THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
RADIO 6PR PERTH MORNINGS WITH GARETH PARKER
WEDNESDAY 10 OCTOBER 2018
SUBJECTS: Labor's Plan for Schools funding.
GARETH PARKER, PRESENTER: But speaking of kids, Bill Shorten and Labor are continuing to spend big on kids on education. Last week we went through it - $1.7 billion, a promise to spend that money on 15 hours a week of subsidised or free early childhood education for every three year old in the country. Today, more money on the table - $14 billion in all, $3.3 billion over three years for schools. It's another massive bucket of money. How will Labor pay for it? How will it actually improve the quality of your child's' education? What are the strings attached for the states, including our State Government who actually run the schools. Labor's Deputy Leader and the Shadow Education Minister is Tanya Plibersek. She joins me on the program. Good morning Tanya.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning Gareth.
PARKER: Appreciate your time. It seems as though just about every day Labor's announcing a big bucket of new money of spending. What's the plan this time?
PLIBERSEK: Well we know that there's a lot of need in our education system and you're right, last week we announced that three and four years olds will be enrolled in fifteen hours of pre-school before they start school, making sure that they get the best start to their schooling. And today we're announcing that the billions of dollars that have been cut by the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison Governments from public schools will be restored. That's a $14 billion commitment to our public schools. Recently you saw that the Morrison Government had admitted that billions of dollars they had cut from Catholic and independent schools. They're restoring that money and we're very pleased to see that extra investment in Catholic and independent schools but public schools teach two out of three Australian children. They teach the majority of kids who've got additional needs, like in WA the kids who live in remote and very remote locations, Indigenous kids, kids who go to very small schools, kids with disability or English as a second language, the bulk of them go to public schools and in the cuts that we've seen to public schools, 85 per cent of the cuts in the first two years alone hit public schools. So we want to see extra investment in our public schools so that every school is a great school.
PARKER: I don't want to get bogged down on this point of cuts but I do want to make the point because I think this is important. When you talk about cuts, the Coalition spends more money this year on education than it did last year, more money next year than this year and so on and so on, but they're not spending as much as what you promised when you were last in Government that you would. So you call it a cut-
PARKER: - I want to make the point, just so everyone is clear, that it's not as though there is less money being spent this year than the previous year, the rate of growth of funding is increasing but Labor talk about wanting to increase it even more.
PLIBERSEK: And it's less money than the states and territories were promised. It's less money than we've legislated, and it's less money than when Tony Abbott became Prime Minister and he said "You can vote Liberal or you can vote Labor, there'll not be a dollar difference to your school". Well it's less money than that. They cut $30 billion, or tried to, in their very first Budget. So it’s less that Tony Abbott committed to when we became Prime Minister.
PARKER: OK, as I say I don't want to get bogged down in it, but I do think that it’s important. OK so, lots of new money, what are you going to spend it on?
PLIBERSEK: Well we know that extra spending is so important. That's why parents are out there flogging themselves doing the sausage sizzle and the fete and so on on the weekend. The way we spend the extra money is really important too. It means more one on one attention for kids, picking up if kids are falling behind much earlier and giving them the assistance they need to catch up. More extension for kids that are gifted and talented. More subject choices in high school, so kids can do more vocational education; arts or languages, coding and so on. Making sure they've got the basics, but they also have the subject choices that will help them get the jobs of the future, and really importantly it means giving teachers the opportunity of continually updating their skills so they are always on top of their game, they are picking up all of the most recent research about how kids learn and making sure they can apply that in the classroom.
PARKER: It sounds like going to be spent on everything, I mean are there specific initiatives or is it just a big bucket of money to be sloshed around state education systems?
PLIBERSEK: No, absolutely not. You can see what we did when we were last in Government. We signed funding agreements with states that first of all made sure that the states kept up their end of the bargain, and secondly they committed to reforms, like greater transparencies. We introduced NAPLAN, we introduced My School and more choice and decision making at a local school level. So if the principal says "We want a new languages teacher" or "We want a new sports teacher" they can make that decision at the school level. If a principal says "Look one in five of our kids is are starting school with speech delays", like we have seen in some schools, they can get a speech therapist in a couple of days a week. Giving more...
