SUBJECTS: Banking Royal Commission; Education reform; School funding.

KIERAN GILBERT, PRESENTER: We are joined by Tanya Plibersek in Sydney. You hear a bit of what he [Scott Morrison] had to say there. The key argument was the banking executive accountability regime which the Government put in place last year that that is being enforced by APRA. So do you give the Government some credit for what it has done already, as the Royal Commission continues. Because this APRA finding, the punishments, the claw back on bonuses, that's going to happen under decisions already made by the Government prior to the Commission being set up. 

TANYA PLIBERSEK MP, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well I don't give much credit to a government that fought tooth and nail against the establishment of a Royal Commission, that was dragged kicking and screaming to not just the Royal Commission but to taking any action in a systemic way in the banking and financial services industry. And Scott Morrison is the guy that is going to give these banks a big tax cut at the next election and give their executives a big tax bonus as well when he takes the levy off people earning more than $180,000 a year. I don't know, I think he likes to talk tough but I'm not seeing a lot of sincerity there. 

GILBERT: Let’s look to some other issues. The Gonski matter yesterday, is it Labor’s view simply that there just needs to be more money, because isn't it one of the key findings here from this Gonski Report into the funding, that it’s not just about dollars, the dollars have been increasing but standards have been dropping?

PLIBERSEK: Well the dollars haven’t been increasing. We have actually below the OECD average spending for our schools as a share of GDP, and this Government has cut $17 billion from our schools over the next decade. But the only reason Labor ever wanted to put extra money into our schools is to make sure that every kid gets the education they deserve. So we had a comprehensive reform agreement. We had that signed up to by the states. There’s a whole lot of things in this report released yesterday that were already happening. Then Christopher Pyne became the Education Minister and said, "oh that's just red tape, we don’t need teacher doing more professional development, we don't need more autonomy or power for principals, we don’t need more individual attention for our kids, we don’t need plans for school improvement and reporting on that, we don’t need mentoring for new teachers, we don’t need highly accomplished teachers supporting their colleagues to help kids learn”. All of this stuff that is in this new report was largely underway, and it’s been junked by this Government, first by Christopher Pyne and then by Simon Birmingham. So if the Government fully implements this report we will be back to where we were five years ago in the school reform journey. 

GILBERT: When you look at the agreement as it stands, if the Government is able to secure a deal with the states and territories before the next election will you commit to honouring those deals? Given that’s it’s based on an expert report, 300 recommendations, it’s not like they have plucked it out of the air.

PLIBERSEK: Well, the first thing to say is David Gonski wrote report number one, and report number one was that every child in every school needed a certain level of funding to get a good education. This Government has turned its back on that first and most important recommendation that we need a fair level of funding for every child in every school. Labor is 100 per cent committed to implementing that recommendation of getting every child in every school to their fair funding level. That’s why we have got right now $17 billion more on the table for our schools, right across Australia. When it comes to the recommendations in this second report, we are open to all of them. There are 23 recommendations, there are 17 findings. Most of this stuff is either already happening in schools or was happening until Christopher Pyne or Simon Birmingham got rid of it.  So I don't think there is any particular surprises in this report. I don't think there is any - I think most teachers are either doing this, or keen to do it or are on their way to doing most of this stuff that is in this report. What is needed is the funding to get it done. So Rob Stokes, the NSW Education Minister, was on the radio last night saying that he's got no particular objection to the findings but he needs the money that was promised to New South Wales in the original funding agreement, he needs that Years 5 and 6 to do what this report recommends. If you want to give more individual attention to our children that’s going to cost more. It’s more time intensive for teachers, it means the other kids have to have another teacher looking after them while it’s happening. It’s a no-brainer that if you want to do these reforms you have to give them extra resources -

GILBERT: -but would you honour the agreement if the Government gets a deal with Mr Stokes and other-

PLIBERSEK: Which agreement? They haven't got an agreement.

GILBERT: They’re putting this to the states on Friday-

PLIBERSEK: No one has-

GILBERT: I'm asking you if they get a deal with the states and territories will you honour it?

PLIBERSEK: They are briefing the states and territories on this report on Friday. There is no agreement. The Government got legislation on funding through the Parliament last year, the middle of last year and they still don't have agreement with the states and territories on the funding elements. They're going to brief the states and territories on reform on Friday. I don't think you will get any objection from the states and territories on the reform directions here, they will just say “Where's the money? Birmo, show us the money” is what they will say and -

GILBERT: Would you urge the unions to be more flexible as well in terms of putting flexibility into the system to give teachers incentives? As you know that they don't all want to be principals.

PLIBERSEK: That's nonsense, it’s a nonsense argument from the Education Minister that somehow teachers object to treating every child as an individual and helping them as individuals progress in their learning. Most teachers are doing it. The ones who have the time in their classrooms are delighted to do it. They would love the extra resources that are described as needed in the report, teachers want to do this - the idea that they're not interested I think is absolute nonsense. They just want the time in their class to do what is expected of them in this report. And just back to the question would we honour agreements? We actually have more money on the table so if you are asking me would I sign up if the Government manages to get a funding cut through the states would we sign up to a funding cut? The answer to that one is no. Are we prepared to prepare to honour any reform agreements, well yeah, we are very keen on making sure that every child gets individual attention. We have been saying it for 10 years now.

GILBERT: But do you think just finally that there is room to give ambitious teachers more room for their professional growth and that unions need to be more flexible in that sense?

PLIBERSEK: The unions don't need to be more flexible - they are signed up to this agenda. We have got highly accomplished and lead teachers. This program was launched by Julia Gillard, Education Minister and Verity Firth, Education Minister in New South Wales. There are 400 of them across the country.  There should be more but the Government has completely dropped the ball on that program, so the idea that this is somehow new that we would be keeping our best performing teachers in the classroom teaching kids and mentoring other teachers, that's not a new idea, we were doing it. It was underway. The program still exists. What's needed is a government committed to seeing progress in this program.

GILBERT: Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Labor Leader and Education spokesperson, thanks so much. Talk to you soon.