University of Western Sydney Funding



About this Item
SubjectsUniversity of Western Sydney; Finance: Federal; Nurses; Students
SpeakersBeamer Ms Diane; Speaker; Skinner Mrs Jillian; Deputy-Speaker; Lynch Mr Paul; O'Farrell Mr Barry; Corrigan Mr Geoff; Paluzzano Mrs Karyn; D'Amore Ms Angela; Acting-Speaker (Mr John Mills)
BusinessUrgent Motion, URG MOT
Commentary Urgent Motion


    UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN SYDNEY FUNDING
Page: 3336


    Urgent Motion

    Ms BEAMER (Mulgoa—Minister for Juvenile Justice, Minister for Western Sydney, and Minister Assisting the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning (Planning Administration)) [3.36 p.m.]: I move:

    That this House:

    (1) supports the concerns of health professionals about the failure of the State's biggest trainer of nurses, the University of Western Sydney, to receive one new place under the Federal Government's plans for higher education;

    (2) notes that the State Government needs to recruit at least 1,600 full-time registered nurses to meet its current need;

    (3) further notes that the University of Western Sydney turned away 135 eligible applicants for nursing last year;

    (4) calls on the Federal Government to immediately restore funding for the University of Western Sydney to the levels of other universities; and

    (5) condemns Liberal Party attacks on the University of Western Sydney.

    I move this motion today not only as the Minister for Western Sydney but also as a former member of the University of Western Sydney [UWS] Board of Governors and as a member of Parliament whose electorate contains the Kingswood campus of UWS. Most importantly, I move this motion as a resident of Western Sydney for the past 37 years.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has been blissfully quiet so far today. He shall remain so.

    Ms BEAMER: As a university student I had to travel to the centre of Sydney. I did not have the opportunity to study at a university in my area, because there was not one. I have moved this motion because I fear that the actions of the Federal Government will have us revert to that situation. Its actions will make it more difficult for the young people of Western Sydney to study at a university in their region. The Federal Government's proposed university funding package will strike at the very heart of the University of Western Sydney. It will strip $14 million over three years from an already lean institution, and it will strike in the areas where graduates are needed most.

    I am proud to say that the University of Western Sydney provides 20 per cent of all nursing places in New South Wales. Approximately 25 per cent of permanently employed nurses currently work in Western Sydney. The State Government is trying to recruit 1,600 nurses to meet current demand. Professor John Dwyer, Chair of the National Public Hospitals Clinicians Task Force, has said that, as of today, New South Wales hospitals need an additional 1,800 nurses.

    It is clear that the university should be training and equipping an increasing number of nurses each year. It should be providing the most number of trained nurses anywhere in Australia. However, the sad fact is that the University of Western Sydney is being forced to turn away more and more eligible students from its nursing courses. Last year 135 eligible nursing students were turned away from UWS—that is, students who achieved a higher than required university admission index score or equivalent qualifications. The university could not afford to find places for them. It would have liked to, but it could not afford to. A further 1,000 applicants wanted to study nursing at UWS. How many will miss out next year? The Federal Government's university funding program will not provide one new nurse training place at UWS. Not one new nursing place has been allocated to ease the desperate need for nurses in the hospitals of Western Sydney. In fact, the university could be forced to reduce the number of nursing places as a result of the Federal Government cuts.

    Professor John Dwyer made it quite clear on radio yesterday when he spoke about the critical shortage of nurses that the first step should be to get more people into university and that that is the Commonwealth's responsibility. The Federal Government is now attacking the health system in Western Sydney on two fronts: first, it is destroying Medicare, and second, it is reducing real hospital funding. That is placing enormous strain on the hospitals of Western Sydney. This offensive funding cut to UWS will decrease our ability to provide qualified workers for hospitals. Rather than increasing funding so that UWS can train more nurses, the Federal Government has delivered a funding cut. There is no bigger loser from this new funding regime than UWS. It will have $14 million ripped out of its budget. A Sydney Morning Herald survey published today estimates that UWS will be forced to cut 450 places next year. UWS Vice Chancellor, Janice Reid, says she expects to have to turn away 3,000 eligible students next year.

    The university is also warning that it may have to close one of its campuses if the cuts go ahead. Which campus will be closed? The importance that UWS plays in Western Sydney cannot be underestimated. About 50 per cent of graduates are the first in their family to attend university. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures indicate that only 3 per cent of the population of Western Sydney participates in higher education compared with 5.2 per cent of the population in greater Sydney. That gap has widened since the Howard Federal Government came to power in 1996. A recent Newspoll survey revealed that UWS facilities are used by 70 per cent of people in Western Sydney, and that 7 out of every 10 people in Western Sydney use its libraries, sporting, recreational, conference, exhibition and research facilities for community education. As the Federal Government fails UWS it also fails the people of Western Sydney.

