Standing up for Canberra

Transcript: Doorstop interview, Lanyon High School

SUBJECTS: Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to education; Labor’s commitment to a needs-based funding for schools; Scott Morrison

GAI BRODTMANN, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR DEFENCE: I just want to thank Tanya for coming to Lanyon High today. This is a fantastic school and I want to thank also Bill Thompson, the Principal, for our very warm welcome. We’ve had the opportunity to meet with a number of students here, to talk to them about the education they’re getting on science and maths. It’s a great, different – vastly different – from the education that I got on science and maths back in the 70s.

It’s wonderful to see them using interactive tools to test the teaching that they’re getting, to go back and reinforce the teaching that they’re getting. And they were full of energy which is particularly impressive on the last day of term here in the ACT. So Tanya, thanks so much for coming down and seeing the great work that Lanyon High is doing, and I now pass over to you.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Gai. Well thank you so much, Gai Brodtmann, for inviting me to visit Lanyon High. This is a fantastic school in Gai’s electorate and it’s such a pleasure to be here. I also want to thank Bill Thompson, the Principal, and the student leaders that were showing us around earlier today. It’s wonderful to know that even on this last day of term, they’re prepared to show off their school and show us the great work that’s happening here.

We visited, as Gai said, an interactive learning room where some of the young people were testing themselves on maths and I’ve got to say, it looked like a lot more fun than some of the maths lessons I had in high school. And then we went on to a science lab to see some young people who were working on catapult slingshots and they were combining what they were learning in that science class with what they know about medieval history.

It was terrific to see science in action that way, really capturing the imaginations of young people, getting them interested in science and making it relevant to what they know about the world around them. What we know for certain is that needs-based funding helps schools like Lanyon.

In the area that Gai represents, and the greater Canberra region, if Gonski school education funding doesn’t go ahead, this region stands to lose about $268 million. We know that schools will lose an average of $3 million each. That is devastating for kids who are falling behind – it means that they don’t get the one-on-one attention they need to improve their literacy, improve their numeracy, get services like speech pathology. But it’s also devastating for kids who are gifted and talented, or who have a particular interest in a particular subject area.

The kids that we met with who were doing the science work are an extension group – they're kids who are bright, who are interested in science – we want kids like that to have every opportunity to develop their special gifts and talents as well. Needs-based funding is not just about the kids who are falling behind; it’s about making sure that every child, in every school, gets every opportunity, so we don’t let any child fall behind but we also make sure that every kid, including the smartest kids, get to make the most of their gifts. What’s really disturbing about the Government’s cut of $30 billion to school education, their refusal to fund a needs-based funding system that would benefit every child in every school, is that they’ve made a choice to do this.

We know that government is all about making choices and parents in this area would be asking themselves, “why is it that I go to work every day, I pay my taxes, I do the right thing, and all I want is that my kids get a decent education, that there’s a hospital there when I need it, and that the Government cares about me and my family.” They’d be asking themselves, “why is it that I do the right thing and the super-rich and big multinational companies are supported by this Government in their efforts to minimise their tax?” We’ve seen revelation after revelation in recent months about big companies and super-rich individuals who structure their affairs so they don’t pay their fair share of tax.

Labor has proposed a number of ways that we can make sure that multinational companies, for example, pay their fair share. We’ve pointed out $7.2 billion of improvements that if we get the system right, multinationals companies pay closer to their fair share, we improve the Budget by $7.2 billion. You look at a school like this, you talk to parents in this local community, and you see how from their point of view they cannot understand why they do the right thing, they pay their taxes, ordinary wage and salary earners don’t have these opportunities of minimising their tax, but we’ve got a Government that’s running a protection racket for super-rich people and multinational companies who do.

As well as making sure that the rules don’t catch up with these people, the Government – when they were in Opposition and now – have fought every measure that Labor has proposed for greater transparency, and sadly, in some cases they’ve been joined by the Greens in covering up some of those high turnover private companies, to make sure that they don’t disclose their tax affairs. And on top of that, 4700 people sacked from the Australian Tax Office that would otherwise be pursuing people and companies that are not paying their fair share.

