Bill's Media Releases




11:45 AM

Subject/s:                 Better Schools Plan, Election


BILL SHORTEN: Good morning everyone. It's great to be here at the Teachers' Union Delegates meeting, talking to teachers about why the Better Schools Plan of Federal Labor is such a good idea for government schools in Victoria.

There's no doubt in my mind that tens of thousands of Victorian school teachers, hundreds of thousands of parents of Victorian children who go to Victorian government schools want to see the Victorian Government strike an arrangement with the Federal Government. There's clearly complete disbelief amongst Victorian teachers that the fake conversion to prioritising education for a federal government, people just don't believe Tony Abbott means what he says in terms of school funding.

So the challenge is here for Premier Napthine. Your teachers, your parents in Victoria want to see you strike an arrangement and there's complete rejection about the sincerity and authenticity. People do not believe Liberal Federal policies on education. They've trashed them for three years. They don't believe that one day changes three years of bagging out Labor's great reforms to help every individual child and schools. Happy to take questions.

REPORTER: How close are Victoria to signing on to the Better Schools program?

BILL SHORTEN: Well effectively the deal was done last night. It was with great surprise that senior Commonwealth officials were told at nine o'clock last night that the Victorian Government couldn't make a decision. I've spoken to Premier Napthine today. I rang him last night.


We've said that, what on earth is the reason to delay till Tuesday striking a deal on Victorian schools other than people playing politics? The Prime Minister of Australia indicated he was available to meet Premier Napthine this morning. I have indicated to Premier Napthine that the Victorian Government officials have worked well with the Commonwealth.


We've sorted out the money, the money is not an object any more. We've sorted out concerns about the Victorian Government worried about some sort of Canberra takeover of schools. We've given them all the assurances that one could need. Now we're told that the Victorian Government doesn't work weekends. This is not good for Victorian schools. It's a shame to miss out on a deal.


Anyway, Premier Napthine has said that he wants to do a deal, he told me that on the phone today. We're available for the phone call. Our Prime Minister of Australia was ready to provide extra resources unambiguously to Victorian schools, helping Victorian school parents and school kids.


REPORTER: Mr Shorten, is the Prime Minister going to the Governor General's office tomorrow or Monday to call an election?


BILL SHORTEN: I don't know.


REPORTER: Does Victoria still have time to strike a deal over the weekend?


BILL SHORTEN: Yes. Do you know today there's thousands of Victorians going to work? We can, we've got the internet, we've written to the Victorian Government. We have dealt reasonably with every issue that they've got to raise and to be fair, up until late last night I thought the Victorian Government were really interested in a deal. I don't know what's happened.


Premier Napthine indicated that he's got commitments in his electorate this weekend. I've indicated that we're available to meet. We've got the telephone, it's been invented, we've got the internet, we've got the National Broadband Network. Anyway, listen, politics has reared its head. The Victorian Government, I think the Victorian Government negotiators last night were surprised that all of a sudden there had been a halt applied to very productive negotiations.

I'll just say one thing to Premier Napthine. The Prime Minister of Australia and myself work weekends. We are happy to meet with you. We have resolved every issue you've raised. I can only conclude that somehow Premier Napthine, by delaying the education deal, is trying to delay the election. I don't know what it's about.

Let's forget the politics Premier Napthine. Let's put the kids of Victoria first, as you have been doing at these negotiations. Let's just get it done. We've had proper process, you know the Coalition say they now back these schemes. I don't believe them but I can't see any reason to delay.

Victorian school children, their teachers and their parents deserve leadership. Victoria's kids are like Australian kids - they're brave, they're confident, they're optimistic. They put trust in the adults to be the leaders that we should be. I think we should now show the sort of leadership that Victoria's school children expect of Victoria's politicians.

REPORTER: Do you think Tony Abbott's policy shift has removed the incentive, if you like, for the holdout states to sign on? I mean in one sense, could Victoria say well why do we need to sign on with Labor when the Coalition have given us everything we want?


BILL SHORTEN: Oh, good question. No one seriously believes that the Liberal Party's comments on education in the last 24 hours are anything other than poll group - polling and focus group driven panic. The Coalition has bagged, for three years, everything we're doing in education.

As late as Thursday, the Shadow Minister was calling it all a con. Last week every school principal in Australia got a letter saying don't believe Labor. Tthen on Thursday or Friday, road to Damascus, new conversion. Like I would be more likely to believe that Eddie McGuire is barracking for Carlton Football Club than I would that Tony Abbott's now barracking for education.

So I hope that Premier Napthine hasn’t been conned by Tony Abbott's bogus conversion. All about the polls, all about panic. Because everyone knows that if you care about education you vote Labor.

