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Lateline -

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Tonight - the Malaysian stand-off.

Australians want to see a solution. They don't want to see business as usual politics. They want to
see us working together to get something done, to get a solution in

Opposition Leader says the latest proposals only pay lip-service to concerns lip-service to
concerns about protections for asylum seekers.

The government The government 's proposal today is actually an inferior proposal to the one last
Friday because it increases the risk of judicial review without actually strengthening the rights
protections that were entirely absent last Friday.

This Program Is Captioned

Good evening. Welcome to 'Lateline'. I'm Ali Moore. When riots spread like wildfire through London
and other cities last month, politicians, social workers and commentators struggled to understand
such anger and violence took hold so quickly. Among the reasons debated an education system where
young people are never held to account for their actions. Our guest tonight is a teacher from inner
city London who made international headlines when she told a Conservative Party conference late
last year that Britain's education system is broken and explained why. Teacher explained why.
Teacher and author Katherine Birbalsingh lost her job after speaking out but hasn't been silenced
on the system's failings. She joins us tonight. First our other headlines. Voteing with their feet.
60,000 join an anti-nuclear march in Tie yet and lifestyle diseases under the microscope at the
United Nations. Very a special report. -- we have a special report.

Opposition destroys Malaysia Solution

Opposition destroys Malaysia Solution

Broadcast: 19/09/2011

Reporter: Tom Iggulden

The Government's second attempt to woo Tony Abbott's support for processing asylum seekers in
Malaysia has failed, virtually guaranteeing future asylum claims will be processed onshore.

Transcript

ALI MOORE, PRESENTER: Three weeks after the High Court wounded the government's Malaysia solution,
the opposition has delivered the knock-out blow.

The Gillard Government's second attempt to woo Tony Abbott's support for the plan failed in
spectacular fashion this afternoon.

Barring a legislative miracle, the Opposition's move virtually guarantees future asylum claims will
be processed onshore.

Our political correspondent Tom Iggulden reports from Canberra.

TOM IGGULDEN, REPORTER: The Prime Minister's been looking for a political compromise with Tony
Abbott, but he's been playing it cool. First he humbled her by demanding changes to her initial
proposal.

JULIA GILLARD, PRIME MINISTER: I've provided those amendments, that new draft to the Leader of the
Opposition today.

TOM IGGULDEN: Now he's embarrassed her, following a meeting this afternoon in the Prime Minister's
office.

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION LEADER: Arguably, the Government's proposal today is actually an inferior
proposal to the one last Friday.

TOM IGGULDEN: The new proposal did what Mr Abbott asked, adding references to human rights
protections - including crucial guarantees that asylum seekers' claims would be processed and that
they wouldn't be returned to countries where they'd face harm.

But those guarantees weren't legally binding, and the Opposition Leader's thrown the second
proposal back in the Government's face.

TONY ABBOTT: We are putting a counter-proposal to the Government's proposal.

TOM IGGULDEN: The Opposition's counter-proposal would allow offshore processing only in countries
who've signed the UN's Refugee Convention. Malaysia hasn't. Nauru, which is Mr Abbott's preferred
option, has.

TONY ABBOTT: Processing in Nauru avoids the sorts of difficulties that processing in Malaysia
inevitably will entail. I would like to think that, just as I've considered the Government's
proposal, the Government will now consider our proposal.

CHRIS BOWEN, IMMIGRATION MINISTER: We will be introducing this legislation on Wednesday. We'll not
be accepting the Opposition's amendments. Nauru is not a disincentive in and of itself. It's
expensive and we wouldn't be going down that road.

TOM IGGULDEN: The legislation now has little chance of passing, with the Greens dismayed at the
government's attempted deals with Tony Abbott.

BOB BROWN, GREENS LEADER: The race to the bottom continues.

TOM IGGULDEN: But both the main parties want offshore processing. Its days as a policy option look
numbered.

CHRIS BOWEN: Offshore processing, that's the obvious result, if the legislation doesn't pass. He
doesn't want to stop people smuggling because he wants to keep his three-word slogans.

TONY ABBOTT: Since the current Government gave the people smugglers a business model we've had 240
boats and 12,000 illegal arrivals. The current Government is responsible for the existing position.

