SUBJECTS:  Boycott of NAPLAN Online, High Court Ruling on SA Senate Replacement, changes to 457 visas

JOURNALIST: Would you like to start off with a statement about NAPLAN?


TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well, good afternoon and thanks for coming out this afternoon. The confirmation today that all states and territories, Catholic and independent Schools, will be boycotting NAPLAN Online this year is an admission of gross failure from the Federal Government. This is a proposal that had $21 million of taxpayers’ money spent on it and it's turned out to be as big a debacle as the Census collection which saw so many millions of Australians unable to answer the Census when it was distributed. This is a project that was always rushed and the Federal Education Minister should stand up this afternoon and explain just how badly he has mishandled this and what he is going to do to fix it. He is trying to cover his tracks by saying that it will happen anyway sometime in the future, but the fact that states and territories have had to pull out of letting their students sit the test this year shows a gross amount of incompetence from the Federal Government.


JOURNALIST: Given it is 2017 is it simply ineptitude that this test isn't online in a format that can be done over the internet?


PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is for the government to explain why they've thought a test that tests so many children in so many locations in so many schools right across Australia would be able to be delivered online so quickly. I think the experience with the Census shows that we've got a Federal Government, despite all the stuff they say about being interested in the future and up-to-date with the latest technologies, they really don't have a clue.


JOURNALIST: What are going to be the implications of this, of the fact that all the states and territories have said that they’re going to be boycotting the online component?


PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it's important that the states and territories have said that they won't allow this test to proceed this year because it's just plain that the test wasn't ready for rollout. We were having timeouts, the internet connections were dropping - there were even suggestions that some questions had wrong maths in them, that the questions themselves were problematic - so I think it's very wise of the states and territories that have pulled the pin on this this year to have said that they won't be proceeding with the test. I think it's much better to wait and get this right but the fact that the Federal Government have managed to stuff this up in the same way that they stuffed up the Census collection really should have taxpayers asking 'what are these people doing with our tax dollars?'


JOURNALIST: On to a few other matters, forgive me for my pronunciation on this one I'm not going to be great at it, but the High Court has overturned Labor's challenge to the nomination of the South Australian Family First Senator.  Was it a mistake for Labor to challenge the eligibility of the new Senator? Has it stymied Labor's chances of getting a co-operative Senate?


PLIBERSEK: Oh no, I think it's very important to be very confident that our electoral processes are absolutely watertight and if there was a question about the citizenship of the Family First Senator then we had to explore all avenues, but as the court has ruled, we accept the ruling of the court and we will get on with making sure that we explain Labor policies and seek her support for those policies.


JOURNALIST: It is a pretty fractious Senate though and if Labor was to win the next election has it made it difficult for it to go in full?


PLIBERSEK: No, I don't think so. I think Senators will decide on the basis of their political beliefs and ideology whether they will vote with the Opposition or vote with the Government on each issue as it comes up.


JOURNALIST: And lastly on the 457 visa changes, there's been some commentary from the Labor Party that these changes are sort of overstated. What is your reaction to the changes?


PLIBERSEK: Well, it's a re-branding exercise. The 457 visa changes seem little more than a re-branding exercise. We haven't really seen details that would give us confidence that this is a government committed to training Australians. In fact we know that $2.5 billion has already been cut from training and apprenticeships, and this year the TAFE National Partnership Agreement will run out. That means a further $500 million every year cut from TAFE around the states and territories. If this government is really serious about training Australians for Australian jobs, let's see them invest in our schools, in our TAFEs and in our universities.


JOURNALIST: So do you think that this exercise in re-branding the 457 visas is really just to appease conservative elements of the Liberal Party?


PLIBERSEK: I think most commentators are speculating that this a re-branding exercise designed to prop up some Newspoll results that will come out at the end of the weekend and early next week.


JOURNALIST: So your blunt assessment is it won't have much of a difference to the wash of skills and migrants coming into Australia?


PLIBERSEK: Well, I'm yet to be convinced that this will make a great deal of difference to the temporary skilled immigration stream of migration but what concerns me much more than that are the cuts to schools, the cuts to TAFE that mean that we are not training young Australians for these jobs. Those cuts stay, we've lost 130,000 apprentices and trainees since the Liberals came to office. Unless they're going to start reversing those cuts to schools, to TAFEs, to universities, then we aren't training a generation of young Australians to take up those employment opportunities.