PARKER: So what specific agreements are the states, in our case Western Australia, what’s the West Australian Education Minister going to have to sign up to agree to get access to the extra money?
PLIBERSEK: Well we will be working with the state and territory governments, with teachers, principals and parents to make sure that we invest the extra funds into the areas where they are most needed. And we will work cooperatively with the states to do that.
PARKER: So you haven't figured out the details yet?
PLIBERSEK: No, no. We figured out the details when we were last in Government and we saw the Abbott Government come in and junk all of those reforms like greater school autonomy, more say to principals about what happens in their schools. We want to make sure that we work cooperatively with the states to restore that reform agenda, to get Australian schools back into the top performing schools in the world.
PARKER: We've talked about this before on the program. I think everyone wants better schools, there's no question about that. What I'm sort of, a little bit, confused about is that there's never been more money spent on schools education, both federal money and state money ever than this year, but we haven't seen school performance match that investment. You're talking about more money again. How do we ensure that the money actually delivers the outcome which is better quality?
PLIBERSEK: OK Gareth, so, more money when there's more students and everything costs more: the electricity bills have gone up, the cost of books and chalk have gone up - that's not increasing individual investment that helps each child. Secondly, we did see in the early years of extra needs based funding when Labor was last in government, we saw transformation in our schools. We saw more one on one attention for kids, we saw schools actually lifting their reading, their writing, and their maths results because they were giving that one on one attention. Any parent who's flogging themselves at the, you know, Bunning's this weekend on the sausage sizzle, will tell you the difference that extra funding makes to their school. We saw it when we last saw increased investment from Labor and I am confident that when we spend that money to give more one on one attention to kids, to make sure that teachers have the time they need to continue to upgrade their skills throughout their teaching lives - we'll continue to see those great improvements.
PARKER: OK and the plan that you've announced this morning, it's about $3.3 billion over the first three years of this policy.
PARKER: About half a billion of that comes to Western Australia, it seems to me that we actually do pretty well out of it compared to New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Why is that?
PLIBERSEK: You do very well, half a billion dollars extra over three years will make a big difference in your schools; and you're doing well because you need and your kids need and deserve this help. I go to a lot of public schools and I know what a great job the new Labor Government is doing in Western Australia but you can't do it on your own and we are very happy to work with WA to make sure that every kid, in every school, in every community gets a world class education.
PARKER: OK, over the longer term, the cost is $14 billion. How are you going to pay for it?
PLIBERSEK: Well, we've announced lots of really difficult decisions that help us pay for the things that we see as a priority: cracking down on multinational tax avoidance, not giving tax cuts at the top end, cracking down on some of the tax concessions for high income earners around super, negative gearing and capital gains tax and so on.
PARKER: That's what, that's what - with respect - that's what Labor says about every policy. It's what your colleague Amanda Rishworth said about your early childhood funding last week. I mean, it seems to fund every new piece of spending you come up with.
PLIBERSEK: Well we're talking about a $14 billion investment and our changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax alone raised well over $30 billion over the same period. So we are very confident that we can pay for all of this and government is about choices. The Liberals want to give tax cuts to the top end of town, to big multinational companies, the banks, that's what their agenda has been. Our agenda is investing in our people. Parents know how much thought and energy and time they put into their own kid's education. As a nation we need to do the same for all our children because it's not just about the success of individual kids and their schooling, that's very important, but our success as a nation depends on our kids having the skills and the knowledge to do the jobs of the future. That means early childhood education, it means great schools, it means a really strong TAFE system and a university education for those who are interested. We can't compete in the world without a highly educated and highly skilled workforce. This investment gives us that.
PARKER: Are you expecting it to be popular?
PLIBERSEK: I'm expecting it to be very successful and make a huge difference for individual kids and for our nation.
PARKER: Do you think it'll be a vote winner?
PLIBERSEK: I hope so. There's two and a half million kids in public schools today. We've supported funding increases for private schools, for Catholic and independent schools and we're saying to the Government that they need to treat public schools that educate two in three Australian kids with the respect they deserve, to restore the funding that's been cut from the public sector too.
PARKER: OK Tanya Plibersek, I appreciate your time.
PLIBERSEK: It's a pleasure.
PARKER: Tanya Plibersek, the Shadow Education Minister, Deputy Labor Leader too.