TOM IGGULDEN: And so, the as the leaders of the major parties squabble it looks as though the chips
will fall the way of the Greens and the Labor backbenchers who've been campaigning against the
Malaysia solution.

They'll take little comfort though, from the fact that Julia Gillard's hand was forced - not by
their concerns, but by Tony Abbott's intransigence.

Morrison discusses immigration processing

Morrison discusses immigration processing

Broadcast: 19/09/2011

Reporter: Ali Moore

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison discusses the Government's latest plan for
processing asylum seekers and the Opposition's response.

Transcript

ALI MOORE, PRESENTER: Joining us now to discuss the Government's latest plan for processing asylum
seekers is Scott Morrison, the Opposition's Immigration spokesman on this issue.

Scott Morrison, welcome to Lateline.

SCOTT MORRISON, OPPOSITION IMMIGRATION SPOKESMAN: Good evening, Ali.

ALI MOORE: You said you won't support the Government's legislative changes. You're happy for
offshore processing to effectively be knocked on the head?

SCOTT MORRISON: Offshore processing hasn't occurred under this Government, Ali. I don't know how it
stops when it hasn't started, but we're looking to support this Bill with one simple amendment that
would do two things.

One, it would guarantee protections by ensuring that any country people were sent to was a
signatory to the Refugee Convention, and secondly, by having such a condition, that would make an
unchallengeable test - something that the courts could not override because it would be a simple
question.

They either have ratified that convention or they have not. And David Bennett QC has given us
advice to this effect that this is the best amendment to ensure that both the protections - which
have been part of our policy for a decade, together with the discretion that is necessary going
forward - is the best way to achieve these outcomes.

Now, the Minister has come back in a fit of rage this afternoon, within an hour of us even putting
these proposals up. I would've thought he might've wanted to consult with his Cabinet or even his
caucus. He has chosen to do neither, and just basically chuck a hissy fit.

ALI MOORE: You say that your amendments are incontestable if it's a question of having to sign up
to the convention, but in fact David Bennett in his legal advice to you, he does point out that
there could be room for debate if a country has signed up to the Convention, but with reservations.

And indeed Papua New Guinea, for example, has signed up with reservations.

SCOTT MORRISON: Sure, but if the test which we put in the Act is simply that the Parliament is
saying that the test for protections is whether someone has signed up to the Convention or its
Protocol, then that is a simple test which is not open to interpretation. They have or they
haven't.

ALI MOORE: But it doesn't necessarily mean that rights are protected?

SCOTT MORRISON: What it means they've signed a Convention - and in particular Article 33, which is
the guaranteed right to non-refoulement.

What the Government has put forward in their proposal today is for the Minister to consider these
things, but not necessarily be bound by them. I mean, he could form whatever view he wants.

It's important to understand here, Ali, that we're not just talking about what our Government might
do if we're elected, or what this Government might do if elected. We're talking about what any
government might do in the future.

We're looking to change the Act here for all time until it may be changed again in the future. We
have to be careful not to confine our debates too closely to just these two proposals.

ALI MOORE: But it's a fair question to ask you: why the UN Refugee Convention is now the gold
standard for the Coalition? It's never bothered you before.

SCOTT MORRISON: Because after the High Court decision, it found that there needed to be an
objective test if you wanted to continue to have discretion by the Minister. We agree that there
should be discretion, but that discretion shouldn't be a blank cheque. Not for this Government, not
for any government.

And the best way to ensure we believe that there is a clear objective test as to how someone can
assess whether there are protections in place, is simply whether they've done the same thing
Australia has done, and that is to signed the Refugee Convention or Protocol. Now, there are 147
countries that they can choose from. It's hardly a major restraint.

If they wanted to do the same arrangement with the Philippines or something of that nature, or even
open the centre in PNG as they've proposed, they could do that.

But the Government, I think, has got stuck on one point here, for an obvious reason. We're happy to
support this Bill, Ali, but we want it with that amendment. If they don't are we're not prepared to
support it.

ALI MOORE: You talk about the Convention being an objective test as to whether there are
protections in place, but you're still happy to tow boats back to countries which haven't signed
up?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, that's not offshore processing, that's towing boats back.

ALI MOORE: But isn't - in the end - isn't the result the same? The asylum seekers who were to
arrive in this country end up in another country without the protections that you now consider to
be important, as defined under the UN Refugee Convention?