We believe, in contrast, Labor believes that schools like this around the country deserve needs-based funding that would benefit them, their students. It’s not just the individual students that would be the beneficiaries either.

Our economy is changing – Malcolm Turnbull is right about that one thing – our economy is changing and many of the jobs that these young people will be doing, when they graduate from university, we don’t even think of yet, we don’t even consider, conceive of those jobs. But what we know for certain is the best way that we can ensure high productivity in our economy in years to come is to have a highly skilled, highly educated workforce, and the best way to ensure that is to invest in education. Thanks. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Where is the money going to come from actually Tanya, [inaudible] I mean the Government says it’s just not there?

PLIBERSEK: Well, first of all I’m not going to take any advice from Scott Morrison who as Treasurer has doubled the deficit since coming to Government. Secondly, we have clearly identified where the extra funding for schools is coming from.

We’ve said that we’ll spend an extra $37 billion in schools over the next decade and our tobacco excise measures alone raise closer to $50 billion, raise over $47 billion. But it’s not just tobacco excise that we’ve identified: we’ve identified $105 billion worth of improvements to our Budget bottom line. By pursuing multinational companies that aren’t paying their fair share, by levying the tobacco excise increase, by going after very high income earners who already have very significant balances in their superannuation accounts and slightly reducing the very generous tax concessions they get. By not proceeding with wasteful spending of the Government’s, like their failed direct action policies on climate change, like not proceeding with the $160 million wasteful and divisive plebiscite that the Government's proposed.

There’s a range of savings and improvements to the Budget bottom line that we have clearly identified that add up to $105 billion – yes, $37 billion extra for schools is a big ticket item but I will never apologise for investing in our children. Because it’s not just good for individual kids, it is the bedrock of our prosperity as a nation in years to come.

JOURNALIST: Just on Scott Morrison, I don’t know if you heard him on Radio National this morning getting pretty personal about Bill Shorten, saying that he wears ill-fitting suits. What does that say about Mr Morrison and the Liberal Government in particular?

PLIBERSEK: Look I’m very, I’m very surprised that just a few weeks out from a federal election, Mr Morrison is not concentrating on the most important task he will ever face professionally which is bringing down a Budget that invests in Australians, that secures our future as a nation.

Sadly, we’ve seen a Treasurer and a Prime Minister at war with each other, with staged photo opportunities that make it look like they’re somehow on the same page when it comes to the Budget.

But every idea that Mr Morrison has floated has been shot down within hours or days. Remember Scott Morrison said that there should be an increase to the GST; that’s gone. Remember Scott Morrison said that the Government should tackle the excesses of negative gearing; that’s gone. Mr Morrison was signed up to this bizarre idea of double taxation with states identifying their own income tax regimes; that’s gone. We’ve seen talk of tackling workplace deductions, that’s been floated and bombed within just hours. It is extraordinary that we have a Treasurer that cannot outline how he sees the Budget operating, how he sees the Australian economy operating.

What Australians want from a Prime Minister and a Treasurer is a unified economic vision that says this is the sort of economy we want to see in this country and this is the sort of society we want to see in this country. We want a strong economy, we want growth, we want productivity, we want jobs growth. And we want a society that invests in its people: that invests in school kids today who are the drivers of our wealth as a nation in the future; that invests in hospitals so people know if they're sick there’s a hospital there; that doesn’t cut the pension or family tax benefits in order to keep giving tax breaks to big multinational companies and super-rich individuals. We want a Treasurer that’s focused on our interests as Australians, not making personal comments about people.

JOURNALIST: It's a pretty tacky low blow, isn’t it?

PLIBERSEK: Look I’m not going to – I think people can judge for themselves what that does to political debate in this nation. What I say is it’s very important for the Treasurer to get on with doing his job. I think it’s extraordinary that instead of focusing on the Federal Budget just weeks away, Mr Morrison's making comment on what people wear. Thank you.