SKY NEWS AGENDA
25 JULY 2013
SUBJECT/S: BETTER SCHOOLS PLAN; FRINGE BENEFITS TAX
LAURA JAYES: The Education Minister Bill Shorten joins me now from Hobart in Tasmania. Minister, thanks so much for joining us. Two meetings in two days between the Prime Minister and Premier Napthine. Is this signs of Victoria about to sign up to the Better Schools Plan or is that state stalling ahead of the election?
BILL SHORTEN: I hope that we can reach an agreement in the best interests of Victorian school children who attend the government schools.
Since becoming Education Minister, we've managed to secure the Tasmanian Government's commitment to our Better Schools program which is great for 82,000 children in Tasmania.
The Independent Schools Council of Australia has signed on saying this is great for the 700,000 children who go to independent schools. Sorry, about 580,000 kids at independent schools.
And now the National Catholic Education Commission, a couple of days ago, has come out and given a thumbs-up for 700,000 plus children in their system. So we want to make sure that parents of children who go to government schools in Victoria are getting some of the same benefits the children who go to non-government schools in Victoria get…
LAURA JAYES: But will you give Premier Napthine…
BILL SHORTEN: …more individual resources to help kids do better.
LAURA JAYES: Will you give Premier Napthine the written assurances he is asking for? He's concerned that the Federal Government will interfere in the management of state schools and he's asking for assurances in writing, that legislation will be amended or that legislation certainly will not be implemented. Will you provide that to Victoria?
BILL SHORTEN: I can provide it on your show, Laura, and to any representatives of the Victorian Government who are taking five minutes off their hard work to watch your show. We don't want to run – the Commonwealth does not want to run and administer Victorian schools.
And the proof of that is that it's hardly likely that Catholic bishops are going to agree to us running their schools or Anglican schools or New South Wales politicians want the Commonwealth running their schools.
All we want to do – and I'm saying this to you on television for the record for as long as the records are kept – that we want to see children who are struggling with literacy and numeracy get more support.
We want to see the children who are doing really well, have their imagination and creativity expanded. We want to – the best thing Labor can do nationally is make sure that our children finish their school life with as many skills and as much resilience which equips them to meaningful adult life. And so…
LAURA JAYES: I just…
BILL SHORTEN: …we'll work with the Victorians to allay their concerns.
LAURA JAYES: I just wanted to ask you about the Fringe Benefits Tax as well. There is a suggestion and there are cries from the industry that it will cost jobs.
Yesterday, Kevin Rudd said that there would be adjustments along the way. Is the 300 jobs we've already seen lost in the packaging industry part of that adjustment?
BILL SHORTEN: I don't know what's been said about adjustments. What I do know in terms of this is clearly there are some people who've been working on the – providing advice about the tax laws and salary packaging who have been affected.
And certainly our employment services are ready to help people. In terms of the actual change, it is a difficult area but on the other hand, most of us – most people don't get to claim tax off the personal use of their motorcars.
So we want to make sure that our tax system is sustainable in the future. But Labor is very committed to automotive industry and cars, car manufacturing. That's why we've done so much over the last number of years and we'll continue to stand alongside our Australian car-making industry because we want to be a country that makes things in the future as well as right now.
LAURA JAYES: McMillan Shakespeare had to let go 300 people. Their share prices halved. Is that not having an impact? And they've also said there is an unknown and unquantifiable impact there. Is this not providing certainty for business into the future?
BILL SHORTEN: Listen, I think I said in my previous answer that this may have impact or this is having an impact on some parts of an industry which has grown up to provide advice on salary packaging concerning motorcars and the Fringe Benefits Tax.
The Fringe Benefits Tax was about making sure that people weren't circumventing tax laws with perks in their pay. We had a look at this FBT exemption that currently exists and we don't think it's sustainable going forward. This is a – it is a tough choice.
But when it comes to the car industry and the automotive industry, Labor has a record or standing up for Australian car makers. We're firmly on the side of jobs. That's why, for instance Laura, I'm in Tasmania today.
The Prime Minister has been here. He's announced extra resources to support 31 new job-creating projects in Tasmania. He's specifically targeting innovation, also tourism because Tasmania is a great place for Australia's tourists and the world's tourists to come and visit.
So we are focussed on jobs. This is – difficult choices have to be made and we will continue to keep working with people affected by changes in the economy.
LAURA JAYES: The Treasurer has warned that there's been another $6 billion in write-downs, in government revenue because of a write-down in company tax receipts. As the government looks to find more savings and the new asylum seeker policy promising it to be budget neutral. Can you guarantee that the Schoolkids Bonus isn't on the chopping block?
BILL SHORTEN: Listen, I'm not at liberty to comment about every in and out of decision in terms of budgets and the work of the Expenditure Review Committee which I'm not on.
What I do know is that Labor are the only party who've offered a Schoolkids Bonus. If you had Tony Abbott as your Prime Minister, they've said they're going to get rid of it. Indeed, when we talk about looking after school children and school parents, only Labor's got a plan for better schools.
This election is a competition between Labor and Liberal and each party's going to ask for Australia's votes on the basis of the choices they offer Australians. When you get Labor, you do have a schoolchildren's bonus, you do have better funding in every school in Australia.
When it comes to education, Labor says, frankly, we think that's a priority above a lot of other things. The Coalition's got nothing to say except slash and burn. They're trapped in the negativity of the last three years. We've got a positive view about the future.
And the best thing that politics can do is give the children, our future generation, the best start in life. So I'd stack up our credentials against the Coalition's negative, do-nothing policies any day of the week.
LAURA JAYES: Just finally, on negotiations with Western Australia and the Northern Territory and Queensland. Are they likely to sign onto your Better Schools Program?
BILL SHORTEN: Well, I hope so because, again, there's no-one else crossing the Nullarbor to provide extra resources to Western Australia. There no-one flying to Brisbane from the Coalition saying that they want to provide extra resources.
The only deal in town, for better resources for government schools in the Northern Territory, Brisbane, in Queensland, Western Australia is Labor. We're the only people offering the proper extra resources which will allow the support to go to every individual child in government schools in Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland.
If this was a matter of politics, why is it that the Liberal government in New South Wales have given Labor's ideas nationally a tick? I mean this is just good policy and I don't want to see children miss out in Queensland and Western Australia and Darwin because state governments there have got whatever objections they have to the scheme which hasn't held the Catholics up, hasn't held the non-government independent sector up, hasn't held up the governments of Tasmania, New South Wales and South Australia. Let's put the kids first, Premier Barnett and Premier Newman and let's put politics second.
LAURA JAYES: Education Minister Bill Shorten joining me from Hobart. Thanks so much for that today.
BILL SHORTEN: Thanks.
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