SCOTT MORRISON: We think that Convention's signatory status is an important process. Turning back
the boats is not offshore processing. We never claimed that any time; back 10 years ago, when we
introduced those policies of turning boats back, and offshore processing, and temporary protection
visas, all of these sat together as a suite of policies.

Turning boats back is a direct blunt deterrent. That is combined with offshore processing, which
this Government abolished and hasn't introduced. I mean, who have they processed offshore while
they've been in Government? And then, thirdly, temporary protection visas and a suite of other
things we've announced: everything from the assessment process of people we believe have thrown
their documentation away - which is more than 80 per cent of cases - but if we believe they've done
that on purpose, then we would decide against or presume against refugee status.

So we have a suite of policies here to achieve our objective. The Government has one policy which
has already failed.

ALI MOORE: But part of your suite of policies, as you say, is turning back the boats. And I have
heard you talk about a different legal requirement - because in fact it's not offshore processing,
and they wouldn't have entered Australian waters. But, is this about Australia's legal requirement
or is it about the Coalition trying to get better protections for asylum seekers?

Because if it is the latter, then surely if you're turning back boats the end result is the same?

SCOTT MORRISON: We've had the same policy for a decade, and we haven't shifted an inch in this
current policy debate. We've consistently said turning boats back - which is one sphere of policy -
offshore processing, which is another, and then temporary protection visas for those who are
granted some form of refugee assessment in a positive way.

So they're our three tiers, if you like, of border protection that we apply around this issue. We
don't pretend that turning boats back is offshore processing. This Government has not implemented
offshore processing.

But where you do have a system of offshore processing, then there are important legal arrangements
that have to be respected, and we believe this is the best way to do it.

ALI MOORE: Final quick question. What about unaccompanied minors? Will you pass the Government's
proposed amendments to the Migration Guardianship of Children Act so the Minister can have
discretion in relation to decisions regarding minors?

SCOTT MORRISON: We haven't proposed any amendments to that section.

ALI MOORE: So you would support that legislative change?

SCOTT MORRISON: We haven't suggested any change, because it's our view what is done there restores
the previous legal understanding.

But more generally, what the Government has not done - which the Minister said he would do - is
restore the more general previous legal understanding of what occurred before the High Court
decision.

Now, the Government has gone way beyond that, and the Government now I think has a serious caucus
management problem, and they'll have to deal with that in the morning. And I was very surprised
that the Minister was prepared to speak on all of caucus this afternoon within an hour of receiving
our proposal. We will support this Bill if they agree to this amendment.

ALI MOORE: And if they don't, that's it, there are no more compromises, no more amendments to the
amendments?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, in our party room tonight we agreed if the Government cannot support - will
not, refuses to support our amendment - then we won't support the Bill. We think that's a reasoned,
consistent position to take, because it reflects the view we've had for a decade. If the Government
doesn't want to do that, that's their choice. But we are not the Government. The Government has an
alliance partner that it relies on its success in forming a government, and that's up to them.

ALI MOORE: All right Scott Morrison, many thanks for talking to us tonight.

SCOTT MORRISON: Thanks very much, Ali, good to be with you.

Williamson resigns as ALP VP

Williamson resigns as ALP VP

Broadcast: 19/09/2011

Reporter:

Michael Williamson has announced he will step down as national vice president of the Labor Party
amid ongoing controversy about his role in the Health Services Union.

Transcript

ALI MOORE, PRESENTER: Michael Williamson has stood down as national vice president of the Labor
Party after ongoing controversy over his role as president of the Health Services Union.

Last week, the New South Wales police set up a strike force to investigate the union.

Mr Williamson has repeatedly denied allegations that he inappropriately spent union funds.

A spokesman for the Labor Party tonight said that Mr Williamson decided to stand down because it
was in the best interests of the union, and that his decision has no practical implications for the
Labor Party.

Japanese march against nuclear power

Japanese march against nuclear power

Broadcast: 19/09/2011

Reporter: Mark Willacy

An estimated 60,000 people have marched in Tokyo in the largest anti-nuclear demonstration since
the Fukushima nuclear meltdown six months ago.

Transcript

ALI MOORE, PRESENTER: An estimated 60,000 people have taken to the streets of Tokyo in the the
largest anti-nuclear demonstration since the Fukushima nuclear meltdown six months ago.

