SUBJECTS: Schools’ funding; industrial relations. 

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well good morning. Thank you for coming out. I wanted to make a few comments today about the fact that the Federal Government, the Turnbull Government, is still keeping secret, from states, from catholic and independent schools, just where the huge funding cuts to education will fall next year. Education ministers are due to meet in Hobart on Friday and they were expecting from Simon Birmingham, the Federal Education Minister, a run-down on what he is proposing for school funding next year. And instead of that, we get continued secrecy from the Federal Government. Now we know that there'll be $30 billion of cuts over the next decade, but states and territories don't know where those cuts will fall. The catholic and independent sector don't know where those cuts will fall. And most importantly, parents don't know what's in store for their children's education in coming years. It is absolutely critical that the Federal Government stops these delays and tells the states and territories, the catholic and independent sectors, where the cuts will fall next year so that school systems can plan to cope with the changes that are proposed. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Just on education firstly, the Government says it will have the school funding arrangement sorted out by June, isn't six months long enough for schools to plan ahead?

PLIBERSEK: Well, it's actually not long enough. This Federal Government said, at the time of the last election, that they would sort out schools' funding as a priority. They said that schools' funding would be announced at the end of last year. Then they said it would be at the first education ministers’ meeting this year. Then they said it would be in the COAG meeting that was due to occur around about now, a few weeks ago. The COAG meeting's been delayed until June, that means the school funding's being delayed until June. This is like a six month delay from this Government on the schools' funding question. It is not enough time to plan. Schools are making decisions about whether they'll have extra teaching staff next year, whether they can afford to keep going with literacy and numeracy programs that are helping kids catch up, kids who've fallen behind. They're making decisions, staff are making decisions about whether they stay in a job, a temporary job at a school, or whether they take a transfer to another school. It is not enough to plan large and complex systems. We've got well over 9,000 schools in Australia, they need a bit of certainty. What's particularly bad about this is, I think the Federal Government do know what they want to do, they do know where the cuts will fall, they just don't want to make it public because they know when they are explicit with parents about how their local school will be affected by these cuts, that parents will riot. Parents work so hard on sausage sizzles and cake stalls and the other fundraising activities at schools because they know that extra dollars make a difference. Extra dollars mean more one-on-one attention for children who are falling behind, more extension activities for kids who are gifted and talented. They mean more focus on the basics - literacy, maths, science, computer skills. Without that extra funding, schools can't do what they want to - to deliver the best possible education for every child. And the reason the Federal Government is keeping these cuts secret, is because they know parents will riot when they know the truth.

JOURNALIST: The April COAG meeting was cancelled because two Premiers couldn't attend, why are you blaming the Federal Government for that?

PLIBERSEK: Well the Federal Government cancelled it and I think it's very convenient to find all of these excuses. I think the truth is that Malcolm Turnbull didn't want a COAG meeting before the Budget in May. What he wants to do is present a smorgasbord of cuts in May, and he wants states and territories to like it or lump it, to swallow whatever he throws on the table in the May Budget. We know that with $50 billion of big business tax cuts over the next decade there will be cuts to education, there will be cuts to health, there will be cuts to pensions, there will be all sorts of cuts, much like the 2014 Budget, and the reason that Malcolm Turnbull doesn't want Premiers having an input, and First Ministers having an input into that before the May Budget is because he knows they're not going to like it.

JOURNALIST: And on IR, what concerns do you have about the Fair Work Commission's application of the Better Off Overall test on EBAs for those thousands of workers, low paid workers...?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is absolutely vital to have a test that makes sure that people are better off. When they negotiate for flexibility that's fine, we've always been in favour of negotiations that provide greater flexibility, as long as there are trade-offs, not rip-offs for workers. And we are absolutely opposed to the cuts to penalty rates that workers are experiencing, and that the Government is backing, more than 700,000 workers up to $77 a week worse off. We will never accept a system that pushes down the wages of the lowest paid workers, especially at a time when the Government wants to give tax handouts to millionaires and big business.

JOURNALIST: If the EBAs for those working at Coles, Woolies and other places, fall over, are you concerned that Parliament will have to redraft the Better Off Overall test?

PLIBERSEK: Look I'm not in a position to comment at that level of detail, but our fundamental principle is that the low paid workers of Australia deserve a fair deal. Thanks everyone.