MONDAY, 8 MAY 2017
SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s $22 billion cut to schools funding; AFP funding; foreign aid cuts; children of foreign fighters; French Presidential elections; TV ad.
GAI BRODTMANN, MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: Thank you very much for coming here to St Thomas More's Primary, on what is the coldest day of Canberra this year. It's a great pleasure to be here with Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek to discuss the Government's outrageous cuts to Catholic schools. And I want to thank Julie Wiley, the Principal of this school, and also Father Julian, for giving us such a warm welcome and the opportunity to talk to some of the students here at this wonderful school, who are actually - not only do they have us here today, they've also got an open day this afternoon.
So I'll now hand over to Bill and thank you very much for coming today.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Gai, and thank you very much to the St Thomas More School community for welcoming Tanya, myself and Gai Brodtmann.
It may be the coldest day of the year so far in Canberra, but it's an even colder day for education in this country. The education cuts are the first big failure of the Turnbull Government's Budget. The numbers just don't lie. Mr Turnbull is proposing a cut of $22 billion in education funding from schools. This is the equivalent of cutting $2.4 million, on average, from every school in Australia over the next 10 years. The sort of money, the sort of things that this money buys includes 22,000 teachers. This is a cut effectively of 22,000 teachers for our kids.
Now, I am a parent, and I want the best for my children, but I want the best for everyone's child. That's why Labor is so opposed to these dreadful cuts.
This marvellous school community at St Thomas More’s, what we see, it's a school community of about 150 students. Half of the kids here, their parents work in defence. This school community is faced, because of Mr Turnbull's cuts to education and school funding, this school community faces every parent paying an extra $5,000 per year. An extra $5,000 increase in fees per year because of Mr Turnbull's cuts. And before Mr Turnbull dismisses this as some sort of scaremongering, he needs to explain why St Thomas More's, a small Catholic parish school, is being treated for the same funding principles as the prestigious Shore College in Sydney, one of Sydney's most expensive and famous and powerful secondary schools. It is actually this school, under Mr Turnbull's flawed needs-based funding, is only getting the same treatment as a school which is far richer.
Mr Turnbull needs to go back to the drawing board on his education needs-based funding. What he's doing is proposing changing a law which is currently in place and reducing the funding of the old law, which is - to the new law by $22 billion.
Mr Turnbull needs to realise that not every parent who sends their child to a Catholic parish primary school is rich. Just because some parents choose to send their children to Catholic parish primary schools, does not mean they should be punished. Those parents pay their taxes to Canberra, they have the reasonable expectation that some of the taxes that they pay to Canberra should be reinvested in their children and their parents' choice of education.
Labor will keep standing up for proper schools funding. I would like now to invite my Shadow Education spokesperson, Tanya Plibersek, to talk further about why this is a very cold day for education funding for schools in Australia.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much, Bill and thank you Gai, and thank you to the staff and the students of Saint Thomas More Catholic school here in the ACT.
When you cut $22 billion from schools across a decade, you absolutely see the effect of that in every school across the country. Schools like this will have to increase their fees from about $3,000 a year to about $8,000 a year or perhaps even face closure. But public schools right across the country will also be affected in a devastating way by these $22.3 billion of cuts.
We know that when we look at public schools across the country, the vast majority will never reach a fair funding level under this new arrangement. So public schools which would have reached a fair funding level under Labor in 2019, the majority of in 2019, under this new funding proposal will never reach their fair funding level.
So, it is no wonder that state governments hate this new funding model. We have seen all of the state education ministers criticising it. It is no wonder that school teachers and principals hate this new proposal. And it is particularly no wonder that parents across school systems are very disappointed and perhaps that is the reason that the Government is, despite promising school-by-school data last week is now hiding the school-by-school data.
We saw the Education Minister and the Prime Minister with big fanfare last week, announce this new funding arrangement, saying that they would release school-by-school figures by the end of the week. We know those figures are available because they have been provided to Liberal backbenchers supposedly to help them sell the package in their electorates. And yet, those figures are not available to the public and most importantly, not available to parents. The reason is, parents will see that their schools, their kids, will be disadvantaged compared to the arrangements that Labor committed to, the arrangements that we had legislated, the arrangements that we had signed agreements on with the states and territories.
Compared with that, $22 billion of cuts across the country - you can't do that without hurting schools. Without less one on-one attention, less help with the basics, literacy, maths, numeracy, science, coding, languages, all the extras that we want to provide for our kids. The one on one attention for kids who are falling behind, the one on one attention for kids who are gifted and talented. $22 billion of cuts will hurt every school and why is the Prime Minister doing it? So he can give $50 billion worth of big business tax cuts. What sort of prime minister robs Australian children to give big business a tax cut?
SHORTEN: Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, this school is one of the 24 that is going to lose money and that amount that it is going to lose is $422 per student over the next 10 years. Why would the school have to increase its fees by five times that amount to make up the gap?
SHORTEN: Well, the Government has been lying to you about what the school is losing and gaining. What this Government is doing is they are taking the money they are putting in to the system, being more than what Tony Abbott was going to cut, but that is a false baseline. And this is a very important point, I admit it is a bit complicated, but the point about it is this; there is already a law in place which sets out where the funding should go over 10 years. That law and that funding is $30 billion more than Tony Abbott wanted to put in and it is $22 billion more than Malcolm Turnbull.
