Interview with David Lipson, Sky News First Edition, on the Election date and education reforms
- Minister for School Education
- Minister for Early Childhood and Youth
Sky News First Edition
31 JANUARY 2013
DAVID LIPSON: Peter Garrett, welcome. Were you given any forward notice whatsoever of the Prime Minister's decision to call an election?
PETER GARRETT: David, the Prime Minister exercised her prerogative. She didn't speak to me about it beforehand. That is something which Prime Ministers can and should do, particularly in circumstances like this and the real issue now is whether or not the Opposition's got anything to say because they now know when the election is.
And Mr Abbott has the longest period of time of any Opposition Leader I'm guessing, to actually get his policies out in front of the Australian public.
DAVID LIPSON: But the Prime Minister told the Independents Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor the night before. She also informed the Greens half an hour before her speech. Why isn't she telling Cabinet members?
PETER GARRETT: Oh look David, this is a distraction. I think the Prime Minister's call is absolutely the right one. For me it's really straightforward. We now know when the election's going to be held and you know in the past, lots of people watching this will know that the carry on that we sometimes see as we head up to an election is a total distraction.
Let's not be distracted by this. We've got an election date and that's a good thing and it means that we can concentrate on what I think is most important to people and that's the policies. And you know we've got nearly 3.5 million kids going back to school. Some started in New South Wales yesterday. That'll happen in the coming week.
Obviously I want to talk about education. I think when we...
DAVID LIPSON: I will...
PETER GARRETT: ...match ourselves up in the Opposition...
DAVID LIPSON: ...I will get to education.
PETER GARRETT:...on education we're doing well so...
DAVID LIPSON: I will get to education I promise, but I just want to ask you one more question about the decision yesterday. Does it indicate that the Prime Minister doesn't trust her Cabinet or trusts the Independents more than members of her own Cabinet?
PETER GARRETT: Not at all and I think - look, what's happened here is that we have had an announcement and a decision by the Prime Minister which provides certainty in the year of election. That's a good thing for businesses and individuals that want to plan their year and it's a good thing for the major political parties to produce their plans.
And that's what should happen now between this period of time and when we go to election itself.
DAVID LIPSON: OK, well speaking of plans the Prime Minister yesterday said education was, quote, the crusade which defines this term of my Prime Ministership. Gonski of course, the education reforms that you're responsible for, are right at the centre of that. So what's it going to cost?
PETER GARRETT: Well the figure that Mr Gonski and his panel put on those reforms David in today's dollar terms is about $6.5 billion per annum. We've said two things about that. We've said that we will be willing to make a significant investment in support but we do expect the states to pay their fair share.
And the second thing we've said is that any investment in these big reforms needs to be transitioned, but I think the key thing is this. We provided record levels of investment in education. When mums and dads take their kids back to school this year the kids are having teachers that are better trained, they're in schools that are better equipped.
But we need to go to the next step because we're still seeing, regrettably, some education decline around the nation and most people agree that this reform is essential. We will work with the states to deliver this reform and we will provide the investment necessary.
DAVID LIPSON: But how much will the states pay and how much will the Federal Government pay?
PETER GARRETT: Well that's a matter for us to negotiate and consult with the states on, and obviously I'm not going to start canvassing the figures here this morning. But what I would say is that our bona fides on education are totally fair dinkum. I mean we nearly doubled the amount of spending in support.
We've got a national curriculum. We've got trades training centre investment in excess of $2 billion out there, about $400 million this year in trades training centres. I announced yesterday a new national partnership in literacy and numeracy.
These are the essential bread and butter components of a child's education which we've been focussed on since day one, and we'll be focussed on right up to when we go to election.
DAVID LIPSON: Sure but the reality is that the numbers just aren't there for Gonski and also for quite a few of the other big reforms of the Gillard Government. How then can the Government be demanding that Tony Abbott release his policies and have them fully costed now?
PETER GARRETT: Well look, I think the difference here is pretty straightforward. When Mr Abbott was asked questions yesterday when the announcement was made by the Prime Minister he didn't take the questions. When he appeared on the nightly news he went, you know, he took his boxing gloves off and brought out the slogan specials.
And when I look in their empty bit of paper that they released a bit earlier on, education's sitting at number 17 and they've made no commitments at all. Look, contrast that firstly with what we've done in education already. It's been the biggest period of education reform and investment that we've seen for decades in our country.
And contrast that with our commitment to deliver a true National Plan for School Improvement and we've said that there will be structural adjustments that need to be made in terms of the budget. We've said that we will provide that support and we've been working hard, David, for a year with the non-Government school sector, with parents groups, with principal's organisations and with the State Governments to make sure that the model we deliver meets the needs of all students in all states, irrespective of how much money their parents earn.
DAVID LIPSON: OK, well just finally do you concede that this is a big gamble for the Prime Minister?
PETER GARRETT: What I would say is that this is actually a refreshing initiative because it means that we can concentrate on policy and it means that Tony Abbott's got to open up his empty closet and come up with something. He just can't go into aggressive mode and continue to deliver the kind of clichés that we've heard from him in the past.
We've got a heap of important things in front of us, a National Disability Insurance Scheme, reform to the education funding to make sure all kids’ needs are met in schools. Let's see what Mr Abbott's got to say. Now we have the certainty about the date, there's nowhere for him to hide.
DAVID LIPSON: Peter Garrett, thanks for your time.
PETER GARRETT: Thanks David.