    How can the university cover this $14 million shortfall? Will it cut staff and courses or introduce full fee undergraduate courses? Even worse, it could be forced to close a campus. All of these options push university education further out of the reach of the young men and women of Western Sydney. Brendan Nelson's Federal Government funding proposal claims equity and access as key principles. This package will result in less equity and access to university education in Western Sydney. The Federal Government must stand condemned. The university is also under attack from those who should be supporting it—that is, those who represent the region. The Federal member for Lindsay has launched an unprecedented and astonishing attack on UWS and its hardworking staff. She has accused the university of maladministration and an inability to make decisions.

    Is Jackie Kelly aware of the massive restructure undertaken by UWS that has cut $10 million from its operating costs? There is no fat left on the bone. Mrs Kelly recently described her own electorate as "pram city" and said that the men's greatest aspiration is to mow the lawn on the weekend. She has also abused UWS staff for daring to stand up for the institution. She accused UWS of constantly criticising the Federal Government about the lack of funding when all other universities expressed support for the proposed framework. I am sure that that claim is news to the University of Canberra, La Trobe University, Victoria University, the University of Tasmania and Adelaide University. All provided the Senate inquiry into higher education with submissions opposing the changes and saying that they would be worse off.

    Mrs Kelly has been sent out to provide a smokescreen for Brendan Nelson's savage cuts and she has been a willing participant. She has supported cuts that will rob her constituents of a chance of a university education. She has told UWS to compare the way it operates with the way other universities operate. She wants it to compare its multi-campus arrangement, its regional charter and its students to the situation at Sydney University. That is a farce. Brendan Nelson believes a student in an established university should be funded at the same level as a student at a university such as UWS. UWS does not have decades of generous government and corporate investment, accumulated resources and alumni endowments. Under this formula, the four other universities in Sydney will get an extra $65 million over the first three years: $35 million extra for Sydney University, $16.8 million extra for the University of Technology Sydney and $13.6 million extra for Macquarie University.

    What about UWS? It will receive $14 million less! The families of Western Sydney will miss out. The Federal Government has subsequently offered a paltry $4.7 million in transitional funding. Mrs Kelly says that that is enough. No, it is not enough! When a university stands to lose $14 million while others stand to get more, a token offer of one-third is not enough. The Federal Government must recognise that multiple campuses across a large region have substantially higher costs. Each campus needs supporting infrastructure, which involves unique costs for an institution such as UWS. Those additional costs are not accounted for in the new funding regime. I agree with just one comment made by Mrs Kelly. She said that we deserve a sandstone-type university in Western Sydney. I agree wholeheartedly. However, we will not get it if the Federal Government slashes $14 million from the UWS budget.

    Mrs SKINNER (North Shore) [3.46 p.m.]: The Coalition supports the concerns of health professionals, which is why I sought to move an urgency motion today on behalf of several nurses who have now left the health system. I find it ironic that the motion of the Minister for Western Sydney refers to the recruitment of nurses but fails to address anything relating to retention. The nurses to whom I will refer have 40 years of experience between them. However, they have been vilified and allowed to leave the system. I move:

    That the motion be amended by leaving out all words after the word "House" with a view to inserting instead "calls on the Commonwealth and State governments to work co-operatively to improve nurse recruitment, education and retention across New South Wales hospitals."

    The shortage of nurses in our hospitals is a very serious issue. My colleague the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai will refer to the thousands of nurses who are registered in New South Wales but who choose not to work in the public hospital system. I refer to the four or five nurses from the Camden and Campbelltown areas who had the courage to voice publicly their concerns about what has been happening in the hospitals over a number of years, not only in recent times. They felt that they could not keep silent while in their opinion patients were dying as a result of inappropriate practices. Those very serious allegations were made to the Minister for Health, who met with the nurses on 5 November. On 15 November—10 days later—the Director-General of the Department of Health issued a press release stating that the matters had been referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

    I spoke with the nurses on a number of occasions, and I saw some of the documentation that they had presented to the Minister. There is no question that these were very serious allegations that needed full review. That is why, on behalf of the Coalition, I called for an independent judicial inquiry into the matter and for the people who had been implicated in the allegations to be stood down while investigations were carried out—which is not an unusual practice when serious allegations are made, particularly involving the deaths of patients. The Minister did not respond to the Coalition's request. Indeed, as I informed the House earlier, instead I received a phone call from the chairman of the board of the area health service in which he effectively tried to pressure me to back off. He also suggested that the nurses were not people who were worth listening to, that there was no substance to them. He said that he knew them, and he then went on to suggest that they had psychiatric problems.

