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Gillard hits back over union's funding claims -

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ELEANOR HALL: The Unions have picked another fight with the Federal Government, this time over
funding for public schools, which the Education Union says is on the decline under Labor.

The union has released an assessment showing that the proportion of government school funding is
set to fall to less than 34 per cent of total funding within the next few years.

But the Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard has dismissed the union's claims as 'ridiculous'.

She says Labor is making huge investments in schools and that billions more will be spent on
implementing election promises on literacy, numeracy and trades training.

The minister spoke a short time ago to Chief Political Correspondent, Lyndal Curtis, and told her
that the union knows the Government is negotiating with the States and with Independent schools on
the next four years worth of funding

JULIA GILLARD: We're having those negotiations now and what are we motivated by most negotiations,
we are motivated by making sure that every Australian child gets a great education.

We're motivated by lifting educational standards, by lifting teacher quality and most importantly
making a difference for disadvantaged schools.

And many of those disadvantaged schools, not all, but many of those disadvantaged schools from
communities that do it that bit tougher are of course state schools.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Would you be surprised though if all the actions you're going to put in place
wouldn't see a lift in that proportion of funding for government schools?

JULIA GILLARD: We're working through those funding agreements now, so we will continue that
process. But what's motivating us, well its addressing disadvantage in schools.

Yes, that's going to benefit a lot of state schools, who find themselves in those communities that
do it a bit tougher.

And we're going to address teacher quality, and we're going to negotiate through the next general
schools funding agreement and we've already got extra money out there in schools, extra money
that's been made available since the last election.

LYNDAL CURTIS: The union says that the big programs you talked about are funded over such long
periods of time that each year they only amount to small injections of funding, is that correct?

JULIA GILLARD: Oh that's a ridiculous claim, an absolutely ridiculous claim. The budget is always
done over four years, the forward estimates.

And when you do the budget over four years you make decisions about what your priorities are, and
we made some important decisions when we put the last budget together.

We made an important decision to invest $1.2-billion over four years in the digital education
revolution.

We made an important decision to roll out our trades training program, $2.5-billion over 10 years
and in this calendar year alone we have already funded more than $90-million worth of projects and
we've got second rounds of applications out there for $300-million worth of projects.

Now I don't know what the Australian Education Union calls big money, but hundreds of millions of
dollars, billions over the forward estimates, I think would strike most reasonable Australians as
significant new investment.

LYNDAL CURTIS: The unions also express concern, saying that the projected fall in the proportion of
funding for government schools could equate to around 1,000 teaching jobs. Is it Labor's aim to cut
jobs or will you be looking to boost teacher numbers in government schools?

JULIA GILLARD: We're looking to boost teacher quality, we're looking to fund schools, we're looking
to fund schools to address disadvantage.

And the Australian Education Union well knows that the discussions about school funding for the
next few years, and new national partnerships to address disadvantage and to work on teacher
quality are under discussion now.

LYNDAL CURTIS: And does that include teacher numbers?

JULIA GILLARD: Well obviously, we are looking at better supporting schools in a variety of ways.

We are going to work through those funding discussions, ah I'm not going to allow an Australian
Education Union Report or indeed a report from anyone else to derail that incredible important set
of negotiations about better supporting schools for the next four years and the Australian
Education Union well knows that those discussions are happening and they are not at this point
concluded.

They will be concluded through the Council of Australia Government's process with money from those
discussions first getting to schools next school year in 2009.

LYNDAL CURTIS: The Prime Minister is going to address the press club today talking about the
government's long-term agenda, what are we going to hear in this speech that we didn't hear you
talk about during the election only nine month, only a few months ago?

JULIA GILLARD: The Prime Minister today will be giving an important speech about the government's
direction; obviously we were elected with key policies and plans to build this nation's future.

We inherited a nation with previous government had engaged in more than a decade of neglect. They
hadn't engaged in the long-term planning you need if we are going to meet the challenges of the
future, the Prime Minister will be talking through those challenges and the government's plans to
deal with them.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Are there new challenges, new plans that have come up since the election and since
the Budget which also included some long-term plans?

JULIA GILLARD: Well I think the best thing there is to await the Prime Minister's address, but we
are focused firmly on this nation's future, we are focused on developing the long-term plans for
this nation's future and we're focused today on delivering measures which are part of those plans
and build for the future.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the Education Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, speaking to
Lyndal Curtis. And the Prime Minister will be delivering that speech in a few minutes; we'll bring
you an analysis of it later in the program.