FRIDAY, 19 MAY 2017
SUBJECT/S: School funding; ATO; Australia’s bid for Human Rights Council; Phillip Ruddock; Liberals taking Tasmania for granted; Labor Party.
JUSTINE KEAY, LABOR MEMBER FOR BRADDON: Good morning and welcome to St Brigid's Primary School here in the lovely town of Wynyard. I'm Justine Keay, the Federal Member for Braddon. And it's great to be joined today by Bill Shorten here in my electorate.
I'd like to also thank Annette, the principal of the school, and to Matt from the Catholic Education Office for having us here today at this wonderful school.
It's always great to have Bill here on the Coast, and I have the state parliamentary Labor team here this week in their big red bus. And Bill, the Labor Leader, Rebecca White, said to me "Justine, you must have some influence in Canberra to have all these wonderful people," because earlier this week I was joined by Tanya Plibersek, our Deputy Leader, and Shadow Minister for Education. Tanya spoke to members of the community and to business leaders about Malcolm Turnbull's unfair Budget and how he has cut $85 million from Tasmania's schools - and that's $60 million out of Tasmanian public Schools.
And after the Budget, Premier Will Hodgman congratulated Malcolm Turnbull on his Budget for Tasmania. I don't know why he would congratulate a cut to the education system in Tasmania.
We've also had Catherine King here this week, our Shadow Minister for Health. Catherine spoke to our community and to clinicians around how a Shorten Labor Government would deliver better health services for this region. She also spoke about Malcolm Turnbull's unfair Budget and his continued attacks on Medicare, and how people in my electorate and across the country are paying more to go and see their GPs.
Also this week we've had our Shadow Treasurer here, our Shadow Communications Minister here, and also our Shadow Infrastructure Minister in Tasmania.
And happening right now in the electorate of Bass, Ross Hart the Member there, is hosting Labor's Australian jobs taskforce, with my colleague and chair, Susan Lamb, the Member for Longman. And they're talking about penalty rates and how to secure decent jobs in Northern Tasmania.
So I don't think it's my influence, Bill, I think it's actually Labor really committed to Tasmania, committed to the education system here, committed to growing jobs, apprenticeships, traineeships and growing the economy.
And unlike what Labor is doing, we have not had one member of Malcolm Turnbull's Government in Tasmania yet - not one. You would think they would be here spruiking their Budget, but unlike the Premier of Tasmania, they know that their Budget does nothing for Tasmania. It's a dud for Tasmania, it doesn't deliver for this state, and yet again, they have left Tasmania off the map.
So it's great to have you here today, Bill. Thank you and welcome again to the North West of Tasmania.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Justine.
Good morning everybody. It's great to be at St Brigid's, and I congratulate the school community, the teachers, the staff, the parents, and of course the kids, for the great things they are doing here.
I think that the kids who go to St Brigid's, and all the kids who go to schools in Tasmania, and all their parents, and all their teachers, they are trying their best and they reasonably expect that the Government in Canberra should try its best for Tasmanian school kids.
Unfortunately, Mr Turnbull has betrayed Tasmanian schools, Government and non-Government. He has let down the parents, and the kids, and teachers, and all the people who want the best for the next generation of Tasmanians.
Because in the Budget, last Tuesday, he cut $22 billion over the next 10 years. That sounds like a big amount of money and it is.
When you reduce it to each school and each family and each child, what it means is on average, a cut of about $2.4 million over the next 10 years, money that should be going, which isn't going. That means less teachers, it means less support for kids with learning needs, it means less options and choices in the subjects which kids get taught. And now Mr Turnbull and his team are making an unconscionable attack into the Catholic systemic system as well. Why doesn't Mr Turnbull understand that not every parent who sends their child to a Catholic parish school is wealthy?
It seems to me that they are out of touch with the dreams and aspirations of Tasmanian parents and Tasmanian kids. Only Labor can be trusted to fight for proper school funding for Tasmania and I think as Justine said, the very fact that in the most important week after the Budget, the Budget sell where the Government promotes its opportunities and what it sees as the benefits of its Budget, they have just forgotten to go to Tasmania, which is a real indictment on their priorities for Tasmania. We're happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Won't the Catholic schools in Tasmania get a larger annual growth rate for funding than public schools?
