THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
THE HON SUSAN CLOSE MP
SOUTH AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND CHILD DEVELOPMENT
MINISTER FOR HIGHER EDUCATION AND SKILLS
STEVE GEORGANAS MP
MEMBER FOR HINDMARSH
WEDNESDAY, 29 NOVEMBER 2017
SUBJECTS: Liberals’ cuts to SA schools; Marriage Equality; One Community grant by SA government; Sam Dastyari; Electoral law reform.
STEVE GEORGANAS, MEMBER FOR HINDMARSH: Thank you for coming out. It's a great pleasure today for me, as a South Australian Member of Parliament, the Federal Member of Parliament, to have Tanya Plibersek here, our Shadow Spokesman on Education, to talk about the reversing of cuts that have been made to South Australia in Education. I'm very pleased to have Tanya here to come and visit a school in my electorate, Torrensville Primary School, that will be receiving a cut under the current proposals of the Turnbull Government. We can talk about jobs and innovation and a whole range of other things, but unless you fund education properly you'll never achieve those things. Mr Turnbull's really good at talking up these things, but not putting his money where his mouth is. Thank you.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks so much Steve. It's a great pleasure always to be here, to visit a school in your electorate, and it's wonderful to be here with my colleague Susan Close. You all know what a terrific job Susan is doing as Education Minister here. Like me, she believes that every child, in every school, deserves a great education. She wants every South Australian school to be excellent. And that's why she's fighting so hard for the restoration of the $210 million that South Australia will lose over the next two years alone, because of the funding cuts of the Turnbull Government. It is beyond belief, really, to think of $210 million being taken out of South Australian schools. The huge impact that will have in our classrooms, on our children. And I really admire the stand that Susan is taking in saying to the Turnbull Government "no” to those school cuts. It's a gutsy thing to do, and she's doing it because she believes that every child, in every school deserves a great education.
Just before I hand over to Susan, I just wanted to quickly remark on something that's just happened in the last few minutes. As all of you know, we've been waiting all morning to see the outcome of the Senate vote on marriage equality legislation. Just in the last few minutes that vote has passed through the Senate and passed by quite a substantial margin. Many Australians will be celebrating today, because in passing through the Senate, marriage equality legislation has just one final hurdle to face, and that'll be getting through the House of Representatives next week. It is absolutely imperative that this legislation passes the House of Representatives quickly, so that Australians can relax over Christmas and be certain that the marriage equality legislation is done, once and for all.
SUSAN CLOSE, SOUTH AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: As all of you will know, South Australia has been fighting the Federal Government since the 2014 Hockey Budget, which saw that Federal Government tear up our six-year funding agreement for schooling. That was an agreement that would see us have a world-class education system and the funds to support it. We've been fighting since then and we're now getting to the serious end, where the last two years of that agreement, the next year and the year after. And although we've managed to claw back $120 million over those two years, we are still $210 million short. And I'm not yet prepared to give up that the Federal Government will finally hear reason and will agree that we deserve and should get that funding for our schools. However, what has occurred is that the Federal Government has decided to threaten closure of all of our schools, rather than to continue with the commitment that we have with their Government for appropriate and adequate funding for our schools. This is all about the $210 million. Now, I am immensely reassured that the Government-in-waiting in Canberra, the Federal Opposition, has said unambiguously that should they be elected, they will restore the $210 million for our schools across all three sectors, government, and non-government, so that those schools are able to teach students the skills that they will require for the jobs of tomorrow.
JOURNALIST: So Minister, does this indicate the One Community grant that has been so controversial?
CLOSE: We have seen a success in our campaign, to the extent that when we started fighting, we'd lost $335 million out of South Australia in just two years. We're now down to $210 million. I'm imploring the Federal Government to stop threatening our schools with closure and to listen to us and to restore that funding. We have campaigned in every way we know how to campaign, including twice now, I've written to the Minister and said that I don't want to have to sign up to a series of motherhood statements that have nothing to do with reform, that will make no difference in the classroom, but will simply be a bending of the knee to the Federal Government to allow them to not fund us the money that they ought to be funding us. We are in the fight of our lives for our schools, but remember it is all about the kids. It is all about the education that they need and that they deserve.
