SUBJECTS: Labor's Plan for school funding; Religious freedoms report.

KIERAN GILBERT, PRESENTER: Thanks for company this morning. Big news on the political front and Labor's focus again on education. Bill Shorten escalating the funding battle, offering public schools $14 billion additional funds over the coming decade. This is in contrast to the Prime Minister's $4.3 billion Catholic school pledge; Bill Shorten turning his focus to the public sector instead.
LAURA JAYES, PRESENTER: To receive the funding, state and territory governments would have to agree to new teaching standards and improved student results. Two students in three attend a public school, including 82 per cent of the country's most disadvantaged children. 
Let's go live to Melbourne now. Joining us is the Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek. Tanya Plibersek, thank you for your time early this morning.
JAYES: Now $14 billion is the headline today, but isn't this just a re-announcement of your previous commitment? How's it different?
PLIBERSEK: Well, this is a costed and detailed proposal that will tell every Australian parent what their child will receive in extra funding under a Labor government. Of course, we've said all along that we support funding for Catholic and independent schools being restored, and that we also support the extra funding for public schools, because it's public schools that teach two out of three Australian children including, as you just said, most of the kids who face additional disadvantages. Look, every Australian parent wants their child to get a great education, and on the one hand we've got a Liberal Government that's prepared to finally admit that they've cut funding from Catholic and independent schools and restore that funding, or you've got a Labor Government that has said all along that we will properly fund all three sectors and what that means for public schools over the next decade is $14.1 billion extra. What it means over the next three years alone is an extra $3.3 billion into our public schools.
JAYES: OK, looking at the extra funding now, how much will each state and territory receive? What's the breakdown between the non-government sector and the Government sector? What percentage of the SRS funding are you talking about now, because you say this announcement today effectively abolishes that 20 per cent cap, so what is it now?
PLIBERSEK: Yes that's right. Laura, you've gone straight to the eye-glazing formula aspects of the announcement. We've been very critical of the Government because they've said that the Commonwealth Government is only responsible for 20 per cent of the cost of educating a child in a public school as opposed to 80 per cent of the cost of educating a child in a Catholic or independent school. We say "That's nonsense". Why 20 per cent? Where did they get 20 per cent from? Why did they pick that number? We're going to crash through that 20 per cent cap, artificial cap, on the Commonwealth’s share of fair funding for public schools. So by 2022 it will be 22.2 per cent of the cost of educating a child in the public sector and that will continue to go up. What we want, the simplest way of saying this is, what we want is to get every child in every school across Australia to 100 per cent of the cost of educating that child, and we'll do that with the states and territories.
GILBERT: OK. When you're talking about boosting standards on one hand and improving teacher quality, but also putting in all of the extra funds, are you confident that that systems can actually absorb, absorb the money you're talking about and still lift the standards, because you're also going to introduce thousands of new teachers. How do you do both? Are you confident you can do both and that the systems can absorb that sort of cash?
PLIBERSEK: Yes, two things. When Labor first increased funding, when we were last in government, we saw the beginnings of this increased needs-based funding flowing into our schools and we saw excellent outcomes from schools, actually focusing one on one, working with kids, catching them before they fell behind if they were struggling, extending those kids who were gifted and talented, really focusing on the basics but also offering more subject choice. We saw the results of that. We saw the improved outcomes in literacy and numeracy, in admissions to university, so we know that extra funding makes a difference in schools. And by the way, if you're a parent who's spending Saturdays at Bunning's or the school fete or the cake stall, you also know that extra funding for your school makes a difference. Secondly, when you're talking about teaching quality, this extra funding gives us the opportunity to allow our excellent teachers to continually update their skills, to work in teams, to learn from experienced mentors, to make sure that teachers newly going into the system, newly graduating, are being properly mentored and taught so that  they can bring their best game to the classroom. I've also made other announcements about improving teacher quality, including, I suppose, lifting the bar for entry into teacher education courses at university.
GILBERT: Well in that sense, do you feel that that, I mean, money is one thing but that is, but that's the key isn't it? The teacher quality. The Government has said that time and again that more dollars won't necessarily improve the standard of the teaching in our classrooms.
PLIBERSEK: Well look, only a government that has cut billions of dollars from schools would pretend that money doesn't make a difference. Of course money makes a difference. And then it's what you do with those extra dollars. So when we were last in government we signed a reform agreement with the states and territories that specified the reforms we wanted to see and the outcomes we wanted to achieve. We will do that again. It's not just about handing over extra money with no strings attached. We expect reform. We expect states and territories to lift their game. We expect states and territories to maintain their funding as well. We're not going to put in extra money as states and territories withdraw their funding. So yes, you need reform, yes you need change, but you need dollars to pay for that. For example, if you're taking teachers out of the classroom for some continuing professional development, who covers that class? If you want smaller classes to focus on kids who are struggling with their maths, if you want one on one time with kids who can't read, how do you pay for that? The improvements cost money.
JAYES: But Tanya Plibersek, you need the states on board to agree to all of this and that will surely come, but when it comes to an extra $14 billion, you're spending $14 billion more than the Government. You say yes you need more money to improve standards, but how much improvement do you get out of $14 billion? Can you tell taxpayers what you expect from that extra money and where we might be in the rankings, or is there another measure you're using?
PLIBERSEK: Look I think the international rankings is a pretty blunt measure, but we did say in our last agreement with the states that we wanted to see Australia returning to one of the top performing countries in reading, maths and science. We've aimed for top five in the past. We do need to put measures around what sort of improvement we want to see but we'll work with the states and territories, with educational experts, with teachers, to make sure that we've got the right measures.
GILBERT: OK just finally on this report into religious freedom suggesting that schools, religious schools, would be able to turn away gay teachers and students under proposed recommendations to change anti-discrimination laws, what are your thoughts, reaction to that report this morning?
PLIBERSEK: Well first of all we haven't seen the report. It's been sitting with the Government for five months so I don't want to get too involved in commenting on selectively leaked parts of a report we haven't seen, but as a general comment I'd say Labor is not in favour of expanding discrimination and I'd say this: as a human being and as a mother, the idea that adults would be discriminating against or rejecting children seems to me to be pretty awful.
JAYES: Tanya Plibersek, thanks so much for your time this morning.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you.