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Early Agenda -

View in ParlView

ISSUES: School kids bonus; Gonski review; Craig Thompson

KIERAN GILBERT: With me now the Schools Minister. Peter Garrett thanks for your time.

PETER GARRETT: Morning, Kieran.

KIERAN GILBERT: The talk about this - the debate around this policy - the Coalition says it's a
sugar hit and it's about the carbon tax. Given that it's coming in in June - just a month before
the carbon tax comes into force - that's a fair assertion, isn't it?

PETER GARRETT: Look, I think the last 24 hours, Kieran, have told us a lot about Tony Abbott. He's
usually relentlessly negative, but he doesn't normally declare his cards: that he has no trust or
faith in Australian parents at all. And that's, effectively, what Mr Abbott said yesterday.

The fact is that Australian parents do face real cost of living pressures. Mr Abbott's showing that
he doesn't get that. But also we knew that this education tax refund wasn't working as effectively
as it could have. We're looking for ways to make sure that parents who've got real costs in terms
of education can have some support to do that.

It was incredible that we went through the charade yesterday of both the Opposition leader and the
Treasurer declaring, firstly, that they really didn't know what they were talking about. Secondly,
in Mr Hockey's case, saying well look, one's about babies; what's the other one about?

I mean parents take the education of their kids very seriously, as does this Government. So
yesterday they've exposed themselves.

KIERAN GILBERT: But being delivered in June - normally, parents would face their costs in
January/February, the start of the school year. June - how can people not think it's part of the
carbon tax, an attempt to try and soften the blow or to help people through what are expected to be
additional costs there?

PETER GARRETT: Well look, I think you've got to say to yourself if we had a measure which we didn't
think was reaching as many Australian families as it was designed to, then the appropriate course
of action is to make sure that it does, and then put in place a mechanism that provides support for
families at the time it suited.

So once we'd made up that opportunity for Australian families - beginning of Term 1 and before Term
3. And when we do that we'll see that families that are sitting there in their kitchens going jeez,
you know, we've got to find some money for new track shoes, or there's a backpack that one of the
kids needs - oh look, more books are needed, or perhaps there's some program that they've been
asked to do and they can't actually find the money for it - it's going to be there.

KIERAN GILBERT: But there's no guarantee, is there? You've been critical of the Coalition for
saying that parents will spend it elsewhere, but when you have a payment of upwards of $820 dollars
I think it is for secondary students, $410 for primary students - these are one-off payments. We
don't - you don't know how each family's going to spend it, do you? There's no commitment or demand
that they spend it just on school education.

PETER GARRETT: Kieran, you know what? Families make hundreds of decisions every week about their
kids. Every family that I'm interacting with, or every parent in a school, takes the education of
their kids very seriously. And families face cost of living pressures. Of course they should have
the opportunity to receive some support from this Government - which they now are - to apply that
support to the very real costs that they have, including an education.

And for Tony Abbott and for Joe Hockey to, basically, completely diss the parents of Australia by
making some assumptions that they're going to fritter away support that we're providing them, when
we all know, in this place, that parents face real cost of living pressures. And we also know - I
especially know, as School Education Minister, that they take the education of their kids
seriously.

KIERAN GILBERT: As the Minister for School Education, are you disappointed the Government hasn't
stumped up the cash to deliver some of the reforms proposed in the Gonski Review? The Government
made a lot of this just a couple of months ago, but nothing really in the Budget to take that
forward.

PETER GARRETT: Well, we've always said, Kieran, that with these Gonski education review
recommendations, they wouldn't be addressed in this Budget. We've always said that. We've said we
want to work through the processes with the states and stakeholders. We're doing that. We have
working groups underway. And we need to reach agreement on an education funding model that will
best suit Australian students.

Now, we provided some additional support for that work in this Budget - about $5.8 million. That's
to make sure that the data and the collection of information and the working groups do their job
thoroughly. This will be one of the most important education reforms that Australia has ever seen.
We want to get it right. We're doing it in an orderly, appropriate and diligent fashion...

KIERAN GILBERT: Is the money there though?

PETER GARRETT: Well, we...

KIERAN GILBERT: The Treasurer said that he's going to deliver this $1.5 billion surplus regardless
of what revenues - what happens to revenues. Is the money going to be there?

PETER GARRETT: Well, let me just finish this point, then I'll answer that question. And we've
always said that we would go through that process with the states and with education stakeholders.

Now, they know about that timetable. That timetable goes past this Budget. Once we've reached that
point, then we're in a position to sit down and discuss and negotiate, where needed, what a future
funding model would look like. At that point in time, of course there will be a discussion about
money, but I don't intend to say anything more about that at this stage because you know what?
We've got some important work on education to do.

KIERAN GILBERT: Alright. On the Thompson matter - he's received legal support; his costs paid by
the ALP - only updated his pecuniary interest register last night apparently - are not within the
appropriate timeframe. Do you think that that is appropriate? Should he be held to account for that
as well?

PETER GARRETT: Look, of course, any member in this Parliament should update their pecuniary
interests in the appropriate time. And there are many instances where people - on small things or
other things - haven't done it. So, of course, that goes without saying.

On the question of the support that he's received from the NSW party that's reported today, that's
a matter for NSW officials. They're questions that you can put to them. I don't know anything about
it at all as the Member of Parliament that's sitting here in this studio talking to you.

KIERAN GILBERT: Rob Oakeshott now - and Tony Windsor for that matter - said - they both say they
reserve their right to vote with the Coalition on this issue. They're clearly disturbed by what
they've seen and read from that Fair Work Australia report. It really is a precarious hold on the
Parliament, isn't it? This could bring down the Government within a matter of weeks if Rob
Oakeshott and Tony Windsor voted to have Craig Thompson removed or his vote not counted in the
Parliament.

PETER GARRETT: Well, look, Kieran, you know what? I'm not going to start second guessing what other
members might do, including the cross benches.

What I would say is that on Tuesday night we brought down a Budget that is going to actually
provide the support that working families need. And it's a really great Budget because it's looking
at things like...

KIERAN GILBERT: It's such a distraction, isn't it? And it continues to be.

PETER GARRETT: Well, the Budget is sitting there now...

KIERAN GILBERT: But journalists like myself are compelled to ask you about it because it's a very,
very serious issue.

PETER GARRETT: Sure. But what I'm saying to you is look; I'm not going to second guess what the
crossbenchers are going to do. Like other members of the Government, I'm focused on the good things
that we're doing, the good stuff that's in this Budget.

And we want to see what Tony Abbott's got to say tonight because he's now on the record as opposing
support for Australian families to help their kids with the education costs that they face. That's
where the real debate should be.

KIERAN GILBERT: Peter Garrett, thanks for your time.

PETER GARRETT: Thanks, Kieran.