Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Sydney - Labor’s ‘Your child. Our future’ plan for Australian education; Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberals 15 per cent GST on everything

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW
SYDNEY


FRIDAY, 29 JANUARY 2016

 

SUBJECT/S: Labor’s ‘Your child. Our future’ plan for Australian education; Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberals 15 per cent GST on everything; Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberals’ health cuts; The economy; Preselections; Tony Abbott


MATT THISTLETHWAITE, MEMBER FOR KINGSFORD SMITH:
Well good morning everyone, thank you for joining us here at St. Michael’s. Over the Christmas break, my wife and I witnessed a wonderful thing. Our seven-year old daughter fell in love with reading. We saw her learn to read without speaking words, or mind-reading as she now calls it. Each night she’d go to bed and read a different book, and wake up in the morning and tell us about the plot and the characters involved. There’s no greater joy as a parent than to see your child fall in love with learning. Now my wife and I are quite fortunate – our children go to a good local Catholic school like St. Michael’s. And they get the dedicated support and attention of some great teachers. But we know, and the statistics show us, that not all kids progress well in the early years, particularly around literacy and numeracy. I visit a lot of schools in our local community and I talk to teachers and I know the pressure they are under with class sizes and with ensuring that kids keep up. Can you imagine if you’ve got a class of 30 kids: some of them are at an advanced level; some kids may have a disability or trouble with reading or numeracy and are falling behind. It’s a big challenge for those teachers to ensure that every kid gets the necessary support that they deserve. And we know that if a kid falls behind in year one, it gets worse in year two, continues on in year three, and before we know it, they’ve fallen out of love with learning and they’re disadvantaged for the rest of their life. Now that is unfair. That’s an unsustainable system for a wealthy nation like Australia with high living standards. And that’s why Labor re-jigged our education funding system in Australia over recent years with the Gonski reforms. To focus on the most important element in education, the needs of the child. And for the seat of Kingsford-Smith, and our local schools, it will mean an additional $144 million going into local schools in our area. That’s more support for the kids that need it. That’s better resources for teachers, and in particular, a greater focus on bringing up kids who have disabilities and trouble learning.

 

I can't tell you how proud to be a member of the Labor Party, to be a member of Bill Shorten's team that is focusing on the needs of our kids in education. And I want to congratulate and thank Bill for the work and focus he's put on education and innovation in Australia. If Bill's elected later this year as Prime Minister, I've got no doubt he will go down in history as our nation's education Prime Minister. The bloke that focused on ensuring funding for schools was based on need. That drove a revolution in teaching science, technology, engineering and maths. That drove innovation and grew our economy because of our education system. I also want to thank Kate Ellis. I know the work that Kate's put in. The hundreds of hours consulting with teachers, with parents, with students and academics in this area and the very detailed policy that's been released over the last couple of days. It makes me very, very proud to be a member of the Labor Party. The greatest gift that we can give our kids is a decent education. The smartest thing that Australia can do as a nation is adopt Labor's Your Child, Our Future education policy. It's now my great pleasure to hand over to our leader Bill Shorten who will say a few words about that great policy.

 

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Matt, for that generous introduction. It's great to be here at St Michael's with my education spokesperson, Kate Ellis, and of course our member of the frontbench and local member Matt Thistlethwaite. Yesterday, Labor was pleased to announce the most significant improvement to our school and education system in two generations. Our plan is for your child and our future, it will provide greater resources to support the individual needs of every student in every school to give them every chance for the jobs of the future. It is really important, as millions of parents send their children back to school this week, that the nation's leaders show the same optimism and confidence that parents and children have for this year, and indeed the future of their schooling. A good education is what sets a child up for life. Investment in education is good economic reform. Talk about innovation without investment and education is just talk. Australia has begun to slide backwards compared to the rest of the world. This is a most serious problem which requires immediate attention. Labor is committed that by 2025 we want to make sure that our schools, the schools that your children attend, are amongst the top five in the world. We want to make sure that children, no matter what their background, no matter what their post code, whether or not they live in the suburbs and the cities, in country towns or along our coast, whether or not they go to a government school or a Catholic school, a private school, that every child gets every chance in every school to have every opportunity for the jobs of the future. Labor has announced a fully funded policy which will see a significant opportunity and greater resources being spent on every child. At the same time, Mr Turnbull and his Liberals want to cut investment in education. There is a clear choice at the next election. You can have, if we want to have the best schools in Asia, you can have Labor's policies which are fully funded and provide greater support for everyone's children, so they can compete for the jobs of the future, or you can have Mr Turnbull and his Liberal team's cuts to education. I'd now like Kate Ellis to talk a bit further about the specifics of our policy and we're happy to take questions on this and other matters.

