SUBJECTS: Liberals’ cuts to schools; NAPLAN results; Sam Dastyari.

SHARON BIRD, MEMBER FOR CUNNINGHAM: Thanks everybody for coming along this morning, and I really want to welcome Tanya Plibersek back to the Illawarra. Tanya was here only a few months ago talking to one of our other local high schools. The issue of education in this region is a critically important one. We know we have a persistent youth unemployment challenge in this area, and one of the most critical factors to addressing that is education at all levels. Getting our schools operating as effectively as we can for young people, protecting and ensuring the TAFE and vocational education system and apprenticeships are a pathway open to young people. Making sure that they can access university if they've got the capacity and interest to do a university education. And we have seen, across all of those aspects of education, the Federal Government cutting away at the heart of it. And that has a real impact in our local area. 

So Tanya, as our education spokesperson, has had a profound interest and been a great support to myself and Stephen Jones in lobbying to get better outcomes for our local area. I was critical of Malcolm Turnbull when he visited town a couple of weeks ago. Didn't talk to any locals and didn't address these sorts of issues that really matter to us, and so I'm thrilled that our Deputy Leader can be here.

I'd like to just ask John Black from the Teachers Federation to make a few comments about the actual impacts on schools and then we'll get Tanya to have a chat to you about why this is so important. 

JOHN BLACK, TEACHERS FEDERATION: Thanks Sharon. The National Education Reform Agreement was a transition over six years to ensure that every public school, and every school in the country, would be operating at the Schooling Resource Standard. This Federal Government, reneging on that agreement in year four of that transition, has abandoned public schools here in Warrawong, right across the Illawarra, and further afield across the state and the country. That means schools are operating below that minimum resource standard, and that means they cannot offer additional resourcing, smaller class sizes, specialist programs for those students who really need support. We will not go away and we will not give up until those cuts are reversed. It is vitally important that no matter where you come from in Australia, no matter what your circumstance, you can have your educational needs met. And I'd like to thank all parties at the state level for their commitment to this, and Federal Labor for maintaining their commitment to the National Education Reform Agreement, and their commitment to reverse the cuts of this current government, which will so vitally hurt schools right across NSW. So thank you very much for being here Tanya.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks so much for that introduction Sharon. Of course, Sharon's background in TAFE means that she has a particular interest in seeing a great education for every child in the electorate that she represents. And thank you too to John Black for his words about the Teachers Federation's continued support to reverse the $17 billion of cuts from the Federal Government to our nation's schools. You look behind us and see Warrawong High School, a fantastic high school, that has programs for kids who've got english as a second language, it includes children with disabilities, it's got a gifted and talented program, and a lot of extra-curricular activities. This school will lose $1.4 million over the years 2018 and 2019 alone. Now, although it's a great school, Warrawong has more than 90 per cent of its children who come from the bottom half of families by income. You think of the difference that an extra $1.4 million over the next two years could make to this school, to those programs that the children are being offered, and you see how tragic the $17 billion of cuts are. 

$17 billion is such a large number that people kind of lose perspective on what it means for their children in their local communities, and that's why we're here at Warrawong to point out that a school like this will lose $1.4 million over the next two years alone. And in fact, the primary school next door will lose about $600 000 over the next two years alone. Parents understand what that means in the classroom. The extra money that would support kids that are gifted and talented to extend their gifts, that would support children with a disability, that would support kids who've got english as a second language, those who are struggling with reading or maths or any of the other basic skills, could get that one-on-one attention that children need to fully develop their gifts. 

Now we saw Simon Birmingham, the Education Minister, today talking about NAPLAN results and saying they should be a wake-up call for educators. Well today's NAPLAN results should be a wake-up call for Simon Birmingham. This is a federal government in its fifth year of office that has slammed the breaks on school funding and slammed the breaks on education reform. And instead of taking responsibility for the lack of funding and lack of reform, you've got a federal education minister who's blaming the children. Simon Birmingham should take a good, hard look at himself and take some responsibility as a federal minister responsible for education, instead of blaming the children and blaming the teachers. 

