Release type: Transcript


Interview with Lisa Millar, ABC News Breakfast


The Hon Dan Tehan MP
Minister for Education

SUBJECTS: Job-ready graduates, Youth unemployment, JobKeeper and JobSeeker

Lisa Millar: Education Minister Dan Tehan will announce the changes later today, with the Government planning to add an extra 39,000 university places by 2023. University demand is soaring, with an estimated 20,000 Year 12 students, who were planning a gap year, now set to continue their education in 2021. And, the Minister Dan Tehan joins us now. Good morning Minister. Welcome to Breakfast.

Dan Tehan: Pleasure to be with you.

Millar: Why the decision to do this?

Tehan: Look, what we want to do is first make sure that we’ve got additional places in the system because we know, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re going to see more demand for places in the higher education system, and, also, we want to incentivise students to undertake courses that will give them the skills to take the jobs of the future. We need young Australians to help us grow our economy through the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, and what this is all about is incentivising people to look at teaching, to look at nursing, to look at allied health, to look at engineering, to look at IT, because we know the jobs of the future will be in those areas.

Millar: How involved were industry groups in deciding where those relevant jobs were going to be?

Tehan: Look, this package has been put in place with consult, in consultation with industry sectors, and with the university sector itself. There’s been a lot of thought and a lot of planning which has gone into this, a lot of consultation, and I thank those industry representatives who met with the Government and discussed these changes, and also for the sector itself for the way that it’s consulted with the Government.

Millar: Well, we’ve had a lot of people messaging in already that, really, this is the Coalition Government saying that unis are simply there to prepare people for jobs, that you’re dismissing the role of critical thinking, which you often get with studying the humanities.

Tehan: Not at all. We want students to be able to critically think. We know that’s going to be an important skill when it comes to jobs of the future. But, we also want to make sure that those students have got the skills in the areas of where the jobs will be. So, if you’re going to do philosophy, we want you to think about doing a language. If you are going to do Ancient Greek, do IT with it. Just make sure that you are thinking about getting the skills that you’ll need to get a job beyond your degree.

Millar: What, how much money is the Federal Government putting into this?

Tehan: So, we will be repurposing $480 million within the system, to make sure that these …

Millar: … So, no new money? …

Tehan: … these new places there. Well, there is already strong growth in the sector when it comes to funding. We’re putting record funding into higher education, and I’ll have more to say at the Press Club about that.

Millar: But, the conservative Government has been cutting university places, the universities themselves are under more pressure than ever before, and now you’re sort of saying, look, here’s 39,000 more places, and we’re going to make people pay a bit more for popular courses?

Tehan: So, what we’re doing this year is putting in record funding of $18 billion for the sector, and that will continue to grow year on year into the future. We want to make sure that we’re working with our universities, so that they’re producing the graduates that our economy needs to power ourselves out of this coronavirus pandemic. And, we’ll continue to work with them so they can provide our young Australians with the skills they need for the jobs of the future, that are going to be so important to this nation going forward.

Millar: Yes. Now, we’ve got record numbers of Year 12 students and teenagers coming through the system. Now, they’ve got their gap year taken away from them because of the pandemic. But, we’re also reminded today by media reports that, of course, this was a Coalition Government’s baby boom in the 2000s to have one for mum, one for dad, and one for the country. So, how many young people are going to be missing out on university places?

Tehan: Look, that’s hard to predict at this stage, because you have to remember that they also have the option of vocational education, and, if we can hopefully continue to flatten the curve, the employment market will also pick up. So, what we want to do is make sure there are additional places in higher education. Obviously, we are looking at reform of the vocational education sector, as well, because that’s going to be incredibly important, as well, in skilling young Australians. So, we’re doing everything we can to meet the demand that we know will hit our tertiary education system over the coming years.

Millar: Yeah. Youth unemployment is going to take a long time to pick up, even though you might be speaking optimistically about it.

Tehan: Look, there, one of the sad things when you have a recession is that youth unemployment does grow, and we’ve got to make sure that we skill young Australians, so when the jobs are there, they can take them. We don’t want to see what happened in our last recession in the early 80s, where youth unemployment took a long time to recover. We want to give young Australians the skills they will need, so when the jobs are there, they can take them, and they will be a key part of our recovery coming out of this coronavirus pandemic.

Millar: Minister, quite a few of our viewers have also asked this morning why free education isn’t back on the agenda?

Tehan: Well, ultimately, in the end, nothing’s free. Everything costs the taxpayer money, and the taxpayer is already contributing $18 billion a year into higher education. So, we think the taxpayer is covering a significant contribution. It’s over 50 per cent of the cost of a degree, and we, obviously, think the student needs to make a contribution, as well. But, nothing’s free, and as we face the economic shock of, that the coronavirus has put, paid on our economy, we have to make sure that, ultimately, in the end, the debt that has accrued as a result of us putting in JobKeeper, JobSeeker measures, to really help buffer the economy against the coronavirus, all that has to be paid back over time. So, we have to do things in a fiscally responsible way.

Millar: And, speaking of JobKeeper and JobSeeker, is the Government going to hear the pleas of so many people, and keep them going? Keep them at the rate? Increase the rate?

Tehan: So, what the Government is doing at the moment is having a review of JobKeeper. It’s methodical. We’re getting all the data that we need to make the key decisions going forward, which will strengthen our economy as we come out of the coronavirus pandemic.  Now, we said that we would review JobKeeper in June, and that’s being undertaken. I know that the Treasury are giving a lot of thought to the recommendations that will go into that review, and then the Government will consider it in July. So, that will be done in a very considered, methodical way, and in a way that, we think, will ensure that we continue to grow our economy and grow jobs out of this coronavirus pandemic.

Millar: Dan Tehan, thanks for joining us.

Tehan: Pleasure.