They're calling on the Japanese government to end what they describe as their country's "addiction
to nuclear power", but the new prime minister has signalled that Japan needs nuclear energy.

Earlier the former prime minister revealed that the evacuation of 30 million people from Tokyo and
surrounding areas was contemplated in the days after the meltdowns.

North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy reports from Tokyo.

MARK WILLACY, REPORTER: It was one of those rare occasions when there were more protesters than
police at a Japanese anti-nuclear demonstration. The organisers had hoped 50,000 people would turn
up. In the end, they say 60,000 joined the rally. They came from all parts of the country -
including from the fallout zone in Fukushima.

TOSHIKAZU KOGURE, FUKUSHIMA RESIDENT (translated): This protest is an expression of Japanese public
opinion. And what we are saying is that we don't need nuclear power plants. We have to change to
renewable energy.

MARK WILLACY: Also among the crowd was a group of fashion designers as well as a homeless
association, celebrities, office workers, and housewives. And at times, the speeches brought many
to tears.

KEIKO KIMIGAKI, PROTESTER (translated): The Fukushima disaster has made all Japanese very worried.
We have to find new energy sources and stop our reliance on nuclear. That's why 60,000 people have
gathered here.

MARK WILLACY: After rallying and chanting in a Tokyo park, the protesters hit the streets. And they
kept on coming. Their march stretching back over several city blocks.

It's taken six months but the anti-nuclear movement here has finally gathered some momentum. This
is the largest demonstration since the meltdowns at Fukushima. But the challenge for these
demonstrators will be maintaining this momentum, especially with the new prime minister here in
Japan, who signalled that he's keen to retain nuclear energy.

In fact, Yoshihiko Noda will tell the United Nations later this week that Japan and its economy
must continue to rely on nuclear energy - for the time, being at least.

His predecessor wanted to phase it out. And, now free of the burden of office, Naoto Kan has
revealed that, as prime minister at the time of the disaster, he contemplated the worst case
scenario; that is, the evacuation of 30 million people from Tokyo and the surrounding area. In the
end, it didn't come to that, but Mr Kan said if it had, Japan would not have been able to function
as a state.

Some would argue that this state is finally functioning as it should, with tens of thousands
publicly questioning the policies of their government and the competence of the nuclear companies.

Controversy surrounds UN health summit

Controversy surrounds UN health summit

Broadcast: 19/09/2011

Reporter: Margot O'Neill

A United Nations summit on preventable diet and lifestyle-related diseases is being criticised over
the role placed by industry in international negotiations.

Transcript

ALI MOORE, PRESENTER: The global epidemic of preventable lifestyle and diet-related illnesses -
such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers - will cost nearly $40 trillion in lost
productivity and medical bills over the next two decades.

The findings are contained in a new Harvard University report.

Traditionally associated with rich nations, 80 per cent of deaths from these diseases now occur in
developing countries, and have become the leading cause of death worldwide.

But controversy has surrounded a United Nations summit about to get under way in New York over the
role being played by industry in the international negotiations.

Margot O'Neill reports.

MARGOT O'NEILL, REPORTER: It's being compared by public health experiments to inviting bomb makers
to disarmament talks. They say giant food and beverage corporations like PepsiCo and McDonald's
have been given unprecedented access to help shape the United Nations agenda to tackle a worldwide
scourge of diet-related diseases.

PHILIP JAMES, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE STUDY OF OBESITY: If you are trying to stop guns
being used, you don't bring in the gun manufacturers to say what we should do. You decide that
you're going to ban guns - and restrict your access to guns and so on - and then you involve the
industry in how they'll implement it.

At the moment the food industries are absolutely locked in to the whole process, and therefore it's
contaminating the decision-making at the highest level.

MARGOT O'NEILL: In the lead-up to the UN summit, more than 100 leading international health groups
called for a clear code of conduct for UN negotiators dealing with commercial lobbyists, saying
they shouldn't be given the same standing as public health experts.

Professor James says the industry's high profile reflects its political power.

PHILIP JAMES: The big food businesses have most governments strangled by the neck. Most presidents
and prime ministers can be seen within 48 hours by a big food industry or soft drink industry,
should they want. It is a pervasive influence.

