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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 21109

Skilling the Cradle Coast Announcement Ulverstone, Tasmania

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 14/02/2004

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 21109

Thank you very much, Mr Jaensch, President of the Senate, Senator Colbeck, Vice Chancellor, other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. It's no secret that Australia is enjoying extremely good and robust economic conditions.

But one of the important things about national economic strength is that the benefits of it must be shared as equally as possible around the nation. Some years ago, we observed the situation where the country was very strong nationally but not all parts of the country were enjoying the benefits of that economic strength. And we set about in a number ways trying to address that and one of the things we did and that was very much by courtesy of the Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, was to develop what was called the Sustainable Regions Programme to recognise that although there was general economic prosperity, some parts of the country weren't getting their fair share and that always runs against the Australian grain.

We decided to, in a number of ways, to address regional inequality and the Sustainable Regions Programme, out of which the grant I'm about to announce will be funded with one element of that and I'm delighted to say that over the last year or two Tasmania in a very dramatic way begun to share more fully than in the past and indeed for a very long time the fruits of national economic prosperity.

It's impossible for one part of Australia to be prosperous, unless the entire nation is prosperous or it's very difficult and therefore of course the revival of the Tasmanian economy in overwhelming measure has been due to the general health and strength of the Australian economy, which sees us for the first time, for example, since 1968 having an unemployment rate below 6% and inflation rate below 3% at the same time. It's a remarkable and very important double. There have been a number of special measures that have helped the tourism industry in Tasmania and some of them of course have come from the Commonwealth and some have come from the state and there has been heavy investment in many Tasmanian activities out of the Natural Heritage Trust and also the Networking the Nation programme which was funded out of the partial sale of Telstra. All of these things have helped in a particular fashion.

And I was delighted to hear from the Vice-Chancellor about the impact of the university package on this part of Tasmania and on Tasmania generally. We're very proud of that university package. It took a lot of hard negotiating to get it through the Senate, but it's necessary for the long-term strength of the tertiary education sector in our country. We need more resources for universities. We also need to give universities more flexibility so that they can adapt and adjust to the local needs of their local community and that is exactly what is going to occur here in this part of Tasmania and I'm so pleased that that programme has now been passed into law and it can have effect.

So I'm very pleased to announce that the Commonwealth will contribute $577,500 for Skilling the Cradle Coast Community for the 21st Century. It's a programme that was outlined to you earlier and that you're very familiar with and the contribution from the Commonwealth will match the contribution from the State Government and from industry. As you know the project will promote science and technology related subjects in schools in the Cradle Coast region to address the current and future skills shortages in these areas throughout the region. This is a practical way of spending the taxpayers' dollar because we do need more scientists. We need more people who are technically proficient. We don't need more people going to some other disciplines. Perhaps, fewer people should go into those disciplines and more go into science and I've learnt as a layman in science matters, I was not educated in that stream myself but I've learnt a great deal over the last eight years as Chairman of the Prime Minister's Science Engineering and Technology Council which on a regular basis brings me into touch with leading scientists, researchers, industry people who understand the challenges of science. Leaders of the universities and some of our great science prize winners and we come together on a regular basis and talk about the future challenges of this country that can be addressed by science.

The Vice Chancellor was telling me the extraordinary lift in the retention rate between years ten and twelve in the schools in this region. And something like what it was 57 to 75% over a very short period of time. Now, that is fantastic and they are the results and the reaction of a community that has a revived sense of hope and belief in its future and the good thing about this project and so many others is that it will bring responses and help to people here. It won't hold out the prospect though that you can advance if you go somewhere else. I mean, that has been the curse of Tasmania for too long, that you've had to go elsewhere to get the things that you ought to be able within reasonable measure to have available in your own community. There's always a limit to that because of the economies of size and scale, but it's only right that this part of the world have its own tertiary education identity and it's only right that we have a project that will encourage in the schools of this region a greater interest in science and hopefully lead to a greater number of science graduates and the contribution of that will (inaudible) to the future of this country.

We meet in a building which is an example of the leading edge science capacity. A great export industry which has demonstrating the contribution that this country can make to the export capacity of Australia.

Now, I know the product that comes from here is already duty free in the United States because you have 85% of the market. But let me take the opportunity as a final commercial to say how terrific the Free Trade Agreement is for Tasmania. The horticultural industries are getting a great tariff concessions, industrial products, and agriculture 66% of tariffs removed immediately another 9% to zero within a short period of time. Overall, enormous long range benefits for the future and when I was at the Festivale in Launceston and drinking some of the local wine I was reminded that although the wine industry does extremely well in the United States at the present time, in fact, the United States just went past Great Britain as our largest export destination for wine last year. Although, we do do very well in America at the present time, we'll do even better as a result of this Agreement because the tariff, it's only a small one, but any tariff is a nuisance if you're an exporter in that country - it's going to be phased out over a period of years. So that's unambiguously a good news story for the whole of Australia and not least Tasmania.

But I'm delighted to be associated with this product, I'm delighted to see that the Commonwealth is supporting it financially and I congratulate the industry people who've supported it. I congratulate the university for its leadership. For TAFE Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government for its role. I think it will do great things for this region.

Thank you very much.

[ends]

Transcript 21109