrakia here, people, and I pay my respects to the elders past, present, and - incredibly important for an educational institution - the emerging leaders and the elders of tomorrow. And can I just say that this program really has a very deep involvement with First Nations people, this will generate jobs for First Nations people and have lots of opportunities. 

The university's vision is to be Australia's most connected university, through being courageous and making a difference. And this centre that we are launching today fits that vision completely. This connects the university with government: Territory Government, Federal Government. It connects us with industry. It connects us with communities. It connects us very importantly, with the defence industry. So this university is really growing its links with all arms the defence sector in Australia. 

I think why this is a particularly great place to put this initiative is because of the place that we're in. Northern Australia and the Northern Territory in particular, are absolutely central to Australia's defence security, border security, biosecurity, energy security, just about every security starts here in the Northern Territory. And this centre will really sense strengthen our security across the whole range of those important issues. So one reason why we are here is because the location we're in, but also it's very appropriate for this university, because we have some of the absolute top scientists and engineers, not in Australia, but in the world. And you're going to hear from one of those in a minute. But we also do degree education, and importantly vocational education. So a lot of the initiatives that will come out of this centre, yes, they will generate research, yes, they will generate degree students, but they will generate vocational opportunities, and vocational occupations. And that's really important. So we've got a fully joined up system at the university that can link in with a centre. 

So I am so pleased we're launching this centre, it's wonderful to have a connection in the centre, with the Territory Government with the Federal Government. And I just look forward to seeing this initiative grow and grow and become an incredibly important aspect, not just the territory, but for the whole of Australia.

NATASHA FYLES: Natasha Fyles, Chief Minister. This is a really exciting project not only for Charles Darwin University, but for the Northern Territory and Australia. And the Northern Territory is proud to partner to see the establishment of Testlab. This will see manufactured prototypes here in the territory. So not only keeps our community the opportunity to participate in the training, it allows for the growth of a manufacturing industry. And we know the Northern Territory future is very bright around manufacturing, but particularly in this bespoke area of defence and prototype, particularly for the drones, we've already got CDU putting in place programs are using drones to take medical supplies to communities and this is an area that will only grow further with the development of those prototype drones, and also to support Defence. So it's a really exciting day the Northern Territory Government is very proud to partner with the Commonwealth Government and CDU and I look forward to answering questions. Thank you.

JASON CLARE: Thanks Natasha, and thanks, Scott for welcoming me here today. It's great to be here in the Territory with the Chief Minister. Yesterday, I was out in West Arnhem Land with Eva Lawler the Education Minister for the opening of three schools in homelands. Today here in Darwin at CDU and then I'm heading out this afternoon to Taninmin College at Humpdy Doo and then off on a plane to Alice Springs, where I'm going to have a look at the work that the Commonwealth Government is doing in concert with the territory government in childcare and primary schools in Alice. 

I’ve been the Education Minister now for three weeks. I’m getting around the country meeting with Premiers, Chief Ministers, with Vice Chancellors and principals, teachers, students talking to parents, listening and learning. 

I truly believe that education is the most powerful cause for good in this country. If you want to have a look at what the future is - come to our schools, go to our universities. And you can see that on the faces, and in the work of the people behind the cameras who are doing some extraordinary work. 

CDU is a fantastic university achieving some incredible things. After this press conference today I’m looking forward to heading back into town with the Vice Chancellor to have a look at the new campus that's being built in the heart of Darwin that I think will do more extraordinary things for the territory. 

This Testlab is all about bringing more businesses to the territory, more expertise, creating more jobs, building more skills right here in the territory. I talked about homelands that I visited a moment ago. Drones like this, built here at the university, one day will fly out of Gunbalanya and land in those homelands and deliver medicine to people that have been diagnosed with an online medical consultation. 

That's the future, building drones here, helping people wherever they live, whether they're in big capital cities, or in some of the most remote parts of Australia. And it's the smarts here at CDU that’s making that happen. This is a great example of industry and universities working together. But it's also a great example of a Federal Government and a Territory Government working together, putting the money in, you put the minds together to create amazing things and we change the future for the better. So it's great to be here. Thanks for the opportunity to share this moment with you. I might get Hamish to say a few words.

