TRANSCRIPT: Doorstop, Sydney, Wednesday 27 July 2016








SUBJECTS: Labor's plan for schools; Four Corners program; Royal Commission into Northern Territory juvenile detention system; Kevin Rudd's nominatino for UN Sectretary-General.


JOHN FARRELL, PRINCIPAL: Good morning everybody and I'd especially like to welcome Tanya and Andrew to Our Lady Of Mount Carmel Catholic Primary School at Waterloo which we are very proud of as a school that has benefited from needs-based funding, but have appreciated the autonomy to be able to make the decisions that are required to help our children achieve the very best potential across the spectrum.  And our community here at Waterloo is an incredible community, we are very fortunate to work with the children that we work with each day and the families we get to meet and work with each day. There is another issue in the community which is an important one at the moment and it's the destruction of the towers, the public housing in Redfern and Waterloo which certainly, the accommodation needs to be upgraded, but it's so paramount that our families are given affordable alternatives as they so wish to remain in the area and we're very much hoping to help our families through that transition period as well. So, welcome Tanya and Andrew and we're very pleased to have you here at our school. 

TANYA PLIBERSEK, ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Principal John Farrell and thank you to the community here at Our Lady Of Mount Carmel school. We've had a great tour around from the school leaders and we've also of course met with a kindy class who are doing a great job today on their maths. They were drawing equal groups of shapes and showing their foundational mathematics skills as they were doing it, as well as foundational writing skills.

Today, at Our Lady Of Mount Carmel you see a school that has already benefited from increased needs based funding. This is a school that serves a very diverse community. It's in the heart of a very low socio-economic area, which means that a lot of the kids who start have parents who haven't had a lot of education opportunities or advantages before they start school. In fact I remember when I first met Mr Farrell here, he was pretty new at the school and he loved the school then as he does now, but he told me all those years ago that he was quite surprised that he was seeing children starting school who didn't really know how to look at a book, didn't know which way around it went, didn't know how to hold a pencil or use scissors, or any of the skills that you would expect kindy kids to start school with if they've had a decent pre-school education or the opportunity to go to play group and so on. If those children start school behind their peers, the danger of course is that they'll go throughout their schooling careers falling further and further behind with their confidence and their skills really under pressure.  So the Gonski needs-based funding in this school has allowed Mr Farrell and the school community to pick up on those kids who are at risk of falling behind and invest in them to make sure that they are brought up to the standard of their peers, to make sure that their opportunity to learn is as great as the opportunity of any other child. Mr Farrell has been talking about extra teachers, teacher’s aides, occupational therapists, speech therapists. And in a moment, I'll get him to tell you about a little bit more about those outside specialties and the way they have been brought into the school and the way they operate here. I just want to make this clear point: this school is already benefiting because of extra needs-based funding. Schools like this around Australia are already benefiting because of extra needs-based funding. That is all at risk if the Liberal Government continue with their plan to cut $29 billion from needs-based funding for our schools over coming years. Schools like this will struggle. Students like the ones we met today will struggle unless we continue to invest in the extra teaching and learning opportunities that they need to catch up with and keep up with their peers. I want to make this broader economic point as well; unless we invest in education, this nation cannot be an innovation nation, we cannot see this nation prosper, we cannot see the sort of discovery, innovation, increases in productivity that we want to see for this country unless we invest in education. Australia used to be a leading country in educational outcomes, in maths, in science, in literacy and we fall further and further behind because nations that we are competing with globally are investing more and they are doing it smarter than we are. Labor began to right this wrong with the Gonski needs-based funding system. We must continue on this path of investing more and investing smarter and increasing the results that we are see from our kids, from our schools, to make sure that we remain globally competitive.

Mr Farrell could I ask you just to talk briefly about the occupational therapy and speech pathology that the kids are getting at the school and the difference it’s making?

FARRELL: Thanks Tanya.

