MS TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education) (12:30): The fact of the matter is that we have started traversing this. As I mentioned previously in response to a question by Mr Rich-Phillips, the Treasurer and I made an announcement on 19 May in respect of universities and assistance that will hopefully mitigate the loss of jobs in the university sector. We know that universities have been particularly hard hit as a result of the pandemic, and that is why we announced the $110 million payroll tax deferral. The deferral was to provide immediate relief to the university sector, which is going through a particularly hard time during this crisis, particularly given the decline in the number of international students.
As I mentioned, we have also established a state investment fund for higher education that will be about applied research and about capital works, but it will also be about research and industry partnerships in the sector. It is a really exciting opportunity to have a genuine partnership between the state government and the higher education sector that will align state priorities with the ability to build on the significant capacity that higher education has in this wonderful state.
As most members in this chamber know, the federal government is responsible for the funding of universities. It is the federal government that has the responsibility for the funding of universities, and while it has provided some support through domestic student funding and some short courses, the fact of the matter is that there clearly needs to be a lot more done. We are looking forward to working with the commonwealth to ensure that there is long-term sustainability of the sector and indeed Victorian universities. Among other things that I think the commonwealth should be doing is looking at providing loans and grants to institutions, as well as access to the JobKeeper program, which currently is being denied. We know that jobs are on the line in our universities, and additional support from the commonwealth is critical to keep university staff at work.