Bill's Transcripts


18 JULY 2013

Subject: Better Schools Plan

TIM COX: But today let's get the view from Canberra with the Federal Education Minister, Bill Shorten.  Always good to talk to you, Minister. Good afternoon.

BILL SHORTEN: Good afternoon, Tim.

TIM COX: Are things different today to what they were last Friday?  Is there not the optimism that we got from last Friday around today?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, I have to concede that I'm perplexed at the mixed messages coming out of Brisbane.  What I do know is that the meeting we had last Friday was good and what I know is that the Commonwealth Government, which also helps fund schools in Queensland, wants to provide some extra resources.  We want to provide extra resources so that the Queensland schools can provide Queensland school children with extra teachers, literacy and numeracy coaches to work one on one with students who need extra help, extension programs for students with special talents, more equipment, the opportunity for more day excursions and learning opportunities, more support for principals and school communities.

This is all very good. This is what the experts say- to make sure that we can have schools which are better, which provide children with a world class education.  So we've got a very good goal in mind.  A number of states have signed up to it. They've looked at it. It doesn't matter if you're a Conservative or a Labor state, they've signed up to it.

Now, what I get - as indeed independent schools and we're having very constructive conversations with the Catholic school system. Then we get to the debate of the day, which is, is there an argument between the Commonwealth Government of Australia and the Queensland Government.

I am getting mixed messages from Queensland Government. We know that our officials have been meeting this afternoon and had a good discussion. We know that there is no one else in Australia queuing up to put in more money, to provide better resources for school students in Queensland schools. We know that we want to basically do an extra two dollars for every extra dollar the Queensland Government puts in. We also know that the Queensland Government jealously guards its prerogative to be in charge of schools. We respect that. We want to be partners. We don't want to take over the running of schools. We also know that we've got Commonwealth taxpayer money and we want to make sure that we can help ensure that children are funded according to their need.

TIM COX: Bill Shorten, John-Paul Langbroek was on radio this morning saying, and I quote: Bill Shorten can come on your show with his velvet tones and try to make out - velvet tones, that's nice.

BILL SHORTEN: Velvet tones.

TIM COX: But - and try to make out that he's offering us a lot more and that he wants to sit down and talk while his boss, Mr Rudd, is out there slagging us in a press conference.  What do you say to that?

BILL SHORTEN: I've been negotiating, representing people for twenty years one way and the other. I know that you're probably better off not name-calling. I actually think Queenslanders are no different to any other Australians and that they get sick of the Federal Government bagging the State Government and the State Government bagging the Federal Government. So if the fact that I'm not going down that road means the velvet tone, so be it.

What I know is that the Queensland Government's doing it hard at the moment.  They've got, you know, a whole set of priorities. They've put some extra money into education.  They've got debt issues.  They've got to sort all that out. I get that. I also know that they jealously guard the special attributes of the Queensland education system.

What I would say to Mr Langbroek, what I would say to the - even more importantly, to the parents of Queensland school children, is the Commonwealth Government's got a plan which would see extra resources in partnership with the State Government going to your schools.  It would provide greater support for the teachers in the schools, greater support for individual students. We can - we've costed it in our budget. We can pay for it. What we're proposing is resources which would be about two-point-five billion dollars over the next six years, but going to schools. Going to school communities to control.

We want to work with the Queensland Government and I think that, if we can't arrive at a suitable arrangement, then that's a failure of leadership and we are not prepared to give up. We are very persistent, because I know that at Indooroopilly Primary School the kids there can do with more resources and so can the school teachers. I know that in Mount Isa they've got their challenges with distance ed.  I know there's schools which have a high proportion of indigenous students in regional Queensland, could do with extra resources. I know there are schools on the south side, down in Ipswich, which could do with more resources.  We want to do it with the Queensland Government.

Name calling, you know, maybe it used to sell newspapers in the 1980s. I don't think it helps and we are happy to meet anywhere, anytime, to work through the issues.

TIM COX: What happens to the raft of reforms and the funding formula for all the states and territories, for the independent schools and, from the sounds of it, for the Catholic schools if Queensland and, to date, Victoria, don't sign up? Does the whole lot collapse? Or do those states dip out?

BILL SHORTEN: No. Those states would miss out. But let me be really clear. You know, perhaps I can't make up for all of the real or imagined insults or slights that the Queensland Government feel they've had. I think we have to move beyond our own sort of emotions on this matter to what's in the best interests of the kids.

Catholic schools in Queensland, if we resolve our issues, and we're close to it, not final yet, but close to it, will get extra funding from the Federal Government regardless of what happens with the Queensland Government. Independent schools will. Government schools in the jurisdictions who sign up to our changes will get the reforms. I think it is likely.

But even if Queensland and Victoria and Western Australia don't sign up, something like two-and-a-half million Australian school children who are in the jurisdictions who do support what we're doing will get the extra resources. I think it would just be a shame not to have those extra resources. And none of what I should say should be taken to have a crack at the Queensland Conservative Government. I get they've got their issues.

But what I also say to them is, we want to support Queensland schools to be world class schools, not just Queensland schools. We don't want to run the schools. I say to Mr Langbroek and to Premier Newman, you guys are in charge of the schools. They're your responsibility. But we are fronting up to assist you in tough budget circumstances get better outcomes for kids, more resources, more technology, providing support for families to help, because families are fundamental to schools. If the family's not interested in education, it's hard for the teachers to make up that gap.

We want to do the right thing. We want to do it with the Queensland Government. We can't do it without them. All I say is that, you know, it's more than just your average political issue. This is not a time to, you know, bagging the Prime Minister because he's in Papua New Guinea. I think now is the time more than ever that the kids - we don't want them to slip behind the rest of the world. The world's a tough place. We've got to make sure we look after them.

TIM COX: Thanks for talking to me.

BILL SHORTEN: Thank you very much.



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