Bill's Transcripts




SUBJECT: Labor’s Better Schools Plan


BILL SHORTEN: Good afternoon everyone.  It’s great to be at one of Australia’s very good schools talking about education and the future of better schools so our children can get the best start in life.


The future needs of Australia’s school children and their parents, needs the 100 per cent commitment to the Better Schools plan.  Australian school children and their parents deserve from their politicians and political parties 100 per cent fully-funded, fully- costed policy which commits 100 per cent to the best start in life for Australia’s school children.


Today we’ve heard the Coalition provide neither of 100 per cent commitment to the future of our schools policy nor of 100 per cent commitment to the fully- costed policies that Australia’s parents require from their potential leaders.


Labor has a Better Schools Plan.  We’ve successfully negotiated this plan with states and territories, with Independent schools, with the Catholic Education Commissions all around Australia.


Labor’s Better Schools Plan is all about ensuring that schools and the children who attend them are funded according to their need.  Labor’s Better Schools Plan is all about making sure of regardless that what postcode you live in Australia you get equal access, equal opportunity, to the best resources so every unique individual child can reach maturity with a great education.


But last week the Coalition wrote to every school principal in Australia. Last week in this letter Tony Abbott wrote to every school principal and said ‘The Coalition has deep reservations about the Government’s new school funding proposals.’


So last week every parent could read a letter where the Coalition said – in black and white – to every school principal, that they don’t support the Government’s education proposals, our Better Schools Plan. That they were not committed 100 per cent to either the funding proposition or indeed backing in the policies.  Last week this is what parents could believe the Coalition’s view was.  Today, the Coalition says well what happened last week, that doesn’t matter. This week they say believe us that we are committed. They are in fact, not committed.


Australia’s school children and their parents require 100 per cent commitment to the Better Schools policy, a 100 per cent commitment to careful costing.  You simply can’t trust the Coalition on education and school funding and the best interests of Australian school children when last week they write to every principal and say one thing and then this week, because they’re concerned about political backlash, they try and say something else.


Specifically, we know that if you want to have the best schools, so every school child in Australia can get a great education, you’ve got to be committed to the policy not just the politics.  It requires the long-term planning.


Australia’s parents work 100 per cent to help their children reach from the early years to adult years and make sure they get a good education.  Australia’s parents and their school children should be able to expect a 100 per cent commitment from the major political parties to have better schools, 100 per cent commitment to the policies.


The Opposition have spent three years trash talking Labor’s education plans. They said recently on TV, yesterday, the Opposition spokesperson said the Better Schools Plan – yesterday – was ‘a great con’, and he said there isn’t any new money in the next few years, there’s a cut.


So on the first of August, Christopher Pine says it’s a con and it’s a cut in funding, and on 2 August they say oh no well we’re actually going to do this plan.  It is simply unbelievable.


Australia’s parents don’t want politics in their education; they just want to know who’s on the side of their kids getting the best start in life.


Only Labor has a fully-funded policy.  We’ve been negotiating this for years. The Catholic Education Commission’s ticked off on it, the Independent School’s Council of Australia has ticked off on it, the Liberal Premier of NSW has ticked off on it, and indeed we’re having very productive discussions with Victorian Government.


So to fill a hole the Opposition is trying to rush around and put a bit of lipstick on their own policies, which are not 100 per cent committed to the kids, not 100 per cent committed to the funding, and not 100 per cent committed to the policy.  They simply cannot be trusted on education.  Happy to take questions.


QUESTION: Has Tony Abbott’s announcement today deprived you of the key election weapon?


BILL SHORTEN: Not at all.  The Coalition has not 100 per cent committed to fully funding the better schools plan over the next six years. They haven’t committed to supporting the policy at all.  Last week they were writing to every school principal in Australia saying don’t trust this plan.  This week they’re saying oh actually we might do something, perhaps, possibly. They’ve got more caveats on this, they’ve got more ifs and protections against actually doing it. They’re simply not authentic and sincere on education.


Let’s not forget, let’s not just pretend that before today there was no history and that today is just – the past never happened.  For 3 years the Opposition have trash talked our education reforms, they haven’t provided the funding proposals that we have, they’ve been writing to every principal in Australia saying these plans are no good and they’re going to leave schools worse off.


How can last week a letter arrive on the desk of school principals saying you’ll all be worse off, and this week they say actually we’re going to get into this issue too.  It’s just not believable.  Parents of school children need to know what to believe.  Only Labor has got a Better Schools plan for every school, fully costed with thought-out policy. This is just a political fix from the Coalition.


QUESTION:  It’s straight out of the Kevin ’07 electoral text book though, isn’t it? Neutralise the opposition?


BILL SHORTEN: What we are talking about here is not just the politics of the 24 hour news cycle.  What we are talking about is the aspiration and hope that every parent has for their school children, that their kids can get the best possible funding and that children in Australia don’t miss out because of need.


What Australian parents want is they want their Members of Parliament, they want their political parties, to apply the same forensic passion for the future of their children that they do every day.  Every day parents get up and go to work, they earn money, they pay taxes to make sure their kids get the best start in life.  They reasonably expect that the people they wish to run the country share the same sort of planning, foresight, thinking beyond the next 24 hours.