Any questions?

JOURNALIST: The NAPLAN results show that boys in particular are struggling. How would your party target funding to fix this?

PLIBERSEK: There's a lot of research that say that girls and boys learn differently and particularly as boys are going through adolescence any mother of boys will tell you that it can be a challenging time. It's hard to get them to concentrate. And one of the terrific things about needs-based funding, the whole idea of needs-based funding, is that by giving extra funding to schools, schools are able to make decisions in the best interests of their students. They're able to apply the research about how children learn in the classroom, because they've got the time, they've got the extra funding to buy in more supports, new programs, they've got the time to release their teachers to continue to do professional development that helps them be the best possible teacher in the classroom. That's what needs-based funding is all about. So yes, extra funding in our schools means more opportunities for boys to learn, for girls to learn and the whole spectrum of children. The benefit of needs-based funding and giving more say to principals and teachers in the classroom is: they can decide, using the evidence, using the science and the best approach for their individual students. They have the time, they have the resources to do that.

JOURNALIST: Do today's NAPLAN results show we need a phonics screening check for all year one students?

PLIBERSEK: Today's NAPLAN results show that we need a change of federal government. Any federal government that wants to cut $17 billion from our schools over the next decade should be ashamed of itself. And the whole purpose of needs-based funding was to make sure that every Australian child in every school, in every state, gets every opportunity to achieve their best. To see that results are flatlining, in some cases going backwards, should be a wake-up call to a government in its fifth year of office that is planning a further $17 billion worth of cuts.

JOURNALIST: What do you think of the impact here in Warrawong? Is it going to make [inaudible] class sizes?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think the school should speak for itself about the decisions it will make, but the difference between Labor's funding and the Liberals' funding is $1.4 million over the next two years for the school right behind me now. And $600 000 over the next two years for the school next door, the primary school next door. When you break it down into those sorts of numbers for the school in your community, then it really tells parents what the difference is. I mean, if you take an average of schools across the country, you're talking about a $1 million average cut for schools across the country. Those are shocking figures. Parents know how many cake stalls it takes to raise $10 000. How many fetes it takes to raise $50 000. When you talk about taking $1.4 million out of a school like this, you know that parents can't make up that difference. No amount of fund raising will make up that difference. That is a direct result of the $17 billion of cuts that Malcolm Turnbull has decided on.

JOURNALIST: It looks like Sam Dastyari will collect another $20 000-odd in his salary between now and the New Year. Are you comfy with that?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think Sam Dastyari has paid a very high price for some poor judgement. Don't forget, Andrew Robb took a job, $880 000 a year job, before he left the Parliament, with the Chinese company that very controversially bought the port of Darwin. You've got Stuart [Robert] who actually did a press conference with his Chinese donor in China. You've got Julie Bishop's branch of the Liberal Party taking half a million dollars of donations from Chinese companies when Julie Bishop's making decisions about foreign policy. You've got, just in Gilmore, a donation I believe of $10 000 from Mr Huang, the man who we've said Labor won't take donations from, donating to seats right across the country. And the Liberals have consistently refused to back Labor's calls to have a register of foreign agents in Australia and to have a ban on donations from foreign companies in Australia. You've really got to say, if the Liberals had the same standards for their own MPs as they're trying to apply to Sam Dastyari, there'd be none of them left.

JOURNALIST: Should he clarify though, when he's quitting?

PLIBERSEK: I really think that hounding a guy who has already said that he's leaving while you ask no questions of a trade minister who took a $50 000 donation from a Chinese company on the day that the China Free Trade Agreement was signed, who took an $880 000 a year job with a Chinese company that controversially bought the Port of Darwin, while you ask no questions of a foreign minister who's branch of the Liberal Party is taking half a million dollars of donations from Chinese companies is a bit rich.

JOURNALIST: Did Sam though call you or call your office to warn you against meeting with democracy activists?

PLIBERSEK: I don't discuss conversations that I may or may not have had with colleagues. I never have.

Thank you everyone.