TRANSCRIPT: DOORSTOP - SYDNEY - FRIDAY, 14 DECEMBER 2018

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
 
 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
DOORSTOP INTERVIEW
SYDNEY
FRIDAY, 14 DECEMBER 2018
 
SUBJECTS: Labor’s $20 million Indigenous residential college announcement, school funding, Scott Morrison’s toothless ICAC.


PROFESSOR ATTILA BRUNGS, VICE-CHANCELLOR OF UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, SYDNEY: Good morning, it's a great pleasure to announce Australia's first Indigenous residential college here at UTS. We are incredibly grateful for the support of federal Labor who's made this vision, this possibility real. This college will be a $100 million facility and it's not just a college, not just living accommodation; it'll have 250 beds - both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians - but it's far more than that. It is a way of providing support for students, not just while at university but back in the schools, raising the aspirations of people to come to university and then supporting them through their careers beyond. It'll have a whole host of cultural centres and spaces; and at its heart, it is a celebration of Indigenous culture. A celebration of Indigenous culture that all Australians can share. Again, we are incredibly grateful for federal Labor's investment and more importantly, for their sharing of this vision to make it a reality. So, I'd like to ask Tanya to say a few words. 
 
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well, thank you very much, Attila, it's a great pleasure to be here at the University of Technology Sydney today for this very important announcement. Federal Labor is delighted to commit $20 million, should we be elected, to bringing to life UTS' vision of this Indigenous residential college. 
Federal Labor is delighted to announce that, should we be elected, we will contribute $20 million to bringing to life UTS' vision of the nation's first Indigenous residential college. We know that Indigenous Australians have lower participation rates in university than non-Indigenous Australians. Labor [increased] that participation rate when we were last in government but we would like to see our First Nations people even better represented in our universities because we know university education is a sure ticket out of disadvantage. Indigenous Australians who have a university degree have no gap when it comes to employment or to life outcomes. It's a great opportunity for hundreds and, over time, thousands of First Nations Australians to get a university education; but it's so much more than that. This will be a really important opportunity for non-Indigenous Australians to learn more about Indigenous Australian culture; there'll be opportunities for exhibitions and events, non-Indigenous Australian students will be able to live at the college should they wish to, it'll be a really fantastic opportunity for exchange between First Nations and other Australians. 
Labor is delighted to add this to our suite of commitments on higher education - this comes out of our $300 million University Future Fund and it's the fourth announcement that we've made from that fund that will improve our universities right across Australia. It also comes on top of uncapping student places at university, when we were last in government, we uncapped places and we saw many more Indigenous students - Indigenous students attending Australian universities; this will build on that great success. I might hand over to Adam now. 
 
ADAM GOODES: It's so great to be here today to celebrate such an incredible vision of UTS, particularly [inaudible], to be part of a college that hopefully is going to revolutionise the way that our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university students go to school. Hopefully, the graduates from this program will be the future leaders that we need in those powerful positions out there in our community. I'm really excited that this, you know, university, this college is going to be in my backyard - the backyard that I've been in for the last 21 years, and helping those pathways for a lot of our high school students, creating those pathways into universities. And to create an environment that is actually not designed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it's designed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It's not just going to be exclusive, it's going to be inclusive to all Australians. It's going to be a place where all Australians can come to learn a lot more about our First Australians which I'm super excited about and I can't wait until we turn over a bit of soil and start this journey. I would like to invite Marlee, one of our Aboriginal honours students who just finished her degree to say a few words. Marlee?
 
MARLEE SILVA: Yaama, which is a word from my people, the Kamilaroi people and just say what an honour it is to be a part of this as, it is the greatest honour of my life to be able to say that I am an Aboriginal woman, and now amongst those honours is to say I'm a UTS graduate. This commitment to our people is a commitment to the broader future of Australia. I think that, well I definitely have a bias, but our next generations are the ones who are going to be in power and change this country and change the world and this to me is a pinnacle moment for a step forward in that journey. I'm really proud to be a part of this and today is such a happy day, so thank you to UTS for doing this and to everyone who has been involved. Thank you.
 
PLIBERSEK: Now I'll just see if you've got any questions of any of the other speakers, and then I'll deal with any questions you have on this or other federal issues. Any other questions of any of the other-? O
Well just before we move to questions, I also wanted to say a few words today about the education ministers’ meeting. State and territory education ministers are meeting with the federal education minister and the really disappointing thing about this meeting is there will be so little in it of good policy that will improve the lives of Australian students. Instead, what they will be talking about is the harsh cuts that this Government has made to date. Today, pre-school education is not even on the agenda of the education ministers. So, pre-school funding runs out next year and the federal government refuses to recommit beyond next year to fund our pre-schools. We see the debacle of NAPLAN online again debated at this education ministers’ meeting. 
And most importantly we still have conflict over school funding. Victoria has very bravely stood up and said it will not sign a funding - a long term funding agreement with the federal government. The federal government's response is to hold Victorian school children to ransom. The federal government is now threatening to withhold all education funding from Victorian schools because the Victorian government has been brave enough to say; "you don't get to cut $800 million from our schools". Well shame on the federal  government for being prepared to use Australian schoolchildren as hostages in its battle with the Victorian government. Any questions?
 
JOURNALIST: Just on that, James Merlino has claimed the $800 million worth of funding that you've been quoting [inaudible], if elected, would get them to 22.5 per cent of Schooling Resource Standard with an intent to go up to 25 per cent. Does this mean that there is more funding announcements to come?
 