 

KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Well, thank you very much, Bill, for those words. Thank you to Matt for hosting us here today in his wonderful electorate. Schools and parents across Australia will welcome the Labor Party’s announcement because additional funding commitment would deliver certainty in schools. We know that when it comes to Independent Schools, the Association of Independent Schools South Australia has said ‘we congratulate Labor on its understanding on the needs of students. It is wonderful that Labor is prepared to make that a priority in Government. But not just this school system, not just the Government school system, the Catholic system and the independent system, we have also seen principals come out in support of this announcement. And importantly we have seen parents – I note that the New South Wales Federation of parents have stated ‘this is great news for every student in Australia and for everyone concerned about the future of our country. What is becoming very clear is that there is one group of people who are isolated when it comes to the issue of school funding and school reform. And that is the Turnbull Liberal Government. We have seen State Governments – Liberal and Labor – come out and support these policy announcement’s. We’ve seen parents, we’ve seen teachers, we’ve seen school sectors, we’ve seen academics come out and support these reforms. Malcolm Turnbull now stands on the sidelines promising to introduce the biggest funding cut to Australia’s schools at a time when the rest of the community are talking about improving our schools and providing certainty. Malcolm Turnbull has some clear questions to answer about the cost of his school funding policies. He needs to talk about the cost of cutting funding to every school in Australia. He needs to talk about the cost to Australia's economic growth of not ensuring that we have a world-class education system. And he needs to talk about the cost when it comes to Australia's future in innovation, if we do not have an education system that is equipping each and every student with the skills for the jobs of the future. Malcolm Turnbull stands before the Australian public currently advocating the biggest cut to school funding that this nation has ever seen. He is proposing to rip $30 billion out of our school system over the next 10 years and to put that in context, that is the equivalent of removing one in every seven teachers in every classroom, in every school across Australia. I am very proud that we have announced a policy not just for the short term but to ensure that we see a permanent change and that Australia will work to make sure that our education system is first class for every child, no matter where they're born, no matter where they go to school, no matter what school system they attend.

 

SHORTEN: Thanks Kate. Are there questions?

 

JOURNALIST: How are you going to pay for these big promises?

 

SHORTEN: Labor's done a lot of hard work in the last year. So we're in the position, unlike Malcolm Turnbull's Liberals, to be able to say that it will be all about your child and our future. Specifically, we've already articulated improvements to the budget bottom line costed by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office, and let me run through them fairly quickly. We have said that we would see increased in the tobacco excise over the next three years which will deliver an additional $48 billion over the next 10 years. So there's $48 billion. Then we have clamp downs on the excessively generous and clearly unsustainable tax concessions for the very top end of people in superannuation. That would deliver an additional $14 billion. We've said at the very least by cracking down on multinationals and making sure that they pay their fair share, there would be at least another $7 billion. We'd put an end to Tony Abbott's joke of a policy which is paying big polluters to keep polluting through his emissions reduction fund, that's another $4 billion. And, of course, there's this cobbled together deal with the National Party where Malcolm Turnbull has to keep them happy by introducing some of the discredited baby bonus.

 

So, there are five specific measures which provide an excess of $70 billion. Now our commitments on schools again, which we've costed through the Parliamentary Budget Office come to $37 billion over 10 years. So we can fully fund our policies and the point about it, though is even more than that. So we can fully fund it and I've just demonstrated to you how we do it. But more than that, why is it our conservative Liberal critics in the Turnbull Government always see education as a cost and not an investment. And as one parent to another parent in Australia, let me also say this, if you vote for Malcolm Turnbull and his Liberals, your child, not someone else's child, your child will be short-changed every year for the life of their schooling experience because Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals don't understand the power of education. And finally, let's look at the alternative to Australia's economic future if our kids don't get the best possible start in life. We will see our economic growth drawn down and retarded, held back, diminished, we will see Australian kids not competing for the jobs of the future. The rest of the world is not imitating Malcolm Turnbull and his Liberal attacks saying why would you spend more money on education. They're backing in their schools. They're backing in their future generations. So there you have it, we've costed and fully funded our proposals, we want to make sure that our children don't get short-changed for the future and we're committed to economic growth. Malcolm Turnbull loves to talk about innovation, but innovation without education is just talk.

 

JOURNALIST: Yesterday Mr Shorten, we saw the AMA shred the Federal Government over cuts to public hospitals and they foreshadow a crisis in the public hospital system within just 12 months. Do you think the two issues of health and education, as cornerstones as they are, will give Labor a fighting chance at the next election and a erode Mr Turnbull's apparent popularity?