HAMISH CAMPBELL: It’s mostly been said already, but it’s a fantastic opportunity today where we open or launch the CDU and RMIT Testlab. So this is a nexus between vocational education, higher education and cutting-edge research. It's about workforce transformation in the territory and attracting those businesses to help propel group autonomous systems [indisdict].

QUESTION: I have a question, is this in any way working with the Arnhem space station somehow?

HAMISH CAMPBELL: Not yet, at this point in time. 

QUESTION: But maybe in future? 

HAMISH CAMPBELL: Definitely in the future and I know that, you know, CDU were looking at building rocket parts as well for the space industry. So the Testlab centre [indistinct] could look at group autonomous systems, they can also be what we call high altitude super satellites. 

QUESTION: With regard to that synergy, what's the dream aspiration with regard to that sort of synergy? What could you see a decade or so if development occurred?

HAMISH CAMPBELL: Okay, it’s not just driven by us, but certainly over the next 10 years, we will see autonomous systems flying all over Australia. This Testlab is about creating Australian sovereignty in that space. And so, you know, [indistinct] hundreds of occasions across our country, we need the manufacturing of them, we need design and we need the development of them.

QUESTION: Who will use these drones, is it students or people are working in industry already?

[Indistinct] So part of this program is going to be an advanced apprenticeship program alongside the Testlab, so we're encouraging SMEs to contact us and get involved the Testlab and they’d be employees of the Testlab programme, of the businesses and undertaking an Advance Manufacturing Diploma, and that is all subsidised through the Commonwealth [indistinct].

QUESTION: What is your government going to address the concerns of Lee Point residents especially after rare and endangered birds have flocked to the area? 

NATASHA FYLES: So Lee Point was a development that was long touted. It was former defence land and decades ago was identified to allow for the growth of, specifically, Darwin. In terms of the planning, it’s been through all the planning and approval process. There is still the Casurina Coastal Reserve that will be protected. So in terms of that development, it's something that's been through all the checks and balances over a number of years around that project. 

QUESTION: Who is actually benefiting from the Lee Point development?

NATASHA FYLES: So in terms of the Top End, we know that one of our challenges, because we have such an exciting future is going to be housing. So we are focused around new land release. And also infill where appropriate, you've already seen area plans done for a large part of Darwin. Palmerston is more of a planned city so but in terms of going forward, it provides for houses for people - teachers, nurses, families. But the Northern Territory, particularly through COVID, we found our strengths. And we certainly know we have a bright future across a number of areas. But that land has been long identified as housing development, and I can assure Territorians, it has been through all the checks and balances. When you live in a place like the Territory, you often drive past something and you think that's a great piece of open space, but it's actually owned by someone or has planning around it. Now, of course, we need to make sure that we put our community's needs and the environment into when we do planning and that's why those area plans that outlines for Territorians, what they should expect to see in the future. So the suburbs where I live for once bushland, and then they were slowly developed. So I can certainly assure Territorians that that development and others going through the appropriate checks and balances around a range of issues. 

QUESTION: Chief, Waddi yesterday, [indistinct] spoken about the violence spilling on the streets of Darwin. There's a lot of work going on at work out there, could something more be done to sort of ease the situation?

NATASHA FYLES: I've been to Waddi numerous times and my heart really goes out to that community. They are going through a very difficult time, and I certainly know that there are strong people Waddi and we need them to keep working with the non-government organisations with the local organisations on the ground and certainly the police have got a number of suspects under investigation. So I do need to be careful with my comments, so I don't influence any of that. But I can absolutely assure the residents of Waddi that we are working on around that community’s very complex needs presently.

QUESTION: Coronavirus testing [indistinct], second time it’s happened in a six or so months?

NATASHA FYLES: Yeah, so sincerely apologise to Territorians there was a glitch in the system over around 10 days and I apologise. The way it's been briefed to me and I received this briefing late last night, I asked the department to ensure that the community was made aware of this and also those individuals impacted. So some weak positive test results were misinterpreted. And there was also some other glitches, so it affects around 50 people. And I've asked for a thorough investigation. It really highlights to people that particularly with both flu and COVID present in our community, if you're not feeling well, please isolate, please hop on a mask. It's really important to keep a mask handy. And equally when we're out meeting and greeting such as us this morning, keep some hand sanitizer handy, but really focused on your health. But we certainly apologise and looking into what happened there. But it was an automated error.