We have been very fortunate to be able to have the funding available to make some early interventions with our kindergarten children with speech therapists and occupational therapists. These specialists are able to attend sessions with our children twice a week and we ensure that we have a staff member with these specialists so that we are able to build the capacity of our staff to be able to be able to continue those interventions throughout the week. We know that you get real change, you get real developments in the children's capacity when they have the interventions consistently over the week.  If these interventions did not happen our children would fall further behind. We had evidence today, our children are doing incredibly with the support and with the expert teaching as well. It is so important to have that personnel being able to implement interventions that we need.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks Mr Farrell. Andrew, did you want to say a few words?

ANDREW GILES, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR SCHOOLS: Thanks very much Tanya, it is very hard to follow John's words and indeed yours, but I think it is important to make a couple of additional observations. Firstly, as a Melbournian how pleased I am to be in your electorate Tanya, and to see blue sky for the first time in quite a while. But also just to touch on what a great privilege it is to visit this very special school community and to emphasise this: while it is one thing to understand what the reports and the evidence tell us about the importance of needs-based funding, it's quite another thing to see it on the ground. To see it in the classroom and to hear it from the student leaders at this school. It has really demonstrated to me how critical it is going to be over the life of this Parliament to tell the stories of schools and school communities like this. To give voice to the hopes and the aspirations of the kids we have met today and the wonderful teachers who support them, who need needs-based funding, who need a Government that is prepared to invest in their future and all of our future. So thank you very much for coming to hear a bit about this today.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks Andrew. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: On the issue of a Royal Commission into detention centres in the Northern Territory, the Prime Minister revealed this morning that it would be limited to just the Northern Territory, are you satisfied with that?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is very early to be making such decisions. I think that it would be in fact much wiser for the Government to work with the Opposition, for the Government to work with the Government of the Northern Territory and also the Northern Territory Opposition to draft a terms of reference that do look at the whole of the Northern Territory juvenile justice system. If during the next few days and weeks evidence emerges that this is a problem that is more broad-spread than what we saw on Monday night in the Northern Territory, I think that it is very important for the Government to be open to looking more broadly at the juvenile justice systems in other states and across the country. We need to be aware that over the next few days and next few weeks, more information might emerge. The Government would be wise to just pause now and to be open to terms of reference that actually allow us to get to the bottom of some of the systemic failings in juvenile justice.

JOURNALIST: You could always extend the terms of reference later, it's quite common isn't it?

I think it is possible that in 6 months or a year the terms of reference could be expanded to look at other states and territories. I just think it's very important that in the first few days after revelations like this, we're looking at possible terms of reference for the Northern Territory, but we should be aware that further evidence might come to light, further evidence that this is a problem not just in the Northern Territory but elsewhere, and in that case we have to be open to looking at other states and territories.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister is in Cairns today on a Border Force boat to celebrate what he says is 2 years since a successful people smuggling operation has made it to Australia.  Is that true and is it something to celebrate?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think what it shows is if the Liberals had been prepared to work with Labor on our proposed arrangement with Malaysia we could've made a difference much earlier than this.

JOURNALIST: But is it something then to mark, positively?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think we're all pleased that we haven't seen further loss of lives at sea, at the same time we have to understand that globally we see well over 60 million displaced people. Australia has made commitments for example to take more people from Syria, we don't seem to have fulfilled our commitments in that respect yet - so I think celebration is not the word I would use. 

JOURNALIST: Just on Kevin Rudd as well, Julie Bishop's come out and said that he'd be a good fit for the UN top job. What are your thoughts on his, I guess, would he be a good fit for that role?

PLIBERSEK: Well of course he would be, I mean he's a distinguished former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and I think most Australians would be surprised to think that anybody in the Government is considering not backing an Australian candidate for such an important international role.

JOURNALIST: Do you know what happened with Peter Costello and the IMF? There's some suggestion that when Labor was in government they didn't promote his aspirations there.

PLIBERSEK: Well I don't know whether Peter Costello ever came to us with a proposal that he should be supported for the IMF. We supported him for appointment to the Future Fund, which is a very responsible domestic position. He asked for that, we supported his, we supported him in that aspiration, I think it's a bit difficult to support someone for a job they've never applied for - as far as I know. If someone can show me evidence of something different, I'd be interested to see it. Thanks everyone.