THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
THURSDAY, 1 FEBRUARY 2018
SUBJECT: SA school funding cuts; Nick Xenophon cutting SA schools; SA State government education funding; Cabinet papers leak; David Feeney.
HON JAY WEATHERILL MP, PREMIER OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA: …[inaudible] and I’m very pleased to have them here today at my old High School and thrilled to be back at Henley High. It's wonderful to see the investments that we've made over the years to improve the quality of education here at Henley High School. I mean this is a school where my life was shaped and where my views about the importance of a quality education have been profoundly shaped. This is one of the great public policy projects that this nation has ever engaged in, that is investments in public education. That's why it's so crucial that we continue to invest in public education. We've been travelling around the school today seeing the investments that have been made in upgrading our science, technology, engineering and maths facilities. Investments that will equip these students for the jobs of the future. If jobs are the number one priority, and they certainly are for our Labor Party, then making sure that young people are equipped with the skills to get the jobs of the future are absolutely crucial. Here we are in the western suburbs, and in the same western suburbs that will be a crucial source of talent for the future defence projects, whether they be submarine building, ship building - the skills and capabilities that these children are acquiring now at this school will permit them to participate in these jobs of the future. That's why we have made such a massive effort to invest in public education.
That's why we've stood up at a national level and raised our voice against the Hockey/Abbott cuts that are continued at a national level in the state education systems. Those first cuts which were put in place in 2014 were deep and dramatic and South Australia were one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to stand up and argue against those cuts, and we continue to prosecute the case against those cuts. Here in South Australia, those cuts have been dramatic. They've had a dramatic effect on our ability to continue to improve the skills and capabilities of these kids and they need those resources now. Speaking to the teachers here, they appreciate the extra investments that we've made in this school but they could do so much more with additional investments in extra teachers. This school alone is suffering a cut of $1.28 million because of the Federal education cuts here in South Australia, so it's absolutely critical that they be reversed and it's only Labor that will stand up for South Australian kids, South Australian schools. Tanya would you like to say a few words?
HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thank you it is terrific to be here with the Premier Jay Weatherill today, with Education Minister Susan Close and Angela Vaughan, and we've had a wonderful tour around the school – the Principal the school leaders, teachers and students have all shown us very proudly the school that they are part of, the school community that they are part of. And that's why it is so inexplicable that the Federal Government is prepared to cut $1.3 million over the next two years from this school. You think about how hard a school community works to raise $1.3 million, the fundraising activities of parents - sausage sizzles, cake stalls, all the charity drives that schools engage in - there's no way that this school community can replace a cut the size of $1.3 million over the next two years. That's a $210 million cut from across the state of South Australia, $17 billion cut across the nation over the next decade. And Malcolm Turnbull really does have a lot to answer for when it comes to these school funding cuts. He likes to talk about innovation and the jobs of the future, but we can't invest in any way that's more effective than investing in our school children, to make sure that they're ready for those jobs of the future.
Now Malcolm Turnbull talks a big game on innovation, all the while cutting funding from schools like this. What's really disappointing is that Nick Xenophon is the reason that Malcolm Turnbull was able to get these cuts through the Federal Parliament. Without the Nick Xenophon Team votes in the Parliament, these funding cuts would never have got through the Federal Parliament. And even worse than that, I mean people shouldn't be surprised I suppose that a former Liberal like Nick Xenophon is prepared to back in Liberal Government funding cuts to school, but I guess people were very disappointed because Nick Xenophon had promised to do the exact opposite. Nick Xenophon had promised to fully fund the original schools funding package that South Australia had agreed with the former Labor Federal Government. So the former Labor Government, federally, the South Australian government had agreed a six year school funding package. The Nick Xenophon Team said that they would back in that full six year funding agreement but as soon as they had the chance to vote for school funding cuts they did that, betraying the children of South Australia and betraying the Principals and teachers that had believed Nick Xenophon when he wrote this letter to Principals and teachers promising to fully fund South Australian schools for six years. This letter lays out in black and white a heartfelt promise from the Nick Xenophon Team that they would back the full six years of funding agreed with the Federal Government. Just months after sending this letter to Principals and teachers the Nick Xenophon Team broke that promise, betraying the children of South Australia. Now this is a fantastic school. It's doing great work. It's got dedicated teachers, it's got kids who are wanting to learn. Imagine what they could do with an extra $1.3 million over the next two years. And I say again - the reason this school will miss out on that $1.3 million over the next two years is because Nick Xenophon broke his promise. Thanks Premier.
JOURNALIST: Premier, is this a bit hypocritical given that your Government has cut real expenditure to schools significantly since you became Premier?
WEATHERILL: We've increased expenditure to schools every single year I've been Premier, and there is an additional 800 teachers in our schools than when I first became Premier.
JOURNALIST: Premier, the report released overnight by the Productivity Commission shows that I think you're investing about $2.7 billion back in 2011/12. Last financial year you invested $2.6 billion. How is that an increase?
WEATHERILL: We have invested additional money into schools every single year that I've been Premier. We're spending less on bureaucrats and more on teachers, and this is exactly what the community expects us to do. Make sure that each school gets more resources every year so they can invest in teachers, school services assistants, and there are 800 additional teachers over that period that the Federal Liberal Party are complaining about. This is a distraction from the fact that they are cutting $210 million from our schools in South Australia and they're cutting in the order of $1.3 million from this school. And of course they want to distract attention from that because it is a -
JOURNALIST: But you've reduced State Government expenditure on education?
WEATHERILL: - it is simply a misleading remark. It is simply misleading. We have put more money into schools and we've made some efficiencies with less bureaucrats and that is exactly what our schools expect. They want less people in head office and more people on the ground providing teaching and support to their students at the level of the school. Every single -
JOURNALIST: You're also being misleading Premier because Federal funding is also increasing for this school over the next two years, it will get almost another $1 million.