SHORTEN: I don't think it is a matter of Government versus non-Government. I'm really disappointed that Mr Turnbull has reignited the debate between Government and non-Government schools. See, I think that all parents who send their kids to Government schools or non-Government schools, if they pay their taxes to Canberra, they have a reasonable expectation that some of the taxes they pay to Mr Turnbull should be reinvested in the education of their kids. The truth of the matter is that Mr Turnbull is taking $22 billion away from our schools system, at the same time as he is giving $65 billion in corporate tax cuts to the big end of town. So it's not a matter of Catholic versus non-Catholic schools. It is a matter of education and school funding versus Mr Turnbull's preference to make millionaires pay less and to give a better, sweeter deal to the top end of town.
JOURNALIST: Are you concerned by the prospect of other ATO fraud investigations being jeopardised by the arrests made yesterday?
SHORTEN: Yes, I think that this is very concerning, the developments yesterday. Now I don't know all the facts and I don't think most of us do know the facts yet. I certainly don't want to impinge upon people’s right to run their case, either in defence or indeed the prosecution. But if there is any chance that the relentless hunt against people who use tax havens, the multinationals, the individuals in Australia, the Panama Papers, if the tax integrity, if the investigations have been compromised, well this is shocking incompetence. We need to let the police do their job, the matter is before the courts, but I have no doubt that questions of competence will need to be answered by the Government. And if any dodgy Australian, who has been using tax havens to minimise their tax has these investigations unwound against them, well I think that is a terrible outcome.
JOURNALIST: Is Labor's new policy on schools funding about politics and not fairness now?
SHORTEN: Not at all, not at all. Budgets are about choices. We all know that Mr Turnbull has tried to steal the policy clothes of Labor. The problem is that they aren't a good fit for him. He doesn't understand what fairness really means. Fairness is not cutting $22 billion from schools over the next 10 years. Fairness is not making it harder for first home buyers to enter the housing market. Fairness is not still cutting Medicare and delaying improvements to Medicare for up to two years from now. And fairness is certainly not giving away $65 billion to the top end of town in tax cuts. And fairness can't be a situation where millionaires pay less and 10 million Australians who earn less than $87,000 pay more tax.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] in Catholic school funding, isn’t it time to fund all schools by the same system?
SHORTEN: All schools should be funded according to need, of course they should. But I think it is completely dishonest of the Turnbull Government to try and rip this community apart and pit people who choose to send their children to a Government school against children who go to a Catholic parish school. When will Mr Turnbull realise, in his out of touch universe that he lives in, that people who choose to send their kids to a local parish school should not be presumed to be wealthy.
Mr Turnbull is making the biggest cuts in Government schools. Labor is interested in making sure we have the best schools in the world. We want to make sure that regardless if a child lives in Tasmania or in Point Piper, that they all get the same access to a quality education. What Mr Turnbull is doing is he is not cutting the amount of money that Mr Abbott was but he is still cutting money from the system.
He is a bit like, and I said in the Budget reply, it is a bit like an arsonist turning up to help put out the fire that they started and wanting credit for it. Mr Turnbull should drop his tax cuts for millionaires, he should drop his tax hand-outs for large businesses and get behind the schools of Australia.
It is not all about money. We need quality teachers, you need engaged parents. You need to make sure that what the kids are learning is what they need for the future. But only the Liberal Party of Australia says that money doesn't help in education, it clearly does.
JOURNALIST: How many schools in Tasmania will be worse off under Gonski 2?
SHORTEN: You can't cut $22 billion and say that over the next 10 years schools are going to benefit, full stop. We all know that the Government can't even answer the questions about who is getting what. One thing is for sure, if you take $22 billion out of the next 10 years of funding for schools, schools are going backwards. And for me, it is not just a question of do you define money spent on schools as a cost. It is an investment.
Why is it the Liberal Party of Australia always complain about the cost of education but they don't understand it is investment for the future? Why is it that the Liberal Party of Australia is happy to see money going to a school with a rifle range in the leafy suburbs of Sydney but not make sure that Tasmania is getting its fair share of education funding? This is a cut to schools in Tasmania. What it will mean in a school like this is that parents will have to face the prospect of paying increased fees just to send their kids here. I know that it's going to challenge the disability funding in schools right across the spectrum. Government schools deserve a Government in Canberra who has got their back. This is a Government who is cutting funding to the education of all the kids in Australia and we are going to fight it.
JOURNALIST: Do you agree with Anthony Albanese that Labor should celebrate the Coalition's move to middle ground in this Budget?
SHORTEN: I have seen his remarks. I just want to say at the outset, and he and I have had a good chat about this, I am not in the least concerned about his remarks and nor should anyone else be. The fact of the matter is that everyone recognises that whilst the Turnbull Government knows they have been going down the wrong path on education, healthcare, housing affordability, taxation, they haven't actually got it right. The fact of the matter is whilst Mr Turnbull has tried to steal Labor's policy clothes, it is still a Budget which has unfairness at its core.