    We talk about recruitment of nurses, but we need to be concerned about how we treat them. They are highly professional women. These were not nurses who had been there for six months or for a year or two or three; these were nurses who had between them 40 or 50 years experience. These were nurses who had got into management positions. Government members, in the most sanctimonious way possible, speak in this place about nurses as though they have a soft spot in their hearts for the nursing profession. Yet the Government has refused to support the nurses who have spoken out about hideous practices going on in our hospitals. It has refused to debate the matter I raised earlier, to show that it rejects entirely the idea of a senior public official trying to prevent me from speaking on behalf of the nurses and suggesting that they had psychiatric problems.

    Over the eight years that I occupied the position of shadow Minister for Health I spoke at length about the need to retain nurses in public hospitals. A number of reviews were conducted in that regard. However, a review commissioned by the University of New South Wales in conjunction with the Department of Health highlighted a number of issues. For example, it highlighted the fact that the reasons for nurses leaving public hospitals were pay, conditions, hours of work, and a number of related matters. A survey of more than 10,000 nurses found that approximately 4,000 would be prepared to return to hospitals if the Government seriously addressed the issue. The Government should make a serious attempt to address these problems, instead of seeking to blame everyone but itself. The Commonwealth and State governments should be working together to address the problems of nurse recruitment and retention. They should also address recruitment and retention of teachers. The Commonwealth Government has acknowledged the importance of recruiting and training for teachers and nurses by reducing Higher Education Contribution Scheme fees for those courses.

    It is extremely important for the future of the services in this State that are probably the most important to anyone—that is, providing health care in our hospitals, and education through the State's schools and TAFE colleges—that the Commonwealth and State governments work together in addressing these issues. Everyone knows, particularly following the publication of the Commonwealth department's paper on the impacts of ageing on the community, that we are heading for tough times. The average age of teachers is around 50 and the average age of nurses is around 50. Not only do we need to train and educate more nurses, but we also need to retain them in our hospitals. Not only do we need to educate more teachers, but we also need to ensure that they are satisfied so that they stay in the classroom. The Teachers Federation, in a briefing to my colleagues just a couple of weeks ago, shocked me when it said that the average length of stay for newly recruited teachers is only three years. No wonder we have a shortage of teachers in our classrooms.

    Mr Ashton: Point of order: The debate and the amendment moved by the honourable member for North Shore relate to nurses, not schoolteachers.

    Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for North Shore was using teachers as an example. I am sure she will now return to the substance of the amendment.

    Mrs SKINNER: I am not surprised that the honourable member for East Hills is so sensitive about this issue. If we cannot find ways to keep nurses working in hospitals, we are heading for trouble. As I said, a survey of 10,000 nurses who were out of the hospital system found that approximately 4,000 would be prepared to return to the hospital system if issues such as pay and improved conditions were addressed. If those nurses were to return to the hospital system, it would just about solve the problem of the shortage of nurses in our hospitals. I am sure that the shadow Minister for Health will speak about why we need more nurses in our hospitals and about the impact on our public hospital system of nurses leaving in such droves. I commend the amendment to the House.

    Mr LYNCH (Liverpool) [3.56 p.m.]: I support the motion. The University of Western Sydney was established in 1989. Its establishment was the culmination of a longstanding demand and campaign by the community of Western Sydney. There is a great interest in the university and its continued wellbeing throughout Western Sydney, particularly in my electorate of Liverpool. Its creation in 1989 was broadly welcomed, despite reservations at the small-mindedness of a partisan thug called Metherell, who refused to allow it to be called the Chifley university. The university has, and should, play a central role within the community of Western Sydney—not just in educating residents but also in playing an important broader role in the community. That is a central element of what the university sees as its function. To date the university has many achievements. Its student population has grown from 9,000 in 1989 to more than 37,000 this year. About three-quarters of the students starting courses at the university this year come from the Greater Western Sydney area.

    More than 50 per cent of the students at the university are the first in their family to attend university. At an anecdotal level, I continue to come across people in my electorate who have never before had family members going to university but they had been able to get to the University of Western Sydney. In short, the University of Western Sydney is well down the path of doing what it ought to be doing. It is particularly important on equity grounds that it be allowed to keep doing this. Approximately 10.5 per cent of residents of Greater Western Sydney have a university degree. The figure for the rest of Sydney is 20.8 per cent. The higher education participation rate in Greater Western Sydney is 3 per cent; for the rest of Sydney it is 5.2 per cent. To change those inequitable trends, it is obviously critical for the University of Western Sydney to continue fulfilling its function. Those issues become even more important when one remembers that the growth in population will, in a proportional sense, be greater in Western Sydney than in any other part of Sydney.