JOURNALIST: I think you may have side-stepped the bulk of the question there. Do you think taxpayers would see what is widely considered a dodgy grant to One Community, do you see that now as money well spent? Because some taxpayers mightn't.
CLOSE: One of the ways in which we fought was to supply a grant to a number of community organisations that came together in a coalition under the banner of One Community, to argue in favour of restoring the money that we need for our schools. Now in that time, we went from a $335 million cut to a $210 million cut. I haven't finished fighting, but I'm grateful that we've been able to claw back $120 million and I thank the community organisations that were involved in that campaign most if not all of which are still involved in arguing for the original agreement that will give us a world-class education system.
JOURNALIST: The Auditor-General didn't seem quite as impressed as you are.
CLOSE: The Premier's answered all the questions about the Auditor-General. It was a matter handled out of the Department and all of those questions have now been resolved -
JOURNALIST: So are you, speaking for the Government, not embarrassed about that?
CLOSE: I'm here to talk about education. I'm here to talk about education and I'm here to talk about how we all need to stand up for our schools. Community groups, parents, teachers, we all need to stand up for our schools. Now we've got the Federal Labor Opposition ready to go into government, ready to restore those funds. We should not stop this fight. It is not about politics, it is not about point-scoring, it is about education.
JOURNALIST: Ms Plibersek can I ask you another question? Are you satisfied that Sam Dastyari, given what appears to be a leak from somewhere, is being investigated by ASIO? Is he a fit and proper person to be in your ranks?
PLIBERSEK: A couple of things. The first is I don't know where you get the information that Sam's being investigated by ASIO. That's not in any of the reporting I've read today. Secondly, I would say I wouldn't have wanted to be Sam Dastyari when he got a phone call from Bill Shorten this morning. Bill has made it very clear that Sam has already had one breach of judgement, this is a second breach of judgement and there better not be a third one.
JOURNALIST: Or else?
PLIBERSEK: We don't need to make comments like that. This is -
JOURNALIST: So Mr Shorten's told you that Sam Dastyari or someone else that he's on his final warning?
PLIBERSEK: It's been very clearly reported that Bill is not happy with this second breach of judgement and that it's not acceptable from Sam. But the third point I'd make is any suggestion that any sensitive information was shared by Sam Dastyari doesn't really bear scrutiny. Sam has said himself that he doesn't have any sensitive information, he's certainly not got access to any classified information. And perhaps if I make one fourth point, it's interesting to ask where this story has come from. I don't believe it's come from our own security and intelligence agencies. So the next question is where has it come from?
JOURNALIST: So are you saying the Government has deliberately leaked this to embarrass Sam Dastyari and the Labor Party?
PLIBERSEK: Why don't you ask the Government? I see that there's -
JOURNALIST: You're putting it out there.
PLIBERSEK: There's at least one Minister that is extensively quoted in the story. I'd start with asking them.
JOURNALIST: Do you think, getting back to my first question, do you think he is a fit and proper person? There is a public perception, maybe two public perceptions now that he's not. Why does he deserve a third chance?
PLIBERSEK: I'm not sure that I'd necessarily agree with your contention that there's any sort of public perception here. Bill Shorten's made it very clear that this behaviour's not acceptable in our view. He couldn't have been clearer about that. He's gone on the record and said that publicly, a statement from his office. I think that's the end of the matter.
JOURNALIST: Are you concerned by his close links with China, or apparent close links?
PLIBERSEK: Look I'll put this to you a different way. I think it's important that we have the same rules for everyone in the Federal Parliament. I don't think Australians should be accepting donations from overseas. Labor would like to ban that. We could have been debating that in the Parliament this week but Malcolm Turnbull cancelled democracy. Labor has also suggested a register of foreign interests. We could've been debating that in Parliament this week but Malcolm Turnbull cancelled democracy. So it is a little bit rich, when Labor has been calling for years now for lower disclosure thresholds so that we see who's donating money to campaigns more easily. We've called for other electoral reforms including the banning of donations from overseas. And instead of agreeing with us, the Liberals have done everything they possibly can to stop these reforms and now they're trying to point the finger elsewhere. Perhaps if they had actually agreed with Labor, banned foreign donations, agreed with a regime that registered foreign influences in Australian politics, perhaps we'd take them at their word, they'd have a bit more credibility in this area.