No one seriously thinks, and your question I think shows this too, no one seriously thinks that the Opposition has changed its spots on education.  They don’t like our ideas.  They’re not committed to spending the money.  They certainly have left the gap of what they said they are going to spend.  They are not signed up to asking to reform from the states and they certainly from last week to this week don’t ever mean what they say.


QUESTION:  They said they are not keen on some of the aspects which centralise power in Canberra.  Doesn’t that show a passion?  Doesn’t that show a point of difference?


BILL SHORTEN: Not at all.  We have made it very clear that Canberra is not going to run the schools.  But every state and territory knows that this is a good plan and many of them have signed up.  The Catholic Education Commission would hardly have signed up to a deal which saw the Government of Australia running the Catholic Education system.


This Opposition has come up with more excuses why they haven’t done their homework than the dog ate their homework.  You know, they say it’s all about a takeover.  The Opposition has wasted three years. They hoped that people wouldn’t get interested in the Better Schools plan.


They know that in the last month with Prime Minister Rudd, there’s been real momentum.  They know that the Catholics have signed up to it, the Independents schools signed up, the Tasmanians have signed up.  They know the talks in Victoria are going very well. The Opposition is panicked.  They are not 100 per cent committed to the funding.  They are not 100 per cent committed to the policy.  Parents can’t believe what they say because one week they send a letter saying one thing, next week they front up to a press conference and say something else.  On education, you know that you can only trust Labor.


QUESTION:  Does this make it harder to get Victoria’s support?


BILL SHORTEN: We’re having constructive talks.  Frankly the Coalition has been irrelevant to the education reform debates for the last two-and-a-half to three years.


QUESTION:  Does it make it harder though?


BILL SHORTEN: I think that the Victorian Government and the Labor Government are working through the issues based on the best interests of school children.  Whereas I think the Coalition has been panicked by the progress that we have been making with the Victorian Government.


The Coalition’s policy has got far more politics than schools in it.  Our policy has got far more schools in it than politics.  Only Labor can be trusted on education.  Only Labor is 100 per cent committed to the proper funding of every great school in Australia so that every child, no matter where they come from, can get the best start in life.


QUESTION:  How close are you and when do you think you might reach a deal with Victoria?


BILL SHORTEN:  We have had very constructive talks.  I’ve personally had a number of direct conversations and negotiations with Premier Napthine.  Our officials are meeting with theirs even as we speak.


Compared to the Queensland Government who have exhibited a siege mentality and an attitude towards negotiating with the Commonwealth approaching paranoia, the Victorian government are certainly being very constructive in their approach and I hope that we can bridge our differences.  Again, this shows the difference between Labor and Coalition.


The Coalition has said we don’t know what our education policy is, we’re not really committed to it because we have just trashed it for the last three years, but by the way we want to be part of anything that’s going even though we are not committing to funding it over the next 6 years.


QUESTION:  Will you keep negotiating throughout an election campaign if one’s called?


BILL SHORTEN:  Once the caretaker period comes down it’s not possible for us to conclude any contractual agreements.  What I do hope though is that we can close the gap with Victoria.  Let’s be really straight.


QUESTION:  That’s really your only hope? That Vic is the last state that you think you can get on board?


BILL SHORTEN: The LNP Government in Queensland wouldn’t know a good deal if it bit them in the bottom.  In education, we are offering them nearly $2.5 billion extra and they just say, you know, they’re alive to our ways and you know they’re not going to be conned by the offer of better resources for Queensland school children.  At a certain point you have got to say you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.


But in terms of the discussions that we are having with Victoria they’re definitely more positive than negative.  Nationally, let’s be really clear and let’s be straight, parents want to know.  Look at the competing offers of the two political parties. You know, if you’ve a got a child that is entering year seven next year or a child going to prep next year, Labor’s got a policy for the next six years which is fully-funded.  It’s an extra $10 billion. The Coalition does not have a fully-funded, 100 per cent policy.  It says they are not committed to anything, they’re going to work out the detail next year.  These people haven’t done the homework and they are submitting an inadequate answer for the parents of Australia to mark them on.


QUESTION:  Getting a deal with weekend with Victoria?


BILL SHORTEN:  Certainly I think we will know where we are by the end of the weekend in terms of our discussions with Victoria.


QUESTION:  Is getting a deal worth delaying the election for?


BILL SHORTEN: I think that it is possible to get a deal this weekend, yes.


QUESTION:  That’s our timetable?


BILL SHORTEN: That’s out timetable and Premier Napthine has approached these discussions in a constructive fashion.  Again, I’ve got no doubt what has spooked the Coalition into running around putting lipstick on their inadequate policies is that even their own political parties in their states are saying, they have said to the Coalition, get out of the way, will ya?  We need to do the business; we need to look after our school kids.  We are willing and capable of doing business with the Federal Labor Government.


They know that Federal Labor is capable of governing.  They know that nationally, Labor has got the better brand on education; we’ve got the policies; we’ve got the 100 per cent commitment; we’ve got the back of every parent in Australia.  And the Coalition government in New South Wales and probably possibly Victoria, they are not interested in the Coalition’s negativity.  You know, the Coalition federally, on education, are a mile wide and an inch deep when it comes to thinking through the commitment to dollars and to policies.


Thanks everyone.





Media contact:  Andrew Porter  0419 474 392


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