JOURNALIST: This school is going to be better off over the next 10 years by $2.5 million –
SHORTEN: Who said that?
JOURNALIST: That's according to the Department of Education.
SHORTEN: Well let's go and talk to the Catholic Education Commission. And let’s be clear, let's not fall for this sort of trap, what the Government is doing is saying , we are better than the 2014 Budget. Mr Abbott basically took everything out of schools and I am surprised he even left the kitchen sink in the staff rooms. What Mr Turnbull has done, is he has put back some of the money which he put in, sorry, which Mr Abbott took out, but he is not going back to what the Tasmanian Government and the Government nationally agreed in 2013. So I'm not going to give the bloke a pass mark when he is not restoring all of the cuts which were made.
And I do not understand for the life of me why he wants to say that somehow the parish schools here are getting some special deal. This is a school community. 152 students approximately, not all of the families here can afford to even pay any fees. I don't understand why Mr Turnbull wants to make it harder for families. But I guess it is because he is out of touch.
JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop has launched our bid for the Human Rights Council in New York overnight and Phillip Ruddock has racked up a travel bill of close to $200,000 as Australia's Special Envoy for Human Rights as he leads that campaign. Do you think that expenditure is justifiable in an age of austerity?
SHORTEN: It sounds like a lot of Qantas PJs for Mr Ruddock doesn't it? $200,000, sounds like a waste of money to me, doesn't it? I think that is what taxpayers will think.
JOURNALIST: Tasmanian Teachers Union don't want Catholic schools to get anymore under Gonski 2.0. Why do you?
SHORTEN: Because I think, and I don't accept your characterisation of that. I think in my experience educators across the country want a sector-neutral approach. I want to make sure that schools are funded according to need. Now I think that the very top end of private schools don't need much more money, don't need more money. So I am happy with that argument. But the proposition which says that parents who choose to send their kids to a Catholic parish school shouldn't get some investment back for the taxes they pay, I don't buy that.
What I know is that the whole education sector, they are sick of the old wars between government and non-government, what they want see is needs-based funding. The nature of needs-based funding is that a lot of that will go to government schools and that is as is it should be. But what Mr Turnbull and his beleaguered Education Minister Birmingham are doing, is they are basically creating a hunger games between different parts of the education system. For me it's as plain as this – there is enough money to properly fund our schools if you reform negative gearing, there's $37 billion saved in the next 10 years. If you don't give an unaffordable, unsustainable tax cut to multinationals, there's another $65 billion over the next 10 years.
Now these sorts of numbers are almost eye-watering. But when you reduce it to, when it is all said and done, to what really matters, you can vote Labor at the next election, we'll make sure the kids get a well-funded school education, or you can vote Liberal and we are going to see a second-rate system.
The world is unforgiving of nations who slip back in the pack. When the rest of the world and our regions around us are investing more in education, training and skills, we've got a government who doesn't want to make school and education and child care, university and TAFE funding a number one priority. That's actually not just bad for the kids, that's bad for the nation.
JOURNALIST: You're the fifth high profile Labor figure to visit Tasmania in the past week. What is the strategy behind these visits?
SHORTEN: We don't take Tasmania for granted. I actually am surprised that the Government couldn't find anyone from the main land in any position of authority to come and visit Tasmania. It is almost like they have forgotten Tasmania is here. It's almost like they want to punish Tasmania. What an arrogant bunch they are. When you look at the facts, and you only have it look at the income tax increases they are proposing for Tasmanians, 86 per cent of Tasmanians file a tax return where their income is less than $87,000. Yet Mr Turnbull wants them to pay more income tax and he wants millionaires to pay less. That is probably why they haven't turned up here, because they know that they have an economic strategy which will see millionaires pay less and 10 million Australians pay more. So no wonder they are hiding.
One last question perhaps.
JOURNALIST: Anthony Albanese is increasingly going off message, are you worried he has eyes on your job and the polls haven't improved for Labor either, are you worried your job will continue to be under threat?
SHORTEN: No, and let's be clear I had a very good chat with Anthony yesterday. We both agree that the media stories are an absolute exaggeration, and I couldn't be happier with my whole team. You know, let's be candid, Labor four years ago was a bit of a mess, we have got our act together and I just want to put on record today, my gratitude to all of my team, including Anthony, Justine, we are focused on the issues which affect Australians. That is why we are calling out this Budget for what it is.
Mr Turnbull's Budget means millionaires pay less and 10 million Australians will pay more. That is not fair.