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SA university merger back in spotlight


Premier Peter Malinauskas has used a national address to put South Australian university amalgamation back on the agenda and call for an increase in the nation’s humanitarian refugee cap.

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Speaking to the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday, Malinauskas canvassed a range of issues including structural reforms to healthcare, childcare and the economy.

But the newly elected Premier also used the rare national platform to restate his intention to examine a merger of two of SA’s big three universities, calling for federal support in the pursuit.

“Every thinking person at home knows we need to at least examine having two unis, not three,” he said.

“No one’s done it and we’re going to.

“I really hope I have a Federal Education Minister who can see the opportunity that will create.”

The most recent attempt at creating a “super university” in South Australia by merging the University of South Australia and the University of Adelaide was killed off in October 2018 after UniSA decided it was not in its interests.

But Malinauskas argued the state needs a top 100 university and was currently “punching below its weight” in research and development.

“It’s been talked about a lot … and it’s always a can that seems to get kicked down the road,” he said.
“I want to ask the question if we started over again with higher education would we end up with three different universities doing three very different things … at the expense of efficient investment.”

Malinauskas also vowed to advocate for an increase of Australia’s humanitarian intake cap of 13,750 refugee places.

“If we can’t at least double that, I think that would reflect a lack of national pride and contextual understanding of exactly who we are as a country and what our values are,” he said.

It comes as the Malinauskas Government prepares to reveal this year’s parliamentary sitting calendar and when it will hand down its first state budget.

The announcement will come after a meeting of state cabinet this morning.

South Australia’s new Liberal Opposition – which is still yet to elect a new leader to replace ousted premier Steven Marshall – fired one of its first shots at Malinauskas yesterday, accusing him of being “more focussed on self-promotion in Canberra than dealing with the pandemic”.

“Peter Malinauskas says he is doing everything within his power to increase health system capacity but one of the first things he does as Premier is jumps on a plane to Canberra to chase the spotlight,” an Opposition spokesperson said.

“With cases rising, more and more hospitalisations and schools closing, the Premier should be in South Australia addressing these issues as a priority.”

Asked about the criticism yesterday, Malinauskas said: “I think health needs to be a debate we have on the national stage.”

“Having the opportunity to contribute to this important debate on the national stage is fundamentally in my state’s interest,” he said.

SA Health reported a record 5784 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths on Wednesday.

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