MARGOT O'NEILL: Public health advocates claim fast food companies want to delay effective action so
they can exploit rapidly growing sales of junk food in the developing world.

PHILIP JAMES: Studies in India show a three-fold increase - not just, you know, 10 percent or
something; a trebling of fat, sugar and salt intakes, with a 10-fold increase in overweight and
obesity problems and therefore in diabetes and high blood pressure and so on. This is a massive
problem.

MARGOT O'NEILL: As Lateline reported two weeks ago, governments like Australia and the US have been
accused of watering down the draft political declaration for the summit. But the World Health
Organisation denies industry has had too much influence.

ALA ALWAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION: The food and non-alcoholic beverages industry has a major
role to play. They should be part of the solutions. And we have a clear understanding what have
needs to be done by the industry. They need to work more intensively in developing healthier
products, and they need to do much more in relation to responsible marketing and advertising -
particularly for children.

MARGOT O'NEILL: And industry won't be let off the hook because there is likely to be new monitoring
regimes.

ALA ALWAN: Some governments are starting with voluntary action, with active monitoring, and then
they will need to watch and see what happens - and some of them might end up in going in the
direction of regulations.

MARGOT O'NEILL: The summit will look at four key issues: tobacco, alcohol, diet and exercise. While
public health experts believe tobacco controls have already saved millions of lives, they're
disappointed that the UN isn't pushing a similarly strong line against the marketing of alcohol and
junk food, or setting targets to reduce levels of salt, fat and sugar in processed foods.

A new Harvard study puts the global price tag for dealing with ballooning lifestyle diseases at $37
trillion by 2030. But industry says regulation isn't needed, because it's already voluntarily
improving the health of its products, and that it's unfair to just blame junk food.

KATE CARNELL, AUSTRALIAN FOOD AND GROCERY COUNCIL: Obesity and chronic diseases generally is a
really complicated area. And it's not just about food: it's about activity, it's about lifestyle,
it's about the whole balance - not just in our diet - but also in the amount of activity we get,
inactivity we get. That's what makes this such a complex area.

MARGOT O'NEILL: Industry also accuses public health experts of being too extreme.

KATE CARNELL: The public health lobbyists will always take a particular line. They'll always push
it just that step possibly too far. It's very clear what will work, and that's government,
community, industry - working together to achieve healthier lifestyles, more balanced approaches to
nutrition, but also an active lifestyle.

It's those things coming together that will really achieve the outcomes. Evidence has shown that
globally. So that's what we need to do here, and I think the UN is taking that approach in a very
commonsense, a very appropriate way.

MARGOT O'NEILL: The Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon is representing Australia at the summit.

Birbalsingh attacks education system

Birbalsingh attacks education system

Broadcast: 19/09/2011

Reporter: Ali Moore

UK teacher and author Katharine Birbalsingh sparked a fierce debate when she criticised Britain's
state education system as failing many of its students.

Transcript

ALI MOORE, PRESENTER: Now to our guest tonight, the UK teacher and author Katharine Birbalsingh.

Ms Birbalsingh made headlines last year when, in a speech to the Conservative Party conference, she
denounced Britain's state education system as failing many of the students it was supposed to
support.

In particular, she has taken issue with a system that, she says, demands that all must have prizes,
lacks discipline and stymies a teacher's ability to teach.

Her forceful opinion set off a fierce debate in Britain, that's resonated in this country.
Katharine Birbalsingh has published a book called To Miss With Love, a diary based on her own blog
about teaching in inner city London.

She is in Australia as a guest of the Sydney Institute and she joins us now in the studio.
Katharine Birbalsingh, thank you for coming on Lateline.

To Miss With Love paints a truly extraordinary picture of, I guess, what is a range of schools,
because it's amalgam of all your experiences. Is it really as bad as the picture you paint, or was
there selective editing to make a point?

KATHARINE BIRBALSINGH, TEACHER & AUTHOR: I would argue that it's far worse, actually. The book was
meant to be anonymous originally. And when my name came out and so on at the Conservative Party
conference, we actually had to cut many scenes for legal reasons - and even then, when I was
writing it originally, I was being selective in keeping the worst stories to myself.

ALI MOORE: Well, what's "worst"? I mean, you have violence, you have defiance, extraordinary
rudeness, children who are completely out of control.