Malcolm Turnbull wants some sort of gold medal because he is not cutting schools as much as Tony Abbott. But it is a lie to say that he is increasing funding, because what he is doing, is he is diving right down into Tony Abbott's cuts and saying that because he is not cutting as far as Tony Abbott, as deeply as Tony Abbott, that somehow that makes him an educational hero. It doesn't.
That is why the Catholic Education Commission, for example, make it very clear that the fees will have to go up. Because what will happen here is that based upon what was already promised to the Catholic education system, and indeed, what has been promised to state government systems right around Australia, Mr Turnbull is taking $22 billion off that pile over the next 10 years.
That is why every parent in a Catholic primary school, just about, in Australia, because of Malcolm Turnbull, will have to pay more fees because of his education cuts. When Mr Turnbull says that he is increasing funding, all he is doing repairing some of Tony Abbott's cuts. But he is going nowhere near actually fulfilling what was promised previously and Malcolm Turnbull knows that he is cutting school funding and he is not dealing with the real issues. He should meet with the education union, he should meet with state educational authorities, he should meet with Catholic education commissions. Because it is the parents who are the ones who are going to suffer, and more importantly even, it is the kids who don't get the resources they deserve. Why does Mr Turnbull in this Budget choose to give $50 billion in corporate tax cuts to very wealthy companies, but he rips off the kids and their parents. He has got the wrong priorities because he is incredibly out of touch with everyday Australians.
JOURNALIST: In December, the Catholic Education Commission warmly welcomed a 3.5 per cent average increase in funding over the next three years. Now, they're getting 3.7 per cent increase in funding but they are upset. And the Minister said this morning he has met with the Catholic Commission numerous times, him personally, his office and his department.
SHORTEN: Well, if the bloke wants to put his hands over his ears and close his eyes and stamp his feet, he is entitled to. We're not making up this situation. Put aside what poor old Birmingham thinks and what we say, the people who run this school and run every Catholic school in Australia, they are very clear that they see fees going up. Why is it that Malcolm Turnbull thinks he is so clever and so arrogant that he knows more about running schools than the people who run it every day?
In my experience, you're better off listening to the people in the classrooms every day doing the teaching, than some out-of-touch Coalition politician. The fact of the matter is that this Government is cutting school funding well below what all the various state and Catholic education systems were promised.
When they talk about percentage increases, they are just playing with numbers. The fact of the matter is that if you are a parent who chooses to sends your child to a Catholic parish primary school, courtesy of Malcolm Turnbull and Simon Birmingham at this Budget, your fees are going up. It's a cost of living issue, it's an education issue.
The Catholic Education Commission don't want to be involved in political debates. The problem is that Malcolm Turnbull's first big failure of his Budget is going to affect 760,000 students in the Catholic education system, more than three million students across the education and schools of our country.
Malcolm Turnbull is out of touch. If he wants to properly look after the kids and the schools and the parents, he would drop his ridiculous corporate tax cuts for the four big banks and multinationals and invest that money in the kids, because that is the best investment any government can make.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what would you make of the idea of putting foreign aid funding towards the AFP and ASIO?
SHORTEN: Once again, this is a government robbing Peter to pay Paul. I think there is a couple of things. If there's good measures to improve our national security, we are all up for that. But why does it have to be a part of foreign aid which suffers, because foreign aid also helps improve Australia's security.
Why don't they just drop the tax cuts to big banks? Here's some foreign aid if Malcolm Turnbull really wants to look after national security - cut the foreign aid to multinationals by not giving them a corporate tax cut. Now, that is foreign aid that multinationals don't need. Yet again, this is a Government who spends all their time worrying about the top end of town. They're going to give a tax cut to millionaires, they're going to give a tax cut to multinationals, but they're going to cut funding to schools and they're going to cut some funding out of the foreign aid budget. This is a Government with all the wrong priorities.
JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull has also suggested that children of people like Khaled Sharrouf could return if they wish to, under some very strict supervision. Broadly speaking, would Labor back that sort of idea?
SHORTEN: I think these children have been the victim of child abuse. No parent who loved their kids would have taken them to that zone and subjected them to some of the things they have seen. We will take advice of the security officials and people who are expert on how you look after kids who have been abused by - victims of child abuse. It is a shocking situation.
JOURNALIST: We have seen the election in France of Emmanuel Macron. Can I get your reaction to that? Are you relieved to see that you haven't had another far-right leader elected in the world?
SHORTEN: I don't make a habit of commenting about domestic politics in other countries as a general rule. I am pleased that Mr Macron has been elected. I think for me the lesson is that when mainstream right wing parties work with mainstream left wing parties to block out the extremists, we do better and I think that's probably the lesson I take out of this for Australian politics.
JOURNALIST: There's been a suggestion that your Australians first ad campaign is racist or that it includes too many white Australians in it. How would you respond to that?
SHORTEN: Oh, it is rubbish. I am not in the ad-making business. I make no apology for saying that there has been 130,000 apprenticeships cut under the Liberals, that we've had too many rorts in our 457 visa system. But I certainly think we need to encourage as much diversity as we can. I've had a look at the final production and I think we should have had more diversity in it and I will be speaking to the Labor Party about that.
JOURNALIST: And what about Sam Dastyari’s Facebook video where he was looking at what you can get for $1 million in Sydney and several homes there. Did he go too far with that video?
SHORTEN: I haven't seen it.