TUESDAY, 26 NOVEMBER 2013
SUBJECT/S: The Abbott’s Government’s Broken Promise on Schools Funding; Indonesia.
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, BILL SHORTEN: It’s great to be here with my colleague Shadow Minister for Education Minister Kate Ellis, local member for Kingsford-Smith Matt Thistlethwaite, an old boy in fact of Marist College. This is a great Catholic school. Hundreds of children, supported by the parents, alongside great teachers, trying to get the best start in life. This is a school which, amongst its many achievements, has a great program engaging Indigenous kids in quality education. And it’s a great school because it’s got so many kids from so many different backgrounds - it’s a very good example of multiculturalism at its finest and I congratulate the students, the parents and their staff.
We’re also here today to talk about the very concerning developments, where we are seeing Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne do something different in Government about the future of education and schools than what they said they’d do in Opposition. In Opposition the Coalition said - in order to shut down a damaging political debate, because they didn’t have good credentials on education - the Opposition said under Tony Abbott that there would be a ‘unity ticket’. Not my words, the words of the Coalition and then Opposition, there would be a ‘unity ticket’ on education policies in this country. Now they get into Government, and now they are saying ‘I’m sorry parents of Australian school children, I’m sorry teachers in Australian schools, I’m sorry school children in schools’ - be they Government or Catholic, or non-government schools.
What we are now hearing from the Coalition is that they are not committing to needs-based education that provides the best possible resources to give Australian school children the best possible start in life. This is not the Government that they told Australians they would be before the election. It is now time for Mr Pyne to rule out that any schools will be worse off. These damaging education debates about uncertainty of funding for schools is throwing schools across Australia into disarray.
We are only a few weeks off the preparation for the new school year. Neither the Catholic education commissions or state departments of education can guarantee budgets and funding formulas to students, to parents, because we’ve got a new Government in Canberra which is contradicting what they said before the election. What they told Australians before the election is not actually what they are going to do now they’re the Government of Australia. We believe that the Minister for Education and the Prime Minister need to rule out that any school, and any child, will be worse off because of the decisions of the new Coalition Government.
Education should not be a political football. This is not an argument between the Coalition Government and the Labor Opposition: this is a looming argument between a Coalition Government who misled voters, it’s an argument now with the parents and the teachers of 3.6 million school children throughout nine thousand Australian schools. I might ask my colleague Kate Ellis to say a few words then we’re happy to take questions.
KATE ELLIS: Thank you very much Bill. What we’re seeing today is that Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne are standing alone against the school funding reforms which they signed up to before the election. We have seen that they are not being backed up by state governments, either Liberal or Labor, they are not being backed up by the parents from across Australia who believed them when they said they were on a ‘unity ticket’, and they are certainly not being backed up by all of those who know that it is in Australia’s very best interests that we proceed with serious school funding reform. Now let’s compare what we’ve heard form Minister Pyne this morning with what their words actually were before the election.
Before the election, Christopher Pyne 29th of August: ‘We have agreed to the government’s school funding model’.
Christopher Pyne, 30th of August: ‘We are committed to the student resource standard, of course we are. We are committed to this new school funding model’.
Tony Abbott: There is no difference between myself and Kevin Rudd when it comes to school funding’.
And Christopher Pyne: ‘You can vote Liberal or Labor and you’ll get exactly the same amount of funding for your school’.
Of course today, when the Education Minister was asked to repeat this promise to the Australian public, he has refused to do so, and refused to rule out that schools across Australia will not be worse off as a result of their new measures. We also saw just last week Minister Pyne, on Sky News last week: ‘We will maintain the new school funding model and the budget that went with that’. Now Tony Abbott needs to front up, needs to pull his Education Minister back into line, and he needs to proceed with the very important school funding reforms which were instigated under Labor, but which were signed up to by governments like the New South Wales government, who know that this is in the nations’ best interest.
REPORTER: Bill, the Government is saying that the reason they’ve got to go back to the drawing board is because some of the agreements that were signed by you weren’t done correctly and in fact that you short funded the schools agreements by more than one billion dollars. What do you say to that?
SHORTEN: Tony Abbott promised before the election that they would be a Government of no surprises and no excuses. Now we’re seeing that when it comes to education that they’re a Government of nasty surprises and pathetic excuses. I didn’t imagine the agreements we struck with governments around Australia. I didn’t imagine the agreements that we struck with the catholic education commissions all around Australia. The deal is a deal.
Christopher Pyne and Tony Abbott, please get out of the way of Australia’s schools, Australia’s hard working teachers and Australian parents, just do what you said you would do before the election. Please don’t make education one of the first promises that you break to 3.6 million Aussie kids going to schools all round Australia.
REPORTER: If Labor had have been elected, would you have cut education funding by more than one billion dollars?
SHORTEN: Labor is the party which puts needs-based education on the map. Labor is the party that allocated extra resources so that our kids get the best start in life. School communities, school teachers and parents do a wonderful job.
I’m like most Australians: I’ve never worked in a school but like every Australian a lot of what I am as an adult is a product of a great quality education from hard working teachers and parents. The Coalition Government should not make education a political football, a deal is a deal. The State Governments know what they signed up to, the Catholic Education Commission knows what it signed up to. The Coalition said one thing before the election, now they’re trying to do something else after. They can blame the Opposition all they like, the real challenge is school parents in Australia and teachers expect the Coalition Government to keep their election promises.
REPORTER: Why weren’t these deals locked in so they couldn’t make any changes to it?