KATHARINE BIRBALSINGH: Yes, well, I don't know - conversations with children about STDs,
pregnancies, that kind of thing. We cut - it can get much worse than what's in the book.

Also, you don't get the daily sense in the book of the kind of the real challenges that teachers
have, because it would be boring to see that happening over and over and over again. I would say
... well, I know the schools that I've been in - where I base these stories on - they're good
schools.

And there are many schools in Britain that are far worse than the school portrayed in my book.
Teachers read the book, and teachers have said to me, "But no, it's worse than this. You're not
showing the real gang culture in the corridors and things like this", is what they say to me. It
can be worse. That doesn't mean all our schools are like this - there are some schools that are far
better.

ALI MOORE: Is this the bottom 10 per cent, the average school, what is this?

KATHARINE BIRBALSINGH: Well as I say in the book, this school in the book is considered to be good
with outstanding features according to our inspectors, and outstanding is the top.

So, this is kind of not the top, but not too far from the top. So, I would argue that our standards
are so low these days about what we expect from our public education system that, you know, if
children sit quiet for a few minutes in their chairs and manage to learn something, we're kind of
pleased with ourselves; or if the children turn up to school at all, we're happy.

And, I believe schooling ought to stimulate social mobility. The whole point about going to school
is you're able, as teachers, to transform the lives of children, and take our working-class
children, our disadvantaged children, the ones who want to change their stars and enable them to do
so.

At the moment in Britain, 17 per cent of our 15-year-olds are functionally illiterate. Nearly one
fifth of our children cannot look up a word in the dictionary, and write a CV to apply for a job.

ALI MOORE: So what broke the education system?

KATHARINE BIRBALSINGH: Well, I wouldn't say it was one thing. And certainly recently we've seen in
our riots across the country just how bad the situation is.

ALI MOORE: How much of that do you put back to the education system?

KATHARINE BIRBALSINGH: An enormous amount. I mean, clearly families have something to do with it.
And I think there has been a breakdown of authority - both at home and also in our schools. The
idea of adults asking children to do something and expecting them to do it - we've almost lost
that.

When you talk about the prizes for all culture, that's a real problem. Everyone gets a gold star,
no matter what you've done. There's no sense of a child ... one child winning and another child
losing. And yet in sport, we're quite happy with it. Of course, when children run a race we
understand that somebody must win and somebody must lose. Yet in the academic classroom, we somehow
shy away from that.

And children want instant gratification. They see this because they watch MTV - there is a gangster
lifestyle that can become quite cool and they want the fast cars and the bling and the women. And
they want that quickly, for not doing much. And the riots were a bit of a symbol of that.

ALI MOORE: It's amazing, because really what you're talking about there is connected to another,
very depressing, part of the book and that is the fact that there's really almost a total lack of
ambition.

That, as you say, they get their sense of self from their belief that they're harder off - worse
off than anyone else - but that's not matched by a sense of ambition.

Is that tied to never making a child responsible for their own actions, because you have to be
responsible for your own actions to believe you can change things?

KATHARINE BIRBALSINGH: Yes, well, I wouldn't say they were without ambition. They do want to become
footballers.

ALI MOORE: Yes, that was the overwhelming... yes.

KATHARINE BIRBALSINGH: Yes, but the idea of working hard and planning for the future long term and
understanding that you need to get a certain qualification and have an ordered lifestyle and so on
to get somewhere - unfortunately our media and our Hollywood films and all of that works against
teachers in many ways.

So it's not just about schools. It's about our culture, generally. It's about the size of our
cities. It's about a whole number of different things.

But people often ask me, why is it that you are critical of schools? I think, in order to change
something, we need to look at our schools. I can't change the families. I can't change MTV. MTV is
always going to be aired on television.

But what I can do is work within the school system to make that tighter, and to insist on high
standards of discipline and teaching our children properly in a more traditional fashion.

ALI MOORE: It's interesting you say "a more traditional fashion", because you were under pressure,
at times, to constantly entertain - to really mould your teaching to how they learn rather than the
other way around.

KATHARINE BIRBALSINGH: Absolutely.

ALI MOORE: But how easy is it to change things within the confines of a school system?