PLIBERSEK: Well our funding announcement is clear. We have committed $14 billion over the next decade to public schools alone. Labor has said that we will honour the government's commitment to Catholic and independent schools, no difference there. The difference is around public schools. Public schools teach two out of every three Australian children, and it's public schools that the Morrison Government refuses to adequately fund. The Morrison Government has admitted that it's cut funding from Catholic schools and it's restored that funding. It's admitted that it's cut funding from independent schools and it's cut that funding. Why does it refuse to admit that it's cut funding from public schools? Why does it refuse to restore the funding that two out of every three Australian children rely on in their public schools?
 
JOURNALIST: Where is that 25 per cent figure coming from though?

PLIBERSEK: We've said all along that we will work with the states and territories to reach 100 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard. We've been clear about that from day one. And right now, we crashed through the artificial 20 per cent funding cap that the federal government have instituted on public schools. Who says that the federal government is only responsible for 20 per cent of funding for public schools but responsible for 80 per cent of funding for Catholic and independent schools? The federal government says that.

This is a completely artificial, made up cap on the amount of funding that public schools should receive from the federal government. We don't agree with it. We've said all along that we'll crash through 20 per cent and we'll continue to increase our share of federal funding to public schools, because it's public schools that teach the majority of children. It's public schools that teach the majority of kids with special needs, learning difficulties, English as a second language, disability, Indigenous kids. All of them are disproportionately represented in our public system, and that's why we say a proper needs-based funding system is the solution for public education.

JOURNALIST: On another issue, what do you make of the expected resignation of LNP President Gary Spence? 

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it shows - it shows why Scott Morrison's half-hearted effort on an Integrity Commission is so very disappointing. We need to make sure that when we have public figures in Australia, they can be held to the very highest standards of integrity. Scott Morrison announced a superficial, weak, half-hearted, toothless tiger of an Integrity Commission that's as fake as he is. We want, we want integrity in public life in Australia. We want our public figures to be held to the highest standards.
We want an Integrity Commission that is able to look at complaints from the public. Scott Morrison's example only can take references from other parts of government. We want an Integrity Commission that can look at public office holders including judges. Scott Morrison's effort doesn't do that. We want an Integrity Commission with proper investigative powers. Scott Morrison's doesn't have that. It is so very important that Australians can have faith in our democracy and in our democratic processes. You don't get that without a strong integrity system.

JOURNALIST: Specifically what is wrong with the Government's model?

PLIBERSEK: What's wrong with the Government's proposal is it's as fake as Scott Morrison. It is, it's not allowed to receive references from the public, so if you're concerned about something that a Commonwealth public servant has done or a Member of Parliament or a judge, as a citizen, you don't get to make a complaint. It has to be a complaint referred from another part of government. Basically, what this does is cobble together existing integrity measures in government in to - you know - pulls them under one umbrella. It is weak, it is half-hearted, it is insincere, just like Scott Morrison.

JOURNALIST: How is Labor's plan any better?

PLIBERSEK: Well, Labor's plan is better because it can take references from the public. It can look at any Commonwealth office holder, including the Governor-General, the highest office holder in the land, judges, politicians and so forth. And it can take references from people who are concerned about issues of integrity, the concerns that they have noticed as members of the public. That's just three examples.

JOURNALIST: Why is it not, in the Prime Minister's words, "a kangaroo court"?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I'll tell you something. If you look at the NSW ICAC and you see the way that it has caught out people like Eddie Obeid, I am so happy that that's happened, I am delighted. Even though people in my own party have been caught by the NSW ICAC, I would much rather have the short term pain of the embarrassment of having someone in your own political party caught out than have the long term problem of growing corruption and loss of faith in our democracy. So, I back a strong Integrity Commission, even though its potentially embarrassing because it means that people can have faith in our democratic institutions long term. That's why out proposal is better, it can help restore people’s faith in the integrity of our public office bearers in Australia. 

JOURNALIST: Does Labor think that public - that hearings into the public sector should be held in public?

PLIBERSEK: I think, in general, it’s good to have as much transparency as possible, there might be some circumstances in which initial hearings should be held in camera because if someone hasn’t done something wrong often their reputation is destroyed and some months or even years later they're found innocent of any wrong doing but their reputation has been affected by that time already. So we need to have balance here, we don't want kangaroo courts of course, but what Scott Morrison is proposing is absolutely a half-hearted effort. 

JOURNALIST: What is Labor's response to the Productivity Commission's recommendation to abolish the Department of Veteran Affairs?

PLIBERSEK: We've only just received the report and of course we'll examine the report very closely but I, my first instinct is to say  when people have served their nation and risked their lives, we need to make sure that we look after them, we look after them to the highest possible standards. So I would not support anything that diminished our ability to care for our veterans properly. 

JOURNALIST: The government is planning to further expand the cashless welfare card further, what would Labor to with the scheme?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we supported the initial test phase of the cashless welfare card, but we haven't thus far supported expansion because we haven't seen enough of the results of the earlier trails. We’re open minded, but we'd like to see more results from that earlier evidence. 

JOURNALIST: How do you predict this college will help (inaudible)

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely, there's a couple of things that will work together here. Having an Indigenous College will be a great focal point for Indigenous students from around New South Wales and around Australia. So there will be a residential college, it will be a great community to live in, there will be support onsite to help people stay at university, to make sure we increase university completion rates. Students at the college with be able to do outreach to high schools and even primary schools, to encourage Indigenous students in primary school and high school to have an aspiration to go to university. 
This college will also be a focal point for explaining and showcasing Indigenous culture to non-Indigenous Australians; dance, art exhibitions, talks, historical exhibitions. All of those will have a place in this new college, non-Indigenous students who are staying at the college will learn so much about Indigenous culture as well. This is a great opportunity, not just for our First Nations students, more of them coming to university, more of them completing university, it’s a great opportunity for non-Indigenous Australians to learn much more about Indigenous culture. Thanks, everyone.
  
ENDS