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JOURNALIST: Is this old Labor policy given a fresh coat of paint?

SMITH: This is saying that we need to make a massive investment in both the quality and the
quantity of our education for two reasons. It's not just economic; education policy is also the
joining of social policy. It remains the case that the single most important thing that you can do
for a young Australian is to give them a decent education, that gives them a chance to get ahead
and maximise their potential.

But for our nation and for our economy, all of the studies show that for us to remain
internationally competitive we have to be productive and if we want to competitive, productive and
prosperous, we have to be a nation that invests in the skills and education and training of our
people and workforce.

So the point that Kevin is making today with the New Directions Paper is that education policy is
about the economy. It's also about individuals. So it's social and economic. In the last decade
we've seen the Government fall away in terms of its commitment, in terms of the investments that we
are making. Even the OECD is saying that we are dragging our feet on a whole range of important
education issues.

We have to turn that around if we are to remain a prosperous society.

JOURNALIST: So you're conceding that Labor is going to have to spend more money obviously to boost
education. Where is this money going to come from?

SMITH: Well, we will do that in a financially and fiscally responsible way and in the days and
weeks and months ahead, Kevin and I will release detailed policies which are fully costed.

But the purpose of today is to make the point that over the last 10 years of the Howard Government,
Australia has underinvested in education. Whether that's at the pre-school level, the primary and
secondary level, the tertiary level, whether that's universities or vocational training.

The OECD have said that in the case of investment in tertiary education, that over the last decade
our public investment in tertiary education has gone backwards by 7 per cent, whereas our
competitors in the OECD have gone forward by nearly 50 per cent. And when it comes to pre-primary,
comparable OECD countries invest five times as much as we do in pre-primary education.

So at every level, we have to make greater investments. That has to start with a philosophical
commitment from a Government. That is what Kevin and I and Labor will bring. That's the starting
point. You can't have complacency and neglect and turning a blind eye which is what we have seen
from the Howard Government over the last ten years.

JOURNALIST: Is today's plan talking about education as an economic policy, rather than a social
policy?

SMITH: It does both. The paper does make the point that the single most important thing that we can
do to be a productive economy, to be a productive society, to remain internationally competitive,
is to make investments in the education and training and skills of our people and our workforce. So
it's front and centre of the economic debate...

JOURNALIST: It's not about toughening Labor's economic credentials?

SMITH: Well in the past we've tried to make sure that we've had a productive economy. Previous
Labor Government's have made the big structural changes that have kept us in the race. We now need
to make another big change.

And that is, if we are going to get to the next level of productive activity, then that's got to be
by way of investments in education, whether that's pre-primary or tertiary.

We've got to go through investments in the whole gamut from pre-primary, primary, secondary,
technical and further education, universities and research. That's what has to drive our productive
capacity.

But when it comes to individuals, the single most important thing you can do for a young Australian
is to give them the chance of a decent education. That gives them the chance to maximise their
potential, it also gives them the chance to get ahead.

JOURNALIST: The latest Newspoll seems to prove the Labor party got it right in replacing Kim
Beazley with Kevin Rudd. Would you agree?

SMITH: Well to use the old cliché, there is only one poll that counts and that will be the poll
which is in October or November of this year. That's certainly very much Kevin's approach and
attitude. I think Kevin has got off to a very good start, but it's a day by day proposition.

We need to be out there every day holding the Government to account, but more importantly as we are
today, saying to the Australian community, there is a new direction that we can go in, there are
important issues that this Government has neglected, and education is one of those where we need to
make sure that we invest in education because that is the thing that will give us a long term
prosperous future, both as individuals and a nation

JOURNALIST: Shadow Education Minister Stephen Smith thanks so much for your time.

SMITH: Thank you very much.