 

SHORTEN: For me, it's not just about the politics of the issue but it's about the future of this country. For the AMA, the Australian Medical Association, the respected peak body of doctors in this country to be so strongly entrenched in their criticism of Malcom Turnbull  and their cuts to the health system is a worrying sign. It's not Labor saying it, although we share the views, it's the independent AMA, the representative voice of doctors saying that Malcolm Turnbull and his Liberals and their terrible policies on healthcare undermining universal healthcare. I believe that it should be your Medicare card, not your credit card, which determines the future of your healthcare and the quality of your healthcare. And the same goes for education. No, the issue here in Australia is what sort of country do we want to become and do we want to have sustainable economic growth. A good health system, an efficient health system, a system where you've got universal care, means that the burden of the healthcare costs don't get passed to employers like it does in America, it means we don't have a two-class health system, the sheer craziness of Malcolm Turnbull's cuts, for instance, to pathology testing where they want to take away the bulk billing incentive, means that some people will be discouraged from getting the early preventative tests and health checks just because they've got to find the cost of living and what that will mean is that people will get sicker. Cutting healthcare never cured sick people. It actually causes a greater problem for all of us. And again, on schools, let me reiterate, I am at a loss to understand why the Turnbull Liberals keep arguing against making sure that every child in every post code, town and country, coast and inland, shouldn't get the same chance in education because once we give our kids the best education, then they've got the best start in life. Every parent in Australia is DNA hard wired to make sure their kids get a better chance they did in life and we know the central building block, not only to the nation's economic prosperity, but just your child doing better in life, is quality education.

 

JOURNALIST: This morning Turnbull said he won't run a fist full of dollars election campaign. What about Labor?

 

SHORTEN: I'll tell you what we won't do, we won't run a 15 per cent GST election campaign. I can promise Australians that we don't see the future of Australia making middle class people, working class people pay 15 per cent on everything. What we won't do is favour the big end of town over ordinary families. What we won't do is stand idly by while multinationals don't pay their fair share. We won't create unsustainable tax concessions for people who have millions of dollars in their superannuation. We won't short-change Australian families who want their kids to get the best education. What we will do is make sure we put Australian jobs at the heart of all our policies.

 

JOURNALIST: You said the GST cost John Hewson all those years ago yet John Howard managed to introduce it. Do you expect it to become as big a problem for Malcolm Turnbull as it was for Hewson all those years ago, going into the election?

 

SHORTEN: I think that Malcolm Turnbull needs to start being honest with the Australian people. For the last four and a half months he's said he will provide new economic leadership yet we've seen senior representatives of the public service say that our AAA credit rating is under threat. The whole case for Malcolm Turnbull replacing Tony Abbott is he will provide new economic leadership, yet the truth of the matter is things have gone from bad to worse. Now, I'm not saying I miss Tony Abbott at all but at least with him you sort of got a sense that he'd tell you what he was thinking even if what he was thinking was unusual, but with Malcolm Turnbull - I get the impression from everything, from the GST, through to marriage equality through to the Republic, this is a guy who'll say and do anything to get into The Lodge and that's the only thing he's been fighting for. So when it comes to these issues, I've got no doubt that a 15 per cent GST is a bad idea for Australians, it's a bad idea for confidence, it's a bad idea for small business at a time when the stock market's volatile, at a time when we've got global head winds, the last thing you want to do is put a new tax on everything for all Australians.

 

JOURNALIST: Do you agree that the credit rating is at risk, if there are no urgent spending cuts?

 

SHORTEN: I have seen the comments. I think that what we lack in this country at the moment is economic leadership. What we actually lack is decision-making. This nation is now going on this frolic led by Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals about a 15 per cent GST. It is just a bad idea. Go out and talk to everyday Australians, talk to people in the supermarkets. They don't want to pay 15 per cent at the grocery check-out. Talk to the parents who send their kids to these schools. It's been modelled already that a 15 per cent on GST on education costs will increase the cost by $7.4 billion in its first year alone. In the non-Government sector, in the Catholic system, there's 83,000 staff, there's 760,000 students. Talk to any of those parents about a 15 per cent GST and I don't think it will take long to find out what they think.

 

JOURNALIST: Do you agree with Nick Champion's piece in The Australian arguing the Labor National Executive should binds all Labor against changes to the GST?

