Bill's Transcripts





24 JULY 2013


COMPERE: The Prime Minister met the Victorian Premier, Denis Napthine, last night as part of his continuing drive to get states to accept the federal school funding plans. After the talks there was no agreement, but Premier Napthine said there'd been progress in what he called fruitful and positive discussions. Let's get a government assessment of those talks now. Marius Benson is speaking to the Federal Education Minister, Bill Shorten.

MARIUS BENSON: Bill Shorten, you were in the talks last night. Would you say there had been progress?

BILL SHORTEN: The Prime Minister and I had constructive talks about the possibility of Victoria signing up to the Better Schools Program, which would see significant resources apply to every child who attends a Victorian government school. It was positive and constructive.

MARIUS BENSON: Positive and constructive. Is the deadline still Friday?

BILL SHORTEN: Yes. I believe it should be possible to make a decision by Friday if the Victorian Government and the National Government are able to arrive at a positive outcome for all of the children who go to government schools in Victoria.

MARIUS BENSON: And why does the deadline have to be Friday?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, schools need to start getting on with the planning for their next year's budget. So we should know if we can reach an agreement by Friday.

MARIUS BENSON: And just how do you rate the chances of that agreement being achieved by then?

BILL SHORTEN: I've been involved in enough negotiations that I wouldn't want to predict success or failure. But what I do believe is that the offer of the Commonwealth to provide greater resources which allow individual children to get the support they need to get the best out of their school years is a good offer. I also know that the Victorian Government is interested to make sure that what is proposed fits in with their view of our children in schools. And I'm positive, without being 100 per cent sure.

MARIUS BENSON: If you have only two days to negotiate does that mean you've written off the prospect of agreement with the states that are still outside the agreement: WA, Queensland, and the Territory?

BILL SHORTEN: My door is always open, and we'll continue discussions with all jurisdictions in the next number of days.

MARIUS BENSON: The question being asked by some is why such a tight deadline? Why Friday? And the answer being given is because the Prime Minister's about to call an election. We're going to be voting next month.

BILL SHORTEN: No. I think the answer is far clearer. Why take forever to work out something that most people have worked out?

MARIUS BENSON: Everyone's getting ready for the election. Pre-selection is being settled in some seats last night in the seat previously held by Simon Crean. Now, you are backing a candidate - Rosemary Barker - Geoff Lake was the successful candidate. Disappointing for you?

BILL SHORTEN: No. Geoff Lake will be a very good candidate. And Labor has got candidates who are all committed to the Better Schools Plan. So the process is being conducted, and I'm an enthusiastic supporter of the candidates now they've been chosen.

MARIUS BENSON: A pretty willing campaign in Simon Crean's old seat. There were claims of abuse, threats, intimidation. Geoff Lake, the successful candidate, said one returning officer - a pretty large returning officer - he weighs a 130 kilos - was telling him to F off. Is that okay?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, I wasn't there at the Hotham pre-selection. I made a conscious decision to take a step back in recent years from active day to day engagement in party matters. I'm pleased the process is finished. I'm pleased that we've got a candidate there - Geoff Lake - a very capable person who'll do good things in politics.

MARIUS BENSON: Is Labor now ready for a campaign, ready for an election?

BILL SHORTEN: Oh, I think the question is - have the Conservatives been able to switch from negative to positive?

MARIUS BENSON: Well, can we just try that other question? Is Labor ready?

BILL SHORTEN: I think we are more positive than the Coalition. We have costed policies, including, but not limited to, education, disability insurance, the creation and maintenance of jobs in Australia.

So I believe that Labor has a more positive vision of the future, and I think that whilst the Opposition leader, Mr Abbott, has been good at opposing over the last three years, this issue of education, I think, reveals the very big difference between Labor and Liberal. If you vote for Labor at this election you know what we want to do with the schools of Australia. You know - every parent knows that their children are going to get more resources to help them provide that individual support so the kids who are struggling can get up to speed; so the kids who are really well can have their boundaries and their imaginations and creativity expanded. There's a big choice in education.

MARIUS BENSON: Bill Shorten, thank you very much.

BILL SHORTEN: Thanks, Marius.

COMPERE: The Federal Education Minister, Bill Shorten, speaking there to Marius Benson.