SUBJECTS: Tennant Creek sexual assault; Labor’s plan to help Australians study at university; Schools funding.

LAURA JAYES, PRESENTER: Well today Tanya Plibersek has announced an extra $174 million in funding. Now this isn't money for tuition, for getting more people into universities per se but it is designed for mentoring programs to encourage more people into higher education. I spoke to her about this a little earlier but began by asking her about the shocking events, another sexual assault of a three year old girl in Tennant Creek. 
Tanya Plibersek, thanks so much for your time. First things first before we get to you portfolio area, another three year old girl has been sexually assaulted in Tennant Creek. Is it time for something more dramatic here?
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well it's just a shocking report, I read that, sick to my stomach again this morning Laura. I think it is important that the Commonwealth offer every support to the community of Tennant Creek and to the Northern Territory Government in dealing with this. Whether those supports are extra law enforcement or extra supports to strengthen families, prevent alcohol abuse and improve parenting skills or some combination of all of those things. It needs to be with cooperation with local people for it to work.
JAYES: Yeah we'll keep an eye on this, we'll be speaking to Matt Cunningham later in the program. Now you today have announced $174 million over ten years to encourage more people to go to university. This is on top of the return to the demand-driven system, uncapping university places. Why do you need this extra measure and how do you make sure it's effectively spent?
PLIBERSEK: Well first of all we know that about nine out of ten jobs that will be created in coming years will require a TAFE or a university qualification so we want to make sure that more people are going to TAFE and going to university to be eligible to do those jobs in the future. And we know that there are parts of Australia where plenty of people have a university degree but that that opportunity is not evenly spread, so for example in the north shore of Sydney 63 per cent of young people have a uni degree but in Moreton Bay, where I'm visiting today, it's about 13 per cent of people. Now that's not because people are smarter on the north shore of Sydney, it's because the opportunity is not evenly spread. We want to use this $174 million to invest in outreach, mentoring and support programs with universities but also with TAFE and non-profit organisations that are experienced in this area to increase underrepresented groups going to university and we've had some success with this in the past. When we were last in government, yes we uncapped university places but equity programs like this saw thousands of extra students go to university because universities were partnering for example with disadvantaged schools, raising expectations for university amongst their students, we saw a lot more students who were first in their family to attend university. 
JAYES: And how much will your package cost? Including this $174 million, is it well over $2 billion? How are you going to pay for that?
PLIBERSEK: The uncapping of university places is a $10 billion commitment over the decade and this is a $174 million commitment. We can pay for it Laura because we're not wasting money giving tax cuts to people earning a million bucks a year. I mean we are substantially better off because of some very difficult tax decisions that we've made, for example restricting negative gearing and capital gains tax benefits to newly built housing, reducing the tax benefits to people on very high incomes using superannuation and family trusts to reduce the tax they're paying and of course we're certainly not giving tax cuts to very big businesses. The Government says for the moment their not either but we all know what they're long term intention is.
JAYES: So how much more are you planning to spend on education than the Coalition and how much will students be better off in terms of where we would be in the world rankings? I think tax payers, if we're going to be spending billions and billions more dollars in the area of education would expect to see improvements. What does your modelling show?
PLIBERSEK: Well absolutely. Taxpayers expect to see a return on every dollar spent. They expect to see money well and wisely invested and we know that investing in education has a very strong economic return, most economists would say a stronger economic return than tax cuts at the top end. When you talk about the decision to invest in education, families make that decision around the kitchen table all the time. You know I grew up in not a rich house but whenever I said I needed something for school my parents would prioritise that spending over pretty much anything else in our family budget. I think as a nation we understand that when we invest in education, not just universities but from early childhood onwards, that has a return to taxpayers many times the amount that we are investing.
JAYES: I understand that and the return not just to taxpayers but, you know, there's been plenty of reports about us languishing in world ranking when it comes to literacy, numeracy, maths, and the list goes on, so what kind of improvement would you expect to see under your plan with all this money spent?
PLIBERSEK: We've committed to restoring every dollar of the $17 billion cut by the Liberals from schools, you're quite right, and we were beginning to see the return on that investment in the early years of needs-based funding. There are examples right across the country, one school I visited that originally had about 16 per cent of its students going to university and ended up with closer to 60 per cent of its students going to university because they did so much better in the HSC. Because they had the extra investment through needs-based funding. And there are examples like that right across Australia where extra money had lifted teacher capacity. We have invested in upskilling existing teachers through needs-based funding, we've given more one on one attention to kids who are falling behind, we've caught those kids earlier-
JAYES: But Labor isn't giving any kind of commitment to improving those world rankings, is that right?
PLIBERSEK: We did give commitments about improving our world rankings with needs-based funding but the proof is in the pudding. We saw improvements in schools where extra needs-based funding was flowing. Every teacher can point to the difference that having more one on one attention with a kid who is mucking up, or falling behind, or struggling with their literacy and numeracy, the difference that early intervention can make and having occupational- 
JAYES: Yeah but the Government would argue that more money hasn't always lead to better outcomes, but can I just ask you about reports today-
PLIBERSEK: Well isn't it a coincidence when they cut $17 billion that they'd say cutting $17 billion isn't going to make a difference? Of course it makes a difference.
JAYES: But isn't that $17 billion a future spending commitment?
PLIBERSEK: Yes but investing that money is about reducing educational disadvantage in this country, lifting our standards, more one on one attention, more help with the basics, giving teachers the continuing professional development they need. We need to do something about entry into the teaching profession as well and Labor's already spoken about policies in those areas. Of course we need reform as well, but you can't do reform without extra funding. You can't say we're going to do reform and then cut $17 billion from our schools. That defies common sense.
JAYES: Let me ask you about the extra funding that Malcolm Turnbull was going to give Catholic schools. This is a leak in the Herald-Sun today, Malcolm Turnbull was on the verge of a peace deal with the Catholics. You welcome that move?
PLIBERSEK:  I think that it's interesting that the leaks, the chaos and the division continue but I welcome restoring funding cut from Catholic schools, but it shouldn't be just Catholic schools. We've already committed to restoring the funding cut from Catholics and independent and most importantly, public schools, because public schools have had 85 per cent of the cuts in the first two years alone. So billions cut from public schools. It would not be acceptable to restore the funding to one sector alone. Labor had said we will restore every dollar of the $17 billion cut from our schools. That's only fair. It's not fair to fix one sector and cut billions from another.
JAYES: Tanya Plibersek, we'll have to leave it there. Thanks so much for your time today. We'll speak soon.
PLIBERSEK: Always a pleasure.