QUESTION: Do you think infections will rise after this glitch?

NATASHA FYLES: So the advice that I've got, is that this won’t have a significant impact on the case numbers in the Territory, that was the impression I was given last night. 

QUESTION: The Supreme Court just found against the former ICAC Commissioner in the case related to the Turf Club, will the Government reconsider its demands for the $12m that was spent on that to be repaid? 

NATASHA FYLES: So that decision is obviously breaking news. So it could be subject to an appeal. So I'll hold my comments. We've made it quite clear in terms of the Turf club as a government we were extremely disappointed that during the process, we were misled. But as the incoming Minister for Racing has said, we understand the role that racing has it is an important industry and negotiations are continuing around their ongoing funding.

QUESTION: This is not the first time the systems have failed, do you think the system is up to standard?

NATASHA FYLES: So COVID has certainly challenged health systems around the world around Australia and I have nothing but praise for our frontline staff, both those that are working within our hospitals and health facilities and those that have supported them. We have seen the Northern Territory lead through COVID. And of course, it's disappointing to have glitches such as this, but overall the way the Northern Territory has responded to COVID is world-leading. Thank you.

QUESTION: Jason, across the country, the flu COVID has disrupted schools. What can you do to ease the disruption from a Federal level and have you considered a strategy?

JASON CLARE: You're dead right. Whether it's COVID or whether it's the flu, it's taken teachers out of classrooms. We've seen particularly a cold winter in the south led to teachers being at home crook rather than being in the classroom looking after kids. We’ve got a teacher shortage right across the country. It's getting worse, not better. It’s one of the things I want to talk to Education Ministers about right across the country, when we next get together. 

This is a big issue. And it doesn't matter whether you're here in Darwin or whether you're in Hobart, this is something that we've got to work together to fix. COVID is just a small part of that. I think COVID’s just a small part of that. I think different states and territories will make their own decisions in the months ahead about what the rules are around vaccinations and teachers. You see some of that in Victoria in the newspapers today. But it's bigger than that. It's a shortage. We've got the baby boomers retiring in the next couple of years. We've got Peter Costello's baby boom going to university in the next couple of years. But what we're seeing is, as the number of young people going into uni increases, the number of young people going into teaching is dropping. That's a problem. 

It's going to get worse, not better unless we take action to fix it. Unless as a country, we build more respect for the profession of teaching. I can't think of a job that's more important in this country than being a teacher. Training the next generation of engineers and doctors and lawyers. Paul Keating used to talk about education being the keys to the kingdom, that master key that opens every door. Our teachers are the key makers, and we don't have enough of them. That's why one of the first things I want to talk to Education Ministers about when we get together is what we do as a country to tackle the shortage of teachers that we're experiencing now, and that's predicted to get worse.

QUESTION: The Energy Security Board says we have to build the equivalent of 50 Snowy Hyrdos over the next 28 years. Can you explain that if possible?

JASON CLARE: I'll refer you to the comments that Chris Bowen, the Energy Minister made this morning I think on the Today Show and Sunrise and ABC Breakfast. The Energy Security Board’s released a consultation paper, and Chris will be consulting with State and Territory Ministers on that, over the course of the next few weeks and months.

QUESTION: You’ve been traveling the country talking to educators, a lot of those in the university space I’m sure - the pandemic also decimated universities, what are you hearing? How long is it going to take the university sector to recover?

JASON CLARE: Each university is different. I was in Cairns last week, talking to the team at Central Queensland University, as well as JCU, then back in Sydney last week, and I spoke to the Vice Chancellor of Sydney University. The impact of international students being told to go home or being told to rely on charities to be fed has had a massive impact. But on some universities more than others. Scott, you've made the point to me a moment ago, you might want to elaborate that the impact on the loss of international students has been less here in Darwin than say it has in Sydney and Melbourne. Because they've got students from different parts of the world that are flocking back faster than say Sydney University's experiencing or Melbourne. So it's not homogenous. The challenge is different in different parts of the country.