REPORTER:  Is this Victorian delay embarrassing for the Federal Government?


BILL SHORTEN: No, it's embarrassing for Victoria. But again, what I say to the Victorian Government is because you've been in the same meetings I've been in, you know, as your senior officials know, as people in the loop about this whole process, that we are all capable of doing this arrangement. Anyone who's been party to these negotiations in the last four weeks know that politics has reared its ugly head at five minutes to midnight.


No one actually believes that Tony Abbott will fund education the way we do. No parent - parents want certainty. Parents want to know who's going to look after my kids when they're at school? Only Labor looks after your kids at school.

REPORTER: What will Labor do in 2014 with the states that haven't signed on, if you get into government?


BILL SHORTEN: Well it's up to those states. Those states that have thumbed their nose at us, we believe in education, the door is always open for states who have rejected Labor's approach to come back and talk to us.


REPORTER:  Given you said you were confident of a deal over the weekend, now Dr Napthine says he can't meet until Tuesday and you're out here begging him to come back today. Surely that's embarrassing?


BILL SHORTEN: I'm not begging. I think he should be embarrassed. I just want to make sure - if a deal isn't struck, I tell you what, there's one villain in the piece and it'll be the Victorian Government for not negotiating over the weekend. You're all working on the weekend. The news happens on the weekend.

What world do the Victorian Government live in that life happens between nine o'clock Monday and five o'clock Friday? Talk about manana, you know, see you tomorrow. I think that - and I make no apology and if someone wants to interpret it as weak me saying we want to do a deal, so what?

It is not weak to want to have a better education for your kids. It is not weak to want to fund your schools better. It is not weak to want to see individual children get the resources. What is weak is not being able to turn up and negotiate on a Saturday and Sunday.

REPORTER: In terms of dollars, in terms of dollars, how much money do Victorian students stand to lose if Victoria doesn't sign up?


BILL SHORTEN: Oh realistically, if the Victorian Government doesn't sign up they stand to lose something in the order of - out of the Victorian component, $500,000 a year extra per child I would say, across six years. Be something more like $1,800 per child. Imagine those resources going to kids because of Victoria.


So the Victorian Government, you know what I hope they're not doing is trying to get a holiday on making a contribution. The big difference between conservative and Labor education policy is we want to put in extra money but we want the state governments to prioritise education.

Tony Abbott is giving the green light to state governments to get out of the business of funding education.

REPORTER: Do you have any idea on the date for the Federal election?




REPORTER: Are you ready to go?


BILL SHORTEN: Now, this press conference?




REPORTER: Are you - would you like to see the campaign proper begin? So you can get this all (inaudible)


BILL SHORTEN: Oh, my interest is getting a deal on schools. I will be sick in the stomach if the Victorian Government, for whatever reason, say that life moves too fast for them, they can't do a deal. That would be - I'm a parent, I know thousands of other parents, I know those teachers in there. Only Labor offers certainty.

The best certainty, regardless of the election outcome, for the Victorian Government, is to do a deal with us. Because Tony Abbott said he's going to honour any deal. I don't believe him, maybe the Victorian Government does. But if the Victorian Government doesn't do a deal well then they're just left high and dry by Tony Abbott.

FEMALE REPORTER: (inaudible)


BILL SHORTEN: Oh, well first of all maybe we might even see what the Opposition policies cost. They've got a $70 billion black hole. They've just whacked $10 billion on the tab through their faux back, you know, U-turn, upside down cake they're making of education.

You know, on Thursday they didn't like it, on Friday they do. But on Friday they added an extra $10 billion. The conservatives are making promises as if money, taxpayer money is Monopoly money. This is not the way the world works.

Labor has got a costed plan to return to surplus. Our opponents don't have the costings on anything.

REPORTER: Would these negotiations be as urgent if the Prime Minister didn't want to call the election before Monday?


BILL SHORTEN: Oh let's be clear. There's a deal there to be done. The deal's done, ladies and gentlemen. The money's right. The amendments to the legislation are right. The Coalition in Victoria have obviously just exerted pressure on Premier Napthine to pick Tony Abbott over school kids in Victoria.


I hope I'm wrong. I will happily eat my words if Denis Napthine's available to meet over the weekend. But I'm afraid that I might be right.

REPORTER: So nothing to do with the election date?

BILL SHORTEN: Oh well I hope that Premier Napthine is not letting the - trying to delay an election if that was what the - his logic. What he needs to do is say, alright Bill, we've done all of the meetings. We actually agree on everything. I won't stuff around. I'll just get on and look after the kids in Victoria. Thanks very much everyone.





Media contact: Jessica Lindell 0408 642 804.