 

SHORTEN: I understand Nick is very passionate about standing up for the people in his electorate. Nick Champion knows that the voters in his electorate of Wakefield desperately don't want a 15 per cent GST on everything including education, health care and the cost of going to the supermarket. I don't think we need to ban people though. I think people in the Labor Party and Premiers have got right to have a position. I have some sympathy, not for the GST, but what's happened is that the Turnbull Liberals have been weak in this debate on the GST and 15 per cent. They just love to run around and say it's a scare campaign - a GST is actually scary. What they've done is cut money from the schools and hospitals and say the Premiers are looking at a crisis, a fiscal cliff, how do they make sure the schools are properly funded? How do they make sure that the hospitals are properly funded? But the point about a GST is it doesn't actually solve anyone's problems. Why should working class and middle class people pay 15 per cent on everything just so we can give a tax cut to the top end of town? So no, I don't think we need to ban people or have an iron-clad position. I don't think that but I do know a 15 per cent GST - I think that Malcolm Turnbull should take that to the Australian people because I know what the Australian people want.

 

JOURNALIST: There's a bitter preselection battle in the seat of Wills in Victoria where many think the factions and unions will decide who wins that the preselection. Are you going to intervene and what do you think about the preselection battle at the moment?

 

SHORTEN: You talk about the Labor Party. We've got very good candidates running. The locals will have a say. This is not new, it's not unique and it's not for the first time but what has perplexed me is the bitterness of the divisions not just in one seat, but right across the New South Wales Liberal Party. I'll make sure-

 

JOURNALIST: I'm just talking about the Federal seat of Wills. Can you answer that question, please?

 

SHORTEN: I did, I just said we're happy to have got strong candidates, that issue will work and I want the locals to have a say but I am going to draw the point that you talk about Labor, I'm going to talk about the alternative party, the Liberals. They are bitterly divided. They're not just divided about the future of Philip Ruddock, or Craig Kelly, or Bronwyn Bishop or Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, they're not just divided about a whole lot of candidates, they're actually divided about their policies, they're divided about will they be bound by a plebiscite, what are they going to do on climate change? Malcolm Turnbull has a problem - for his whole life he said he championed certain views, it's matter of record, the Republic, strong action on climate change, marriage equality, but now he's beaten Tony Abbott, it seems he's shed a lot of his old views and the right wing of his party are pulling the strings.

 

JOURNALIST: Will you intervene in the Federal seat of Wills?

 

SHORTEN: I refer to my previous two answers.

 

JOURNALIST: You said you don't miss Tony Abbott but Malcolm Turnbull has been urged to offer him a cabinet position. Do you think it's the right move?

 

SHORTEN: It's a question for Malcolm Turnbull how he handles his internal disputes - not for me. What I would like Malcolm Turnbull to do is not focus on the internal fight in the Liberal Party, what I want him to do is to focus on the future of this country. Education is the single-best mechanism to improve the economic performance of this country. We've seen that education standards compared to our rankings in terms of maths and literacy, those fundamental building blocks to getting a good job in the future, we see that Australia's rankings have been going down. Now what we want to do is halt that slide, not have it get any worse. I want Australian schools to be the best in Asia, I want the Australian kids to have the best chance and the best education. If we do that then we set ourselves up for a much brighter prosperous future and every child gets the chance to have a much better opportunity to compete for the jobs of the future. Last question.

 

JOURNALIST: You spoke about every child getting the best chance. What's the split between public and private going to look like?

 

SHORTEN: I'll get Kate to help answer part of that question. What we're doing is we're going to end once and for all that toxic debate which in large part has bedeviled education policy for four or five decades. To my way of thinking, and indeed, as was demonstrated by the Gonski report - we need to move the debate between different levels of Government. The Federal Government doing more for non-Government schools and States being left to handle all the public education issues, we need to move to needs-based funding. I think it is right that in our education system we don't fund on the basis of Catholic or State school but having loadings instead for kids with special needs, making sure we have loadings for children who come from less privileged areas. That's the sort of debate we need. We need needs-based funding which is sector-neutral and the big difference between Labor and Liberal, and the non-Government sector known as well as the State Education Ministers know it, we're offering a 10-year path - that's never happened before and we're offering to fully fund it. I might get Kate just to wrap up the answer. Thanks everyone.

 

ELLIS: Thank you, Bill. I would just reiterate that at the heart of this sector-blind needs-based policy is that we are focusing on the individual need of every child. Gone are the days of the divisive debates about public versus private. What we're interested in is ensuring that any child in Australia, whether they be enrolled in a Government school, in a Catholic school, in an independent school, can get a great education and we know that that means that funding needs to be determined on the needs of that child and the needs of that community which is why we will stick with the loadings as recommended by the Gonski report which will ensure that children with additional needs, whether that be children with disability, whether that means Indigenous students, whether that means children in regional or small schools and whether that means children from a low SES background can expect to get more of the funding than children that don't have as great a need regardless of the sector that their school is enrolled in.

 

SHORTEN: Thanks everyone. Have a lovely day.

 

ENDS

 

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053