    Granted the importance of the University of Western Sydney, it is breathtaking to see the recent onslaught upon it by the Federal Government. It almost seems as though the Liberal Government and its local operatives, such as Jackie Kelly, believe that Western Sydney should not have the university. Their arrogant, elitist view is that Western Sydney does not count, it does not matter, it does not need a university. The first tranche of this Federal Government onslaught upon the University of Western Sydney occurred in May when it announced its funding package. The long and the short of that package is that $14 million in funding will be lost to the University of Western Sydney by 2007. So-called transitional funding was allowed by the Federal Government—a thoroughly inadequate $4.7 million. Cuts to this funding are cuts to base funding, which is based upon a belated and unwelcome return to a weighted formula for courses. That weighted formula was abandoned many years ago.

    In the current funding proposal the University of Western Sydney will lose $14 million, Sydney University will get an extra $35.3 million and Macquarie University will get an extra $13.6 million. In regard to funding, no university has been treated as badly as the University of Western Sydney. Presumably the aim is to force the University of Western Sydney to increase Higher Education Contribution Scheme [HECS] fees and to dramatically increase full-fee courses. That may well be of use in educating the idiot sons and daughters of the ruling class, but it will do no good at all in educating the sons and daughters who live in Western Sydney. These proposals are fundamentally wrong and it is unfair to treat the University of Western Sydney in this way. It is not just punishing the University of Western Sydney, it is also punishing the residents of Western Sydney. In a broader sense and looking beyond Western Sydney, it is regarded as a bad thing in our society to make it hard for people in areas that have comparatively low higher education participation rates to get to universities.

    The model that is being used to provide the basis for this funding is fundamentally illogical. Universities that have one campus are being treated in exactly the same way as the University of Western Sydney, which has six campuses. If a university has six campuses it needs six libraries—in fact, I believe the University of Western Sydney needs seven libraries. It is effectively half a dozen small universities but it is being treated as though it is simply one large university. That is illogical and insane. The situation is rendered worse by the quite extraordinary gyrations of Jackie Kelly. In August she was defending this extraordinary funding package by saying, "It is just about creating a level playing field. We are simply making it fairer so that everyone competes on the same basis." That is wrong. The funding package would have the exact opposite effect. This proposal creates a thoroughly unlevel playing field for the University of Western Sydney. I note that Ms Kelly is also quite keen to suggest that the University of Western Sydney can pursue other funding options. I presume that means that she wants the University of Western Sydney to start charging full fees to the students who come from Western Sydney. That is in direct opposition to the best interests of Western Sydney.

    Mr O'FARRELL (Ku-ring-gai—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [4.01 p.m.]: It gives me no pleasure to follow one of the idiot sons of the ruling class of the left wing of the Australian Labor Party. The honourable member for Liverpool has come to this debate as though this Government has suddenly materialised out of nowhere and as though the Labor Party has no record when it comes to nurse education, recruitment or retention in New South Wales. The reality is that the so-called nurse shortage—I will come back to why I say "so-called nurse shortage"—has coincided with a shift from nurse education out of hospitals and into the university sector. That shift was largely presided over by a Federal Labor Party Government. In addition, those opposite will not admit that it was a Dawkins education Minister who brought Higher Education Contribution Scheme [HECS] fees into the university sector across Australia and who retreated from the former Labor position of free and universal tertiary education. The Labor Party is responsible for the reintroduction of fees into our universities, something they are not happy about.

    If the Minister for Western Sydney is concerned about funding for nurse education in the University of Western Sydney, why does she not get her Treasurer to stop the University of Western Sydney from paying payroll tax to New South Wales? Over the past five years the Government has collected $5.5 billion in windfall profits out of unexpected revenue, yet it demands that the University of Western Sydney pays hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll tax each year. Payroll tax is a tax on employment and, in this case, a tax on the employment of those who want to train nurses in Western Sydney. I refer to the Government's hypocrisy. The Government can always find taxpayers' money to fund publicity campaigns when it suits it. For example, last week the Government spent $82,000 on full-page advertisements in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph. However, the Government can never find sufficient funding for nurse education, retention or pay rises in this State.

    In addressing the amendment moved by the honourable member for North Shore, I make the point that the Government failed to deliver on repeated promises to recruit additional nurses to the New South Wales State hospital system well before any of these latest higher education debates took place and well before any change to the higher education system occurred. This failure is connected with the Government's desire, addiction and overplaying of its hand in relation to spending taxpayers' funds on publicity campaigns when it suits it, particularly in the lead-up to State election campaigns. This Government has failed to reduce the number of nurse vacancies across the State hospital system despite spending $2.1 million on high-profile public relations campaigns in the lead-up to the last State election campaign.

