Remarks at USC Petrie Campus start of construction ceremony



Simon Birmingham:    Thank you. Thank you so much, Heather. Thank you for the warm welcome as the interloper from outside of Queensland today. Can I also acknowledge the Kabi Kabi people and all of Australia’s Indigenous peoples? Can I recognise the many distinguished guests who are here today? Vice-Chancellor Greg Hill, thank you to you, to Scott Snyder and the team at USC for your engagement not just on this issue but, of course, for your advocacy to create more educational opportunities, better educational opportunities, more accessible educational opportunities here in the Moreton Bay region.


Mayor Allan Sutherland, my Cabinet colleague, Peter Dutton. Peter Dutton, together with Luke Howarth have, of course been – as the Mayor and the Vice-Chancellor have acknowledged – such strong advocates and champions to secure the funding, the support, the development here of this campus. To Andrew Wallace, the local member for USC’s Sippy Downs campus, their spiritual home, their administrative home and, of course, the largest campus, establishment campus and notably as the Vice-Chancellor indicated, the last major full service university campus to be opened around Australia, to be established. Twenty-two years is a long time between drinks, it’s a big deal for me as the Federal Minister for Education and Training to be here today to celebrate Queensland’s newest university campus, knowing that it was 22 years ago that one of my predecessors last had that opportunity.


Can I also acknowledge state MP Shane King, local councillors, as well as Trevor Ruthenberg, the LNP candidate for the upcoming by-election who I know will also be a strong champion alongside Dutts and Luke in terms of this campus and the opportunities that it creates.


It’s 20 years ago now since USC was given full university status. It’s a proud history. In that time, USC has grown to be a university now servicing 16,500 students, providing opportunity for those students from Brisbane to Bundaberg, opportunity that, of course, is transformational for those individuals and importantly for those communities. And as we celebrate the commencement of a new campus here in Moreton Bay, we celebrate the transformation, not just of this site, but the transformational opportunity it creates for the broader Moreton Bay community and for all of those who will study, research and train here.


That’s why the Turnbull Government has been so thrilled, thanks to the advocacy of many, especially Dutts and Luke and others, to commit as part of our national plan to generate stronger economic growth, stronger jobs growth, regional growth, to commit $35 million towards the building of this infrastructure through the Moreton Bay Council, to commit to a significant and generous concessional loan facility to the university, to make sure they have the resources to be able to establish this site. We did this back before the last election, and today we celebrate delivery of that promise having been the only people going to that last election making that commitment to develop that site. Today it’s a reality.


Since then, in the most recent budget, we’ve made a further commitment. A commitment of some $69.4 million to ensure that there would be a strong opening and growing student cohorts here at Moreton Bay campus. Twelve-hundred places available when the university opens in 2020. Thirty-six-hundred places ongoing from 2022.

The Moreton Bay Council estimates this project will provide a $950 million boost to the regional economy, create 2200 ongoing jobs in the region by 2031. But it will be those individual lives that it changes and impacts that are, of course, even more important.


USC can be so proud of the fact that its students rate it highly. We undertake an indicative survey of student satisfaction of the educational training they receive at our universities. And USC has fabulously strong results in that regard. And of course, we saw living proof of that in the enthusiasm and capacity and capability from Jackson, who spoke to us just before, as a former student. The university has a strong local commitment that’s so evident in term of their work through the Sunshine Coast Health Institute, the Clinical Trials Centre, their leading research in terms of environmental sustainability. All of which will be enhanced by the activities here at the Moreton Bay campus.


We know, as a government, that education is one of the single most transformational tools that can be deployed. That’s why from early childhood education, through schooling, into higher education, we continue to invest at record and growing levels. But also invest wisely and smartly to make sure the investments that we undertake are affordable, sustainable and targeted to where they can get the biggest and best benefits.


In higher education, our support for universities grows from around $17 billion last year to some $19 billion nearly by 2021. It’s a growth in funding that we’re able to achieve to support students and universities to drive more opportunities such as this. And yet, we do it at the same time as ensuring that we balance a budget, that we reduce and lower taxes but ultimately, most importantly for the lives of individuals, that we also create more opportunities, more employment opportunities, more job opportunities for those graduates who come out of our universities in the future.


This is an exciting day, an exciting development. I look forward to seeing it through to fruition, to completion, to seeing students here at the new Moreton Bay campus. I cannot help but look at USC’s tagline – to rise and shine – and here, of course, we’re going to see, from this flat piece of earth, a new campus, a new university campus rise up and many thousands of students shine into the future.


Thanks so much for the chance to be with you today.