Under a Labor Government in Western Australia, the State's economy would be diversified beyond mining to expand its $1.2 billion a year education exports, WA Opposition Leader, Mark McGowan has told a CEDA audience in Perth.
Legislation that is stifling the State's universities would be amended, giving them the power to unlock the value of their land and people, and reinvest it in innovation and research, he said.
WA's universities are restricted by "legislation from another age", he said.
"If elected, my team will modernise the legislation binding Western Australia's universities to give them both security of land tenure and the ability to undertake commercial activity to create hubs of innovation and enterprise."
The current legislation gives WA universities no security over how they are allowed to develop their land, and this is hampering their ability to attract finance from banks, he said.
"WA Labor wants to empower universities to create an environment that nurtures innovation and enterprise," he said.
At present WA's educational exports are worth almost $1.2 billion a year but they could be much more, he said.
"WA's universities are already very significant in our economic context. UWA (The University of Western Australia) alone is a top 20 employer with 3500 staff and is in the top 100 universities in the world," he said.
"We will also encourage all of our universities to collaborate in their international marketing to promote Western Australia as the smart state in the Asian and Indian Ocean regions.
"Our export base is very dependent at the moment on mining and this industry will never be neglected. However, I want to expand our service exports - especially education."
Mr McGowan said Western Australians are looking for a more diversified economy - one that does not only rise and fall with commodity prices.
"I by no means want to diminish the role of the resources sector in Western Australia," he said.
"But we need to strengthen our other sectors to ensure that we have a range of jobs and opportunities for generations to come.
"Not only do we have a well educated workforce, we are (also) positioned in the growth region of our century.
"Much has been said about China's enormous growth, but we can look even closer to the emerging economies of India and Indonesia to see if there are other significant opportunities.
"These opportunities exist, but Western Australia must be willing to develop policies and initiatives to help industries seize these opportunities.
"I want to see a WA where, while acknowledging the importance of China, we don't forget our traditional trading and investment partners like Japan and the USA, and emerging Indian Ocean markets such as Indonesia and India.
"At the core of everything for me are two solid guiding principles; firstly, a strong economy is essential, and secondly, there needs to be a continuing program of economic reform."