    Contrary to the grand claims made by the former Minister for Health about the Nursing Reconnect campaign, the number of nursing vacancies across New South Wales has risen over the past 20 months. When the $1.8 million Nursing Reconnect campaign was launched by the then Minister for Health in January 2002 he owned up to 1,700 nursing vacancies across the State. As of September this year, 20 months later, those vacancies are now up to 1,768. So despite the State Government spending $2.1 million of taxpayers' money on a soft public relations campaign, nurse vacancies across New South Wales have gone up. Is the Government concerned about that? No. Why is it not concerned about that? Because that expenditure on television and newspaper advertisements coincided with the lead-up to the State election campaign, an election campaign in which it was determined to convince people that it was doing something about the recruitment of nurses in New South Wales—a fact that is disputed by its figures, which are available on the Health web site.

    The Government needs to own up to its responsibilities. Last Friday the Government released a report in relation to the Prince of Wales Hospital emergency department. That report showed that the hospital system was so bad that those presenting for emergency treatment were not being triaged or assessed by medical professionals but by clerical staff. This was not because medical professionals were unavailable but because that is the way the system operated. The Government has fundamentally lost the plot when it comes to running hospitals. It puts increasing workloads on our nurses, it expects them to work in intolerable circumstances because of the systems—not the resources—available, but it will not own up to those responsibilities.

    Mr CORRIGAN (Camden) [4.06 p.m.]: The University of Western Sydney is under threat because the Federal Government has ripped $14 million from its base funding. Courses and campuses are now in danger. It is important to place the University of Western Sydney, particularly its Campbelltown campus, in the context of the region it serves, a region that has traditionally faced higher education inequalities. The Campbelltown-Camden region is one of the fastest-growing regions in Australia—as is Western Sydney, particularly at Penrith—and it will grow significantly over the next 20 years. A strong higher education presence in our region is essential. The establishment of the Campbelltown campus has done just that. For the first time a university degree has been placed within the reach of our families.

    Like the honourable member for Liverpool, I receive anecdotal evidence from people that for the first time in the history of their families they have been able to send their children to university. It is a very important thing. Local residents have a strong identity with the Campbelltown campus of the University of Western Sydney. It is not considered to be an arm of a wider university but it is looked upon as our university. The campus has a broad academic profile, with colleges of law and business, a college of science, and a college of social and health sciences. No longer do kids in the region have to spend hours travelling each day to further their education. They can get a university degree in their own backyard. Our kids can now get law, accounting, nursing or medical science degrees locally. A diverse range of courses is offered at Campbelltown—from law to nursing; a range of courses fitting for a stand-alone university.

    However, these courses, and possibly the campus, are now under threat. I was horrified to learn that one option to save money could be the closure of one of the campuses. These courses are under threat: the Federal Government has slashed funding to the university by approximately $14 million because of its failure to acknowledge the valuable role that the Campbelltown campus plays in the Macarthur area. The Federal Government fails to acknowledge that the Campbelltown campus is not an offshoot of a larger university but is, effectively, a stand-alone university with library and administration costs.

    In its submission to the Senate inquiry into higher education the university acknowledged that to reclaim the $14 million cut from its base funding a number of options must be considered. These include closing campuses and cutting courses. Clearly, that would be unacceptable to my community. It is important to note that the closest comprehensive university campus to Campbelltown is 50 kilometres away. Any reduction in courses offered at Campbelltown will adversely affect the local area. Many of my constituents will be faced with two choices: either to travel to the city universities each day from Camden or Campbelltown or to leave the area. It is most likely that participation rates will plummet.

    The university could introduce full-fee undergraduate courses, but again participation rates will plummet. Should the funding squeeze on the University of Western Sydney become so tight that the Campbelltown campus is forced to close, that would be the end of higher education for the area. But it is not too late to prevent that happening. I call on the Federal Government to immediately recognise the important role the Campbelltown campus plays in this growing region. It must immediately acknowledge Campbelltown campus as part of a unique university structure that spans six campuses and 2,000 square kilometres and that, by its nature, it is a structure that has higher administrative and infrastructure costs than other universities.

    In the past the Federal Government has acknowledged that Campbelltown-Camden is a vital region. The University of Western Sydney has received two grants under the Sustainable Regions Program. However, the Government has failed to classify the area as regional for the purpose of education funding. Although the Roseworthy campus of Adelaide University, which is located 50 kilometres from the central business district of Adelaide, received 2.5 per cent regional loading and the University of Sydney received an extra $35.3 million in funding, the families of Western Sydney are faced with the prospect of course reductions and closing campuses. It is time the Federal Government accepted the unique standing and regional charter of the University of Western Sydney and protected the special and diverse needs of the region it serves. Given the assistance provided to regional universities, the same help should be provided to the University of Western Sydney.

