Bill's Transcripts





18 JULY 2013



STEVE AUSTIN: Just stay on the line. That's John-Paul Langbroek, Queensland Education Minister. Bill Shorten is the Federal Education and Workplace Relations Minister. Bill Shorten, good morning to you.

BILL SHORTEN: Good morning, Steve.

STEVE AUSTIN: I think what he's asking is for the 3.8 billion that you've already offered, plus somewhere between 1.8 billion or 650 million extra. Can you come part of the way?

BILL SHORTEN: We can come part of the way.


BILL SHORTEN: Well, first of all, I've got to say I've just listened to Minister Langbroek get quite political and aggressive in terms of saying that me wanting to meet with him is akin to a used car salesman. All I would say to Minister Langbroek is, I've done twenty years of negotiations. This is the time when we've got to remember it's not about the Queensland Government, it's not about the Commonwealth Government, it's about the children of Queensland.

We met with Premier Newman and himself.  Positive meeting.  I spoke to Minister Langbroek after, I organised this yesterday. I indicated I'd happily come up and see him today to further talk through the detail.  I get that the Queensland education officials and the minister say, we do special things in Queensland and we don't want Canberra running our schools.  I can say to your listeners now, we don't want to run Queensland schools.  But we do want to have greater individual support for individual kids in schools so they can, you know, fulfil their lives and get the best out of their education, which is so important.

STEVE AUSTIN: Well, they're rejecting your deal.  They've got a budgetary problem and they really do have a major government and budgetary problem. And no matter who's in power, someone has to fix the budgetary problem.

BILL SHORTEN: Yeah, I agree with that.

STEVE AUSTIN: They've got to deal with it.  So how much extra can you offer him?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, we are offering a significant amount of resources.  I'll tell you the difference in terms of what it means.  If the Queensland Government aren't interested, we're offering $2.47 billion extra over six years.  Effectively - and these are rough numbers - it's about - and don't hold me exactly to it and I don't want to send Minister Langbroek off on another sort of…

STEVE AUSTIN: Yes.  Cut to the chase.

BILL SHORTEN: Well, it's about $300 - $400 per child per year in extra resources.  What that means - and in schools of greater need, it will be far greater.  Effectively what we are saying is that we want to provide extra resources on a two for one dollar proposition.  So for every two dollars of Commonwealth taxpayer money we're seeking the Queensland Government to supply one extra dollar.

And what we're saying is, we want to use this with better resources in schools, so that children can get the learning assistance they need to do as well as they can.  Now, I get Queensland's got a point of view about budget and its numbers.  I get they also want to preserve the independence of their system.  We respect that.  This is about a partnership.  It's not about a takeover.

STEVE AUSTIN: All right.

BILL SHORTEN: I'm happy to go and visit Minister Langbroek.  He doesn't have to come to see me.  I'll go and see him.  But what we need is not to necessarily have his - I've been a bit bemused by recent days - we have an okay chat, then there's all this sort of media blow-up.  And it's like it's a parallel universe.  We go and have a good conversation.  Then I find in the media some outburst.  All I'm saying is, let's park our political agendas and prioritise the kids of Queensland.

STEVE AUSTIN: So how much extra money can you - I've got the minister on the other phone.  How much extra money will you come to the party on?

BILL SHORTEN: It's $2.47 billion.  That is the extra money.  This is money which is not in the normal set of circumstances available.

STEVE AUSTIN: Is that 2.47 billion over the original 3.8 billion you were offering?

BILL SHORTEN: No, no.  It's a $3.8 billion deal which would be - they put up 1.35 billion, we put up 2.47 billion.

STEVE AUSTIN: And it's not - well, they're saying it's not enough.

BILL SHORTEN: Well, they're saying that.  I'm saying that actually for the proposition it's the same arrangement that we've done elsewhere.  Premier O'Farrell's a conservative politician from a conservative party…

STEVE AUSTIN: Good luck to him.  But can I keep it focused on Queensland?  So will you - can you give them an extra 650 million, which is one figure that John-Paul Langbroek did mention?

BILL SHORTEN: So what I'm saying, though, is that we had a look at the numbers after our productive chat Friday. We think we are close.  Now I've got no doubt there's all sorts of cooks in this kitchen, all giving conflicting instructions and numbers.  And I've watched you try and proceed through, Steve, to get a basis of what's really happening.  We get that the Queenslanders - Queensland Government - says, we've got a special education system.  We don't want Canberra running the schools.  Tick, we agree with that.