WEATHERILL: This is a cut. This is a cut. We had a six year agreement and this represents a cut. $1.3 million that would otherwise have been coming into this school is not coming into this school because former Liberal Nick Xenophon stood up with Malcolm Turnbull and made this cut. It is black and white. It is as simple as that.
JOURNALIST: When it comes to state funding you say there is an extra 800 teachers and that you've cut bureaucrats, can you give us the figure of bureaucrats that you've cut?
WEATHERILL: Sure we can supply that to you, but that is the explanation, 800 additional teachers are actually working in the system than when I first became Premier. And that is the strongest evidence that we are increasing funding to schools. What people are interested in, they're not interested in [interjection] ….well because we have to pay to have teachers in schools. Each year when we look at the funding that goes into schools, you will see that there is more money going into schools each year I have been Premier. And that is exactly what my commitment is and we are sitting at a school that's got $1.3 million less in it over the next two years than it would otherwise have had because Nick Xenophon, former Liberal, worked with Malcolm Turnbull and had 47 separate votes, him and his team, to actually make sure that this legislation got through the Parliament and this cut was put into South Australian schools. There's no hiding from it.
JOURNALIST: Premier, what is the evidence that you have actually cut in the bureaucracy? Where can you show us that the funding is reduced there or that staff have left?
WEATHERILL: It's axiomatic, if you increase funding in schools and you make some efficiencies in your Budget of course it's the only way you can do it.
JOURNALIST: But Premier, if your overall bucket of money in your education spending has reduced, you're not sacking bureaucrats and employing more teachers, you're actually reducing the amount of money you're spending in education.
WEATHERILL: But we are employing more teachers. There are 800 more teachers since when I became Premier.
JOURNALIST: And part of that is through increases in Federal funding.
WEATHERILL: Well this is more money going into schools. We are funded-
JOURNALIST: You are funding a lesser share of schools than you were.
WEATHERILL: No we are putting more money into schools every year. All State and Commonwealth funding sources go into funding schools. We have a small contribution from the Commonwealth Government which is increasing through the arrangements we made with the former Labor Government and the South Australian Government is putting more money into South Australian schools. What we're talking about is massive demands for our kids to get the skills of the future. It's not enough to say that there's been some additional funding going into the schools. We need what we were promised to go into the schools. Nick Xenophon made a solemn promise. He betrayed 147 teachers that wrote to him. He sent them a letter in black and white that said that he would support the full funding, the full indexation, the full Gonski, all of the money that was promised to go into this school. And this school is now sitting here with $1.3 million less in it because Nick Xenophon betrayed this school and broke his promise.
JOURNALIST: Can I please ask a question of Tanya Plibersek? There are reports that David Feeney is expected to quit which is going to spark a by-election. Can you confirm that?
PLIBERSEK: I'll let David speak for himself. I'm sure that he'll make comment when he's ready.
JOURNALIST: Has he alerted the leadership?
PLIBERSEK: I'm not going to make any comment. I'll let David make his comments when he's ready.
JOURNALIST: Can we seek...
PLIBERSEK: You can ask me again but I'm going to say the same thing. I'm going to let David make comment on this issue.
JOURNALIST: How much of a loss would it be to the Victorian Branch if he does resign?
PLIBERSEK: David's made a fine contribution to public life and I'll let him make any further comments.
JOURNALIST: Can we seek your response to the AFP raids on ABC premises? Is that not heavy handed in your view?
PLIBERSEK: I'm not going to make any comments about the operational work of the Australian Federal Police. Of course we believe our Australian Federal Police do excellent work. We were very disappointed last year when the Government seemed to use them for political purposes in relation to trade unions, but on this matter I think when matters are ongoing it's not proper for me to comment.
JOURNALIST: Do you think there needs to be a review in the way that sensitive documents, government documents, are handled by the bureaucracy?
PLIBERSEK: I think it's completely inexplicable that these documents should have ended up in a second hand furniture auction in this way. It is absolutely inexplicable and I do think the Government has an enormous amount of explaining to do to explain how this has occurred.
JOURNALIST: Speaking of cuts, if I just may on that, would Labor support income tax cuts for middle income earners as flagged by the Government?
PLIBERSEK: Well we're the only ones who've actually got an income tax cut on the table right now. We have a Government that is promising to put up taxes on low and middle income earners so that someone earning $70,000 a year will be paying $350 a year more tax under the current Liberal Government’s budget. And we're saying we wouldn't go ahead with those tax increases on low and middle income Australians. What this Government wants is credit for putting up taxes and then putting them back down again. It is like my brother when my parents used to ask him to turn the music down, he'd turn the music up and then turn it down again, and wanted to get credit for doing it. What the Government wants to do is put up taxes and then talk about putting them down and somehow get credit for that. It is dishonest in the extreme.
JOURNALIST: Can you explain how Nick Xenophon in 2016 is responsible for a cut that you and Jay Weatherill argued had already been delivered by Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey in the 2014 Budget?
PLIBERSEK: Yes. Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey sought to take $30 billion out of school education funding, it's there in black and white. There's even a graph in the 2014 Budget about the school funding cuts. When they weren't able to get that cut through the Parliament, Malcolm Turnbull came back with a different cut. He called it Gonski 2.0. It's still a $17 billion cut, not the original $30 billion that Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott sought, but a $17 billion cut over the decade. Nick Xenophon's votes were critical to getting that $17 billion cut through the Federal Parliament. These cuts would not have passed without the Xenophon team's votes particularly in the Senate. He is responsible for $17 billion of cuts to Australian schools, $210 million in South Australia over the next two years alone.
[Remainder of doorstop are all questions to Premier Weatherill]