    Mrs PALUZZANO (Penrith) [4.11 p.m.]: The Federal Government has had to work hard to find ways to ensure that there is no room for new trainee nursing positions at the University of Western Sydney. It has said that it will provide an additional 574 nursing places for regional universities and that it will offer a regional funding loading to more than 50 rural and regional campuses. However, the University of Western Sydney is missing out on both more nursing places and the regional funding loading. The Federal Government refuses to recognise the University of Western Sydney as a regional university, robbing it of vital funds and the offer of more nursing places.

    Regional loading is supposed to be for campuses that face higher costs as a result of location, size and history and that generally have less potential to diversify resources and a smaller capacity to compete for fee-paying students. I can attest to the fact that that sounds very much like the University of Western Sydney because, as a local, I attended that university when it was the Nepean College of Advanced Education. I did not have to travel 50 kilometres to attend university; I was able to undertake my education at a local facility. In the last seven years I was also a visiting lecturer at the University of Western Sydney, a vibrant university that provides education and jobs for the local community.

    Any changes that affect the University of Western Sydney will also affect the local community. These changes will affect people in the Campbelltown, Camden, Penrith, Mulgoa and Parramatta areas and beyond. Even the Federal Government's Aged Care Nursing Scholarship Scheme classifies the Hawkesbury campus of the University of Western Sydney as rural. However, the regional loading only applies to a campus located outside a mainland capital city and within a population centre of less than 250,000. Because of Western Sydney's increasing population and its increased need for health services and nurses, the University of Western Sydney misses out. The Federal Government refuses to acknowledge the University of Western Sydney as a regional university, yet it is clear, according to its legislative charter, that the university was established "to provide university standard education and research … having particular regard to the needs and aspirations of Greater Western Sydney". The great irony of the Federal Government's inaction is that, without doubt, Western Sydney is the growth centre, the engine room, of metropolitan Sydney. However, on 17 June the Federal Minister for Education, Science and Training, Dr Nelson, stated:

    … when the chippies and the boilermakers and the mechanics down the road in Penrith are paying for three-quarters of the education of those who go to university under this package.

    It is clear that Dr Nelson has formed the opinion that people who live within the catchment areas surrounding the University of Western Sydney are the chippies, boilermakers and mechanics down the road. It is a shame that the Federal Minister is not taking into account the growth, vitality and dynamics of Western Sydney. Each year approximately 30,000 people choose to move to Western Sydney, with its attendant transport, hospital and other essential needs. Despite the view of Dr Nelson, Gladys Reed, the Chief Executive Officer of the Penrith Valley Chamber of Commerce, defended the University of Western Sydney against the stinging criticism of the Federal member for Lindsay, Jackie Kelly. Ms Reed, whose daughter and daughter-in-law studied at the University of Western Sydney, said that she had never heard criticism of the university's standards from students. She said:

    Among all the students I have come in contact with I have never heard any criticism of the university … the university served local businesses well.

    It's a major stakeholder and major employer in our community.

    It's skilling up people for our local job market. It brings enormous economic benefits to our region.

    I commend those words to the House. [Time expired.]

    Ms D'AMORE (Drummoyne) [4.16 p.m.]: Last year the University of Western Sydney turned away 135 fully qualified nursing applicants. As a representative of the New South Wales Nurses Association, I have seen the nursing recruitment crisis building from the inside and it is heartbreaking to see those graduates being knocked back. Put in simple nursing terms, the Federal Government does not have its finger on the pulse when it comes to assisting the nursing profession with recruitment. It is hard to imagine that the situation could get worse or that a government could choose to make it worse. But that is what the Federal Government has done. New South Wales is bleeding from a deficit of 1,600 to 1,800 nurses.

    That is no exaggeration: we are at crisis point. In Sydney's west there are insufficient undergraduate students to fill available clinical places. Approximately 25 per cent of the permanently employed nursing work force currently works in the greater west. The University of Western Sydney has been unable to provide sufficient numbers of undergraduate students to take up the available clinical placements in hospitals within Western Sydney.

    The Western Sydney Area Health Service has had to form alliances with the University of Technology, Sydney, and the University of Newcastle to get sufficient numbers of both undergraduate and postgraduate students to fill these gaps. It is imperative for students to undertake clinical placements as these students are the future of the nursing work force in Western Sydney. The sad story is found in the current registered nurse vacancies. In July 2003 Liverpool Hospital, Westmead Hospital and Nepean Hospital were actively recruiting 260 full-time equivalent registered nurses. That figure is larger than the total number of 210 additional undergraduate places that the Commonwealth is offering for the whole of Australia in 2004.

    Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Mills): Order! There is too much interjection.

    Ms D'AMORE: The failure of the University of Western Sydney to receive one new place under the Federal Government's plans for higher education is a total abrogation of duty to our nurses, to the people of Western Sydney and to the people of New South Wales. I note the comments of the honourable member for North Shore on retention, because that is an important point. The honourable member refuses to acknowledge that unless we are able to recruit more nurses our current nurses will continue to be overworked, which means that they are more likely to leave the industry because they can no longer work double and triple shifts and they can no longer go without annual leave.

    To assist recruitment and retention, the State Government has launched a $1.2 million study into nurse-patient ratios. Registered nurses in New South Wales say that nurse-patient ratios are important. As an officer of the New South Wales Nurses Association I note that we have the highest paid nurses in Australia—and so they should be—and the other States should match those conditions. Only last year nurses in New South Wales received a 10 per cent increase, which was part of a 22 per cent increase over four years. Some allowances increased by 50 per cent to 100 per cent. The nurses are grateful for that acknowledgement.

    We have launched the Nurses Reconnect Program to try to draw some of our nurses back to the industry. I note also that many nurses who have left the industry or retired have maintained their registration, which accounts for some of the figures to which the honourable member for North Shore referred. The challenge is for the Federal Government to keep up with the community in Western Sydney, to give due respect to our nurses in New South Wales and to assist the Government to assist in the recruitment of more nurses by providing placements.

    Ms BEAMER (Mulgoa—Minister for Juvenile Justice, Minister for Western Sydney, and Minister Assisting the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning (Planning Administration)) [4.21 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable members representing the electorates of Liverpool, Camden, Penrith and Drummoyne for their contributions to this debate. I shall highlight some of the reasons that this is, indeed, a motion for urgent consideration. Fifty per cent of university students at the University of Western Sydney are first-time family university goers; and 10 per cent of people in Western Sydney have a degree, compared to 20 per cent of the whole of greater Western Sydney. So there are inequities. What do we get from our Federal counterparts? We are called pram pushers, chippies, boilermakers or mechanics who aspire to mow lawns. That is what we get from our Federal representatives.

    When our Federal representatives talk about tertiary degrees they do not want those degrees for the people of Penrith, Drummoyne, Parramatta, Camden or Hawkesbury. Where is the honourable member for Hawkesbury in all of this? Why is he not defending his campus? Where is he in this debate? Let us think about it. There is some 3.2 per cent of university participation in Western Sydney compared to more than 5 per cent for greater Western Sydney. We are regional and we are multicampus. That puts the University of Western Sydney in a different ballpark to other universities. For example, all the universities in Tasmania are considered to be regional. Why? Because they are too far away from Melbourne. The University of Western Sydney is far away from Melbourne, so we can be included in that category. If Tasmania is included, the University of Western Sydney should also be included. It is appalling.

    The honourable member for North Shore is right about Wollongong. The University of Wollongong put up a fight, as did the University of Western Sydney. We do not want cuts made to our funding base. We want funding to achieve the mission of the University of Western Sydney. We want to be funded so that we can run not four or five but six large campuses throughout the greater Western Sydney area. We want to be funded to keep the rate of growth that Western Sydney has experienced. We must remember that $40 million of funding will be cut from all courses at the university if the Federal Government proceeds with its plans. If Brendan Nelson does that, $40 million will be cut from the University of Western Sydney. That will be a real shame for all courses.

    The loss of 135 nurses becomes a disgrace. We want funding to keep pace with growth. In the next 15 years we expect 25 per cent growth in Western Sydney, and we want funding that is representative of our unique student profile: first-time university goers. In some cases it will be the first time that a family member has achieved a university degree. It is an absolute disgrace that the Federal Government could dare to not acknowledge the particular circumstances of the University of Western Sydney: it is a regional multicampus university. "Multicampus" means that it needs more libraries, information technology facilities and laboratories across campus. It needs student support services and academic staff for all its campuses.

    The Federal Government's plan is an attempt to deprive the people of Western Sydney of that resource. It is an attempt to go back to the days when it was all right to be a boilermaker or a chippy and all one could dare to aspire to—and I quote Jackie Kelly again—was to push a pram or a lawnmower. However, we will not be pushed around on this anymore. The university is rightly outraged. It is time the Federal Government showed its commitment to higher education in Western Sydney. We are not asking for extra treatment. We are asking for a fair share for Western Sydney. I commend this motion to the House. I call on the Federal Government to restore equitable, accessible university education for Western Sydney, to give our people a chance so they can aspire to attend the University of Western Sydney. I call on the Federal Government to reverse the funding cuts cruelly imposed on the university. I implore it to reconsider its decision.