SHORTEN: The deals were locked in. Just look at Adrian Piccoli, the NSW Minister for Education said. I mean he’s a member of the Coalition party in the O’Farrell government. He has said that they will fight tooth and nail any effort to change the needs based formulas which have already been worked in. You look at what the Victorian government said: they just expect the Commonwealth Government, the Coalition Government to keep their word.
I’m sure that the National Catholic Education Commission fully appreciates that they just want the Coalition Government to keep their word. Catholic schools have been funding children based on equity principles for the past 150 plus years. I think they expect the Coalition to keep to those equity principles. There were deals done, it is just too extraordinary for words that the Coalition who said one thing before the election are now back flipping. This is not the Government that they told Australians they would be.
REPORTER: But do you think they have a point when they say that it’s not really a national deal because different agreements have been struck with different states?
SHORTEN: I’m surprised the Christopher Pyne doesn’t just say that the cat ate their homework after the election. This is a Government who said there’d be no excuses and now they’re trying to find every pathetic excuse in the book. They said they’d be a Government of no surprises: this is a very nasty surprise at the end of the school year. School budgets deserve to have certainty, what the Coalition should do is just stick to what they said before the election, just stick to the deal which state governments want, what the Catholic Education Commissions want, the deal that Labor did with a whole lot of schools to make sure our kids get the best start in life. No more excuses Christopher Pyne, just do your day job.
REPORTER: But it isn’t really a national deal though that Labor signed up to, is it, because every state has basically signed up to different sorts of deals.
SHORTEN: Well pick the sort of Liberal excuse they are using at one o’clock: on one hand they say there were no deals, now they say there were too many different deals.
REPORTER: But doesn’t Gonski need to be a national deal; doesn’t it need to be consistent across the board?
SHORTEN: Goodness me, this is the Government who are not doing what they told Australians they would do. Labor put forward education policies which were very popular, which would see children funded according to need, which would see school communities get the resources they need, not only give kids extra support a start, but also those kids who are really excellent to really push them further. Labor had a funded education policy, we had arrangements with all of the states and jurisdictions except Queensland, WA and the Northern Territory but eight in every ten school children in Australia were covered by arrangements before the election was called and would see extra funding. The Coalition has got to stop using pathetic excuses and springing nasty surprises on the educational needs of Australia’s school children.
REPORTER: Just half an hour ago Chris Pyne said you scrapped $1.2 billion from the schools budget?
SHORTEN: Christopher Pyne has not made the transition from Opposition to Government. He should keep the promises he made in Opposition now he’s in Government. If he doesn’t want to run the Education Ministry he should hop out the way and let one of us do it because frankly they are lost when it comes to education policy. Just stick to the deals. There are a lot of smart people every day in our education system, government schools, catholic schools a lot of parents battling to make ends meet to make sure their kids get the best start in life. What they don’t need is a nuisance Minister making up pathetic excuses to spring a nasty surprise. They were happy before the election to go with exactly what Labor said. They said there was a ‘unity ticket’, ‘no daylight’ between Liberal and Labor. Now they get elected, now they discover they can’t keep their promises, now they’re looking to blame everyone else. The buck stops with the Education Minister.
REPORTER: Can I just ask you about Indonesia, on the idea of Indonesia, what do you think about Labor Shadow Minster Brendan O’Connor saying that the relationship between Australia and Indonesia has gone backwards since the September election because of the Abbott Government’s failure to respond adequately and quickly to this sort of diplomatic crisis?
SHORTEN: Labor sees these current set of problems with Indonesia as most serious. Our Indonesia friends have been offended and we need to recognise that. It is important Australia maintains a productive and cooperative relationship with Indonesia. This is a very serious matter that we wish the Government would resolve in a very speedy fashion. There is no question there has been deterioration since the election in our relationship with Indonesia, but what we want is the Government to succeed in getting it back on track and to get it back on track it requires cool heads, careful words, it requires making sure we recognise offence has been felt by Indonesia and requires a sensible and calm approach to make sure that we restore and repair the relationship that is certainly in a very difficult position.
REPORTER: Are you concerned that Mr Abbott’s letter has not had a response yet from the President?
SHORTEN: This is a very serious matter - I’m not going to start coaching from the grandstand. The personal touch I think is appropriate, it is sensible, it is timely. I’m pleased the Government has called in someone of General Leahy’s standing to be of assistance in this matter. We want this to be resolved; we want this to be resolved in a timely fashion, it’s too important for too many of Australia’s interests to let this dispute and disagreement fester one second longer than it has to.
REPORTER: Do you think Peter Leahy was snubbed, he went to a lot of effort to get that letter over there and he didn’t get to hand it over personally as was the original intention?
SHORTEN: I’m not going to start second guessing how Indonesia should respond to our representatives and I’m not going to start second guessing how our representative should deliver letters. What matters here for all Australians is that we get this mess fixed up. Labor is on board to making sure the problems get repaired. We want to debate the government on what they’re doing on their policies - be it nearly doubling the debt, their secrecy about their boats policy, around their education election promises being broken. We do not want this Government to fail in terms of repairing its relationship with Indonesia. That matter should be beyond politics and we just wish this matter to be resolved in the most timely and effective sense. That’s what Australians want, and Labor’s part of that.
REPORTER: Can I ask you very quickly the Greens are seeking your support to haul Angus Campbell back before a senate estimates committee to talk about operation sovereign borders, will you support that motion?
SHORTEN: I have no information about that particular proposition at this point, so I can’t assist you. Thanks everyone.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADERS OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053
Do you like this post?