COVID hit universities hard and what I want to do as a new minister, is work with our universities, on a fresh start. A reset. I recognise that our universities did incredible things in the teeth of the pandemic. I don't think all Australians know just what an incredible job our universities did when most of us were told to stay at home. When some of us in electorates like mine were told you'd be breaking the law and leave the curbside after nine o'clock at night. In our universities, they were coming up with the research and the discoveries that helped us to get through this pandemic. Not only that, we had trainee doctors and trainee pharmacists, who were vaccinating people right across the country, who were donating money to charity to feed some of those international students who were left to fend for themselves. 

Our universities did incredible things during the pandemic for us. They can do other incredible things, if we're just willing to work together and harness their skills and their expertise. [Indistinct] is just one example of that. And we can do so much more if we work together.

QUESTION: It’s 15 years since the intervention in this week, what role do you see the Federal Government having in the arena of education moving forward? 

JASON CLARE: I want us to be a country where your opportunities in life don't depend on how rich or your parents are, how far away you live from a capital city or the colour of your skin. And you know, we are such a different country to the one that I grew up in 50 years ago. I'm the first person in my family to go to university. I’m the first person in my family finish year 10. For working class kids in the outer suburbs of Western Sydney 50 years ago, that just wasn't something you ever dreamt of doing. And so my mum and dad - my dad left school in year nine, my mum never went to high school. Australia is a different place today. There is more opportunity for working class kids in our outer suburbs, to finish school and go on to university. And you see that in the results that we have today. 40 per cent of young Australians have a university degree. But if you look behind that, you will see that poor kids from poor families are less likely to go to university than kids from wealthy families. The same is true when it comes to kids from the regions. If 40 per cent of young Australians have a degree guess what, it's only 20 per cent in regional and remote Australia. And for our Indigenous brothers and sisters, it's less than 10 per cent. That's why I say we have more work to do. What I saw yesterday in the homelands was really exciting. The attendance rate at that school is 85 per cent. The teachers tell me that when they turn up the school, that kids are already there, they have to tell the kids don't come until the bell rings. There's something special happening there in those remote communities. But that's just one example. I know that there's so much more to do, I think that there is so much more that the Commonwealth Government can do. Working with Territory Government or working with all State Governments around the country.

Don't underestimate the importance of constitutional reform of enshrined in our Constitution, a recognition that this country did not begin just over two hundred years ago, that our history dates back over 60,000 years. And enshrining in the constitution a voice for our Indigenous brothers and sisters, and coupling with that a commitment to close the gap. And it's not just what we do in universities to close that gap between 40 per cent having a degree and 10 per cent of our indigenous brothers and sisters. What we do in those very early years when children are three, or four, or five, because the fact is, the gap gets bigger with every year of school. The gap between the attendance rates of indigenous and non-Indigenous kids in preschool, about 10 per cent. That gap when you get to school and universities is massive. I want to be part of a Government that does something about it.

QUESTION: I'm going to read this, the legislation to set up [indistinct] School Australia the authority for [indistinct], and will it take some time to draft? 

JASON CLARE: So that legislation will be carried by Brendan O'Connor, the Minister for Skills and Training and it is a top priority for the Government, I can tell you that. It's one of the pieces of legislation that we want to introduce as quickly as possible. He'll be working with his department on the timing for the introduction of that. But coupled with that is the commitment of the Prime Minister to an employment summit that we want to hold in the very near future. You know, we have a big challenge in this country have a shortage of skills in part contributed to by COVID and the shutting down of the borders over the last two years. So that employment summit is critical. That organisation of Jobs and Skills Australia will play a critical role in mapping out and helping to make sure that we build the skills that we need for the job shortages we have today and the jobs we will need for the future.

QUESTION: The Coalition doubled the price of university arts degrees in 2020. Is that something your government is considering?

JASON CLARE: As part of that there was a built in review that was committed to after 18 months. That's scheduled to occur anytime after the first of July. So I've committed to doing that review. We'll do that as part of an overarching University Accord that we've committed to developing over the course of the next few months. 

Thank you.