SUBJECTS: Labor’s vision for our education system; AOT Group; Medevac Bill.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I am off to the Press Club today to talk about Labor's vision for our education system, and focusing particularly today on schools. Because we know that one of the biggest differences we can make to a child's life is give them a great teacher, or a great principal to lead those teachers in the school. So today I'll be talking about our whole education system, from early childhood education and care, the first thousand days of a child's life, how important that is. Making sure that they've got a wonderful TAFE and university and adult education system. Then I'll be focusing particularly on schools. Because we know that aside from the home environment, the most important thing in a child's education is the teacher at the front of the classroom. We also know that the principal leading the school, who is responsible for getting the best out of all of the teachers in the school, makes a critical difference as well. 
One of the things that I've been concerned about in recent years is the declining marks to get into teaching degrees, and I've spoken before about ensuring that universities are focusing on taking high-achieving students into their courses. Of course, there are always exceptions to this. Someone might bomb out in the HSC because they've had a tough year at home, and we need alternate pathways into teaching degrees for those people who are capable of being great teachers, but didn't get the marks. But as a general statement, we really should be targeting the top 30 per cent of academic achievers to get into teaching. And that's why, a couple of days ago, I announced that Labor would provide a bursary to high achieving students of up to $10 000 a year to up to 1000 students. Now what we really want to do with this, of course, is help high achievers pursue a degree in teaching, but we also want to send a strong message to the Australian community that teaching is important. That it is valuable. That it makes a difference in children's lives. And that we, as a community, value the work of teachers.
I also will be talking today about the Principals' Academy that Labor will establish if we are elected. We know that the principal who is leading the school, if they can get the best out of the teaching workforce in that school, can make a huge difference for the education of every child in the school. And we've got an ageing principals' workforce and sadly, fewer than a quarter of principals who are taking on these new roles are actually getting training prior to taking on the role. It's complicated to be a principal. There's obviously the administrative work, budgets and so on of the school that the principal has to supervise, but most importantly, getting every teacher in that school to embark on a program of continually improving their own teaching. That's really tough. That's difficult and complex work. And we have to respect that and value it by providing this support through the Principals' Leadership Academy.
Any questions?
JOURNALIST: Ms Plibersek, just on reports this morning around Joe Hockey and Andrew Burnes, the Helloworld AOT Group. What is your view on this latest development?
PLIBERSEK: It really stinks, doesn't it? This whole unravelling over the last few days of the way this tender was granted. I don't want to go into too many details, but I think the Government's got a lot of questions to answer, and Mr Hockey should answer why he appears to have used departmental resources to brief a company that was competing for a government tender. 
JOURNALIST: Would Labor stop offering tenders, providing tenders, to AOT Group?
PLIBERSEK: I'm not going to make those sorts of pre-judgements at all. I think the important thing is that tendering processes are open and transparent, free of political interference or influence. And I think this sort of case shows why it is important that we have a National Integrity Commission. Labor’s supported one for years.
JOURNALIST: With Christmas Island and the Medevac Bill, are you comfortable with (inaudible) and assessments being carried out only on Christmas Island and not on the mainland?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I frankly can't understand - and it really is up to the Government to explain - why if a person cannot be properly treated on Nauru or Manus Island or Port Moresby, that they somehow can be properly treated on Christmas Island. Christmas Island, I know, has good medical facilities, but it's hard to see how they could be that much better than what's available on Manus or Nauru. So it's up to the Government to explain how they can properly treat people on Christmas Island. It seems to me that this is a very expensive way of providing the medical treatment as well. I think really it's part of the Government's efforts to shift this decision, made by the Parliament, into a scare campaign that they can use in the next election, knowing that frankly they've got nothing else in the toolbox. 
They cannot run on their record, they cannot run on unity, they cannot run on what they've done for the Australian people - wages are low, they've cut health and education, they continue to be a rabble, they've dropped their 11th energy policy. They cannot run on their achievements and they can't run on their vision for the future, so a scare campaign is all that's left to them.
JOURNALIST: So it's not that you'd be recalling them?
PLIBERSEK: Look I'm not going to make any comment until we have much more detail than we've got at the moment.
JOURNALIST: So it's not fine for asylum seekers to be treated on Christmas Island?
PLIBERSEK: I've said it's up to the Government to explain how that medical treatment can be adequately provided. 
JOURNALIST: Do you see any rationale for it? Any logical rationale in flying asylum seekers to Christmas Island for that medical treatment?
PLIBERSEK: I think the Government has made this decision because they want people to focus on this in the lead-up to the next election as a scare campaign. I think most Australians get that.
JOURNALIST: But are you uncomfortable with them being treated there rather than on the mainland for the purpose of medical evacuation?
PLIBERSEK: I think if they can be adequately treated there, that's up to the Government to show. I think it's difficult to understand, and it's up to the Government to explain, how that medical treatment can be adequately provided. 
JOURNALIST: Doesn't this just illustrate the problem though, when you lose control of the Parliament? The Parliament is effectively dictating policy to the Executive - doesn't this make the Morrison Government untenable? Should he have gone to Yarralumla and called an election the minute he was having his border security policy dictated to him by the Parliament?
PLIBERSEK: I think it's a very good point to make. And this all, of course, goes back to the fact that Peter Dutton rolled Malcolm Turnbull. Malcolm Turnbull left Wentowrth. The Liberals lost Wentworth, which I think is very important here. The Liberals lost one of their safest seats because they have lost the confidence of the Australian people. Of classic Liberal voters, who walked away from them. So what responsibility does Peter Dutton take for bringing this insecurity into the Parliament? What responsibility does Scott Morrison take for not being able to work with the cross bench to give them assurance that people are getting proper medical treatment?