SUBJECT: School funding.

SAMANTHA MAIDEN, PRESENTER: Welcome back. Well the National Catholic Education Commission has sought to clarify this morning their decision to roll out 30,000 or up to 100,000 I should say robo-calls in the seat of Batman. They claim they robo-called every household in the area and now they're facing heat for that decision and that expenditure with a number of critics, including the Coalition frontbencher, Keith Pitt, saying that he thinks that as a Catholic and a parent of students that go to Catholic schools they should find something better to spend their money on, like for example, education. Well joining me now live to discuss this and other issues is the Deputy Opposition Leader, Tanya Plibersek. Good morning Tanya.


MAIDEN: The Catholic Education Commission says in this letter that you are not offering them a special deal in terms of the $250 million extra you've promised to Catholic schools if Bill Shorten is elected. In the press release that you've put out on this matter back in February though, I notice that the costings that you mentioned in relation to the public sector and from the independent sector are from the Parliamentary Budget Office but the costing of $250 million for Catholic schools is actually from the National Catholic Education Commission. Why is that?

PLIBERSEK: Well they were more precise figures because obviously schools know and school systems know what they're getting from the government. But we've since had those figures confirmed by the Department of Education. When we get figures from the Parliamentary Budget Office we also confirm them with the Department of Education, so I think you can fairly say that they are the Government's own figures now.

MAIDEN: OK, what is the time frame for injecting that extra $250 million for Catholic schools. The figures suggest it was 2018-2019 but we will obviously be part way through that if you are elected at the next election. Will you back date that money? Will you provide a big cash lump sum to Catholic schools? How will it work?

PLIBERSEK: Just let's rewind a little bit further than that. We said in May last year that we would restore every dollar of the $17 billion of cuts to public schools, Catholic schools and independent schools more generally. The first two years of that is I guess you could say the last years of the original funding deal that was legislated through the Parliament, that states and territories signed up to, that systems signed up to, and we committed to restoring that when we return to government. It depends when the next election is, but we would look at the first two years after we are elected to restore that funding. That's not a special deal for anyone - we've also said that of course we'll be restoring funding to public schools, and given that 86 percent of the cuts over that first two year period come from public schools it will be public schools that will be the biggest beneficiaries of this commitment to restore funding. But the simple fact here, Sam, is it's no surprise that parents were voting in Batman, as they'll be voting right across Australia for more funding for their children’s’ schools. There is a $17 billion difference over the decade between Liberal and Labor when it come to school funding. For Catholics what that ends up being in the first couple of years is about $250 million. The figure for public schools is much higher than that. It's somewhere in the vicinity, over $1.8 billion, so it is a-

MAIDEN: It's nearly $2 billion, yeah is nearly $2 billion.

PLIBERSEK: It's a very substantial figure, and the biggest funding increases in the shortest time go to the neediest schools. That's always our commitment.

MAIDEN: But just so, I'm not sure that I understand, you won't be providing them with some sort of lump sum-


MAIDEN: -you will pick up with the funding rate at the rate that they would have otherwise received if that funding had continued to roll out?

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely.

MAIDEN: OK, so in relation to the Catholic sector, we've had criticism of them using money to essentially run political campaigns in Batman. No doubt the Labor Party is hoping that the Catholic Education Commission will run political campaigns in a number of marginal seats, but is this a good use of money and are you confident they are not using taxpayer money for this? The National Catholic Education Commission does get grants in some ways to run their system. Are you confident that taxpayers money is not being used to run political campaigns on behalf of the Catholic Education Commission for the Labor Party?

PLIBERSEK: They have other sources of funding besides Government funding, but I'll say this to you Sam-

MAIDEN: What are they?

PLIBERSEK: Well they've got all sort of sources of funding including the funding that comes from their parents, but Sam this is not just the Catholic Education Commission fighting these cuts. You would see that public school, teachers unions, parents organisations, principals' organisations, Catholic school parents, principals, teachers; across the board people who are concerned about seeing extra funding for our schools are uniting. We don't have a fight here between the Catholic system and public schools. They are working together because everybody sees that cutting $17 billion over the next decade from our schools will be terrible, it'll be terrible for the neediest kids in particular but it will hit every school across Australia.

MAIDEN: Did you think that the issue of Catholic school funding was a big issue in Batman? I know that I've spoken to people that have worked on the campaign that said it was not. Now Bill Shorten of course rang Stephen Elder on the Saturday night after the result in a piece of stakeholder management, thanked him for his support. The Catholic Education Commission is now suggesting that their support was somehow pivotal in the swings in the seat. Did you get a 7 per cent swing to your primary vote from the campaign of the Catholic Education Office in Victoria?

PLIBERSEK: I campaigned in Batman and people did talk to me about school funding, not just Catholic school funding but public school funding too. I keep saying, this is not a sector versus sector fight. This is a government that has cut $17 billion, and every parent whose got their kids in school knows what a difference that extra funding would make. If you look at the Victorian numbers, there were schools in Batman that were losing $100,000, $200,000, $400,000, even more dollars because of these funding cuts. Parents know how hard it is to raise that sort of money. Parents are out there raising $10,000 at a fair or $30,000 if they're super lucky and they've been organising it for two years, they might make as much as $30,000. And then you see the scale of these cuts, it's very hard to replace that sort of money. They know that the quality of the education their kids are getting takes a hit when you take that sort of money out of the system. No wonder they're voting for their children and I think the same is true of public transport, healthcare, they were the issues that were frequently raised when I was in Batman. 'What's our quality of life like locally?'

MAIDEN: Yeah, will you in your own funding be sticking to the deal that is the same for all the states or will you be re-instating the way it worked under Julia Gillard's era where there were different deals for different states when it come to this school funding when you roll it out if you're elected?

PLIBERSEK: Sam, the fundamental difference between us and the Liberals is that we said that every school should get to its fair funding level and they were coming from all different starting points. We were happy to help states get to a fair funding level for every school. What the Liberals have said is they will never put in more than 20 per cent of the cost of educating the child in a public school, doesn't matter which state or territory you're in, so they've made some transitional arrangements in the short term. But their objective is never to fund public schools more than 20 per cent of their fair funding level. Now our interest is in making sure that every child in every school gets a great education. That means every school reaching its fair funding level. Under the Liberals' deal 85 per cent of public schools will never reach their fair funding level, so we're not going to cop a system that disadvantages public schools in that way. We will work with states and territories to make sure that every public school gets to its fair funding level.

MAIDEN: Alright we are going to have to leave it there Tanya but just before we go, when you put in that $250 million for Catholic schools, what percentage of the student resource standard will it take those Catholic schools to compared to public schools?

PLIBERSEK: The Catholic schools on average at the moment are in the high 70s but it depends Sam. It depends when the funding starts and there's a range of variables like that, but we are very interested in making sure that every school over time gets to its fair funding level.

MAIDEN: OK, thank you very much for your time Tanya Plibersek, we're out of it. We appreciate your time though today.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.