    Question—That the words stand—put.

    The House divided.
    Ayes, 52
    Mr Amery
    Ms Andrews
    Mr Bartlett
    Ms Beamer
    Mr Black
    Mr Brown
    Ms Burney
    Miss Burton
    Mr Campbell
    Mr Collier
    Mr Corrigan
    Mr Crittenden
    Ms D'Amore
    Mr Debus
    Ms Gadiel
    Mr Gaudry
    Mr Gibson
    Mr Greene
    Ms Hay
    Mr Hickey
    Mr Hunter
    Mr Iemma
    Ms Judge
    Ms Keneally
    Mr Knowles
    Mr Lynch
    Mr McBride
    Mr McLeay
    Ms Meagher
    Ms Megarrity
    Mr Mills
    Ms Moore
    Mr Morris
    Mr Newell
    Ms Nori
    Mr Orkopoulos
    Mrs Paluzzano
    Mr Pearce
    Mrs Perry
    Mr Price
    Dr Refshauge
    Ms Saliba
    Mr Sartor
    Mr Scully
    Mr Shearan
    Mr Tripodi
    Mr Watkins
    Mr West
    Mr Whan
    Mr Yeadon

    Tellers,
    Mr Ashton
    Mr Martin

    Noes, 33
    Mr Aplin
    Mr Armstrong
    Mr Barr
    Ms Berejiklian
    Mr Cansdell
    Mr Constance
    Mr Draper
    Mr Fraser
    Mrs Hancock
    Mr Hartcher
    Mr Hazzard
    Ms Hodgkinson
    Mrs Hopwood
    Mr Humpherson
    Mr Kerr
    Mr McGrane
    Mr Oakeshott
    Mr O'Farrell
    Mr Page
    Mr Piccoli
    Mr Pringle
    Mr Roberts
    Ms Seaton
    Mrs Skinner
    Mr Slack-Smith
    Mr Souris
    Mr Stoner
    Mr Tink
    Mr Torbay
    Mr J. H. Turner
    Mr R. W. Turner


    Tellers,
    Mr George
    Mr Maguire

    Pairs
    Ms AllanMr Brogden
    Mr CarrMr Debnam
    Mr StewartMr Richardson

    Question resolved in the affirmative.

    Amendment negatived.

    Question—That the motion be agreed to—put.

    The House divided.
    Ayes, 57
    Mr Amery
    Ms Andrews
    Mr Barr
    Mr Bartlett
    Ms Beamer
    Mr Black
    Mr Brown
    Ms Burney
    Miss Burton
    Mr Campbell
    Mr Collier
    Mr Corrigan
    Mr Crittenden
    Ms D'Amore
    Mr Debus
    Mr Draper
    Ms Gadiel
    Mr Gaudry
    Mr Gibson
    Mr Greene
    Ms Hay
    Mr Hickey
    Mr Hunter
    Mr Iemma
    Ms Judge
    Ms Keneally
    Mr Knowles
    Mr Lynch
    Mr McBride
    Mr McGrane
    Mr McLeay
    Ms Meagher
    Ms Megarrity
    Mr Mills
    Ms Moore
    Mr Morris
    Mr Newell
    Ms Nori
    Mr Oakeshott
    Mr Orkopoulos
    Mrs Paluzzano
    Mr Pearce
    Mrs Perry
    Mr Price
    Dr Refshauge
    Ms Saliba
    Mr Sartor
    Mr Scully
    Mr Shearan
    Mr Torbay
    Mr Tripodi
    Mr Watkins
    Mr West
    Mr Whan
    Mr Yeadon


    Tellers,
    Mr Ashton
    Mr Martin

    Noes, 28
    Mr Aplin
    Mr Armstrong
    Ms Berejiklian
    Mr Cansdell
    Mr Constance
    Mr Fraser
    Mrs Hancock
    Mr Hartcher
    Mr Hazzard
    Ms Hodgkinson
    Mrs Hopwood
    Mr Humpherson
    Mr Kerr
    Mr O'Farrell
    Mr Page
    Mr Piccoli
    Mr Pringle
    Mr Roberts
    Ms Seaton
    Mrs Skinner
    Mr Slack-Smith
    Mr Souris
    Mr Stoner
    Mr Tink
    Mr J. H. Turner
    Mr R. W. Turner

    Tellers,
    Mr George
    Mr Maguire
    Pairs

    Ms AllanMr Brogden
    Mr CarrMr Debnam
    Mr StewartMr Richardson

    Question resolved in the affirmative.

    Motion agreed to.