We want to make sure the Commonwealth taxpayers are getting value for money in terms of making sure that their scarce dollars are spent ensuring that children get educational resources according to their needs, so they do well.  Tick, I think everyone agrees on that.  Then we've got a debate about how much is new money, how much is injected money.  I believe, having looked at the numbers in the last week, that our propositions are much closer.  I certainly don't want to give up on the children of Queensland.

STEVE AUSTIN: Okay, that's nice.  That's nice.  But you did special deals with other states.  John-Paul Langbroek wants at least an extra $650 million.  Can you come to the party on it?

BILL SHORTEN: We're not going to increase the quantum of our offer.  But I'm not going to accept the characterisation that somehow there's not extra money.  If there wasn't a Labor Government in Canberra, there wouldn't be $2.47 billion being offered to provide greater support for hundreds of thousands of Queensland school children.

STEVE AUSTIN: But if you want the deal $650 million extra and you've got the deal. You've got the deal.  650 million extra.

BILL SHORTEN: Well, first of all, the first way you do a deal, you don't do it, frankly, through reactions out in the media.  If you want to do a deal, you've got to sit face to face with someone, shake hands, and talk it through.  That's what I want to do.  I want to meet with the Queensland Government.  I know they're busy, but I don't think there's much more important than sorting out the future of Queensland school children and extra resources.

STEVE AUSTIN: But John-Paul Langbroek's point is, there's nothing to talk about unless you can put some extra money in.

BILL SHORTEN: Sorry, but when you go through, there's been, to my way of thinking, a fair bit of confusion about who's offering what.  And even your conversation this morning, I think, highlights that. I want a process which allows us to communicate face to face with each other and we go through it.  Doing it from a megaphone across the border doesn't solve anything.  What does matter is making sure that children who've got special needs have the integration support they require.  What matters, if you've got a bright child at school as a parent, that your child is getting pushed and supported to expand their boundaries.

STEVE AUSTIN: This state already has a program for that and one that they funded.

BILL SHORTEN: Well, if everyone's happy with the status quo, I understand if Queensland doesn't want to talk to us.  But I think any parent of any child knows that if we give up trying to improve the education of our children, that is a lack of leadership.

STEVE AUSTIN: But you're the one making the offer.  You're the one that came up with the Gonski program.

BILL SHORTEN: That's spot on.

STEVE AUSTIN: So if you want them to take it, you've got to give them something extra.

BILL SHORTEN: I'm sorry, but we are proposing for every extra dollar the Queensland Government spends, the Commonwealth will provide two extra dollars.  Traditionally they have been the principal funders of their schools.  They do the heavy lifting, so this is a big issue for them.

STEVE AUSTIN: Yes. It's a quarter of their entire budget in fact.  Nearly.  Just off it.

BILL SHORTEN: It's huge.  But what I also recognise is that when you've got someone coming along - there's not a traffic jam of people coming along to help the children of Queensland get better resources in their schools so they can get that individual support they require.

I actually think voters in Queensland, parents in Queensland, children in Queensland, deserve to have intelligent negotiations between their federal and state levels of government.  Our bona fides are we're offering an extra two dollars for every extra dollar the Queensland Government puts in.

Now the Queensland Government has been making some steps in the right direction.  So that is why I don't think we're that apart on money.  Now I get that these are pressured negotiations and everything that everyone says can be misinterpreted.

I again say on your show to Minister Langbroek, I was available today.  I'll find the time to meet.  We think that offering an extra two dollars into the Queensland school system for every dollar the Queensland Government finds would deliver better outcomes for Queensland school children.

STEVE AUSTIN: But you were always offering a two for one deal.  But they need extra money.

BILL SHORTEN: We still are. That's exactly right.

STEVE AUSTIN: Right.  Okay.  All right.  Look, I'll move on.  Bill Shorten, I really appreciate you coming on.  Thank you.

BILL SHORTEN: Thanks.  And again I just say to the Queensland Government, you may be suspicious of Canberra and the Commonwealth, but in this case you just weigh up the best interests of Queensland school children.  And I remain available to meet whenever, wherever, and I think we can do good things for the children of Queensland.  Thanks.

STEVE AUSTIN: Bill Shorten is the Federal Education and Workplace Relations Minister.  Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek, are you still with me?