KATHARINE BIRBALSINGH: Well, as a teacher, one can do something. As a school leader - principal,
assistant principal and so on - you can do quite a lot.

I think what we need to do is change our culture around that. Like you said, the expectations of
teachers are often they're being judged on whether or not the child is engaged. And if the child is
looking around, well that's the teacher's fault.

When actually we should be saying, "No it's the child's fault". And it's not the teacher's job to
be a clown entertaining them. It's the teacher's job to try to pull them out of their comfort zone
and do things they wouldn't otherwise do.

So yes, you might want to have a fun lesson where you're doing maths on Nintendo's and that's fine
once in a while. But that shouldn't be the norm. Sometimes doing boring things teaches us skills
that you need later on in life.

ALI MOORE: That sounds wonderful in theory, but if you have, say, just six of the children
mentioned in your book in your class and you're trying to teach one of the these lessons, well
first of all you've got to get them to sit down. How do you approach that, particularly in this
environment where "discipline" almost seems to be a dirty word?

KATHARINE BIRBALSINGH: Well, it can be done, and if you hold your standards high ... you know, I
used to teach French - which, of course, is very academic. Very hard and so on. And I would have
bottom sets full of boys who, you know, literally would be stealing mobile phones on the weekends,
and yet they'd be chanting back their French verbs to me and they loved it.

If you hold your standards high and believe in the children, and then make sure that you jump on
them for small things - you know, "Your tie isn't at the top, it needs to go to the top now" - and
you insist on it, children go to school to learn.

Children push, and we should push back. That's our role as adults. And any parent out there will
know that when they say to their child, "No", and they mean it, then their child will stop because
they expect that from us. Too often, we're a bit too laid back about it and we say, "Well, you
know, let them get away with this" and "Let's give them a prize for that" and "Well done", even
though he hasn't really done much.

And what that does is erodes the child's sense of self. We think they're building his sense of
self, when in fact we're doing exactly the opposite.

ALI MOORE: You sort of answered my next question, because one of the things about the way you teach
that seemed interesting to me was that you do pick on the small things - take the earring out of
your nose, get rid of that gum, go home because you've got the wrong shoes on. I would've thought
you'd almost just want to pick your battles, as people say? Leave the small things.

KATHARINE BIRBALSINGH: No, no no no. That's why uniform and so on is so important. Because children
will always rebel. So, what you want them to do is to have a uniform that they can rebel with. So
they feel like they're being really cool and naughty by pulling their tie down. And then you can
get upset with them: "Pull the tie up".

When they see you walking down the corridor, they say, "Miss is coming, Miss is coming, put my tie
up". If you don't have that, then what happens is they rebel by bringing knives into school.

You need to have the order around the small things - and parents, it's the same thing at home. Have
structure. Not allow them to sit in front of television for hours, not allow them to eat anything
they want.

ALI MOORE: But they're completely different to the parents you dealt with, who you would ring up to
tell them about their child and they would absolutely abuse you, and say, "Stop picking on my
child, what right do you have? They don't have to wear the right shoes, they can chew gum."

KATHARINE BIRBALSINGH: Yes, absolutely. And unfortunately, this isn't just the more working-class
parents. Some middle class parents unfortunately can behave in that fashion. And parents don't
realise how they're undermining their own children by fighting with the school.

ALI MOORE: Do you believe in benchmarking children - and by that I mean letting them know where
they are in the class?

KATHARINE BIRBALSINGH: Yes, absolutely. It's one of the things, again, that's considered taboo,
that children shouldn't know - and they always ask, who came first, who came second? They want to
know how they're doing. And so often they have no idea.

And, one of the concerns I have for children - in particular in our inner cities - is that all they
know is what's happening in their classroom. They don't know what's happening in the schools next
door. In the private schools. They have no idea what the competition is like.

So when they finally leave school, they're in real shock. Because they're suddenly surrounded by
children who have been taught in ways and who have learnt things that they have never had that
privilege to be able to do. And if they'd known that from the start, then perhaps they would've
worked harder. But there's too much cotton wool around them. Children are resilient.

ALI MOORE: Interesting though, because in this country we do have national testing in three years,
over a period of time, so they can benchmark against the state and against their own school ...

KATHARINE BIRBALSINGH: Yes.

ALI MOORE: ...and that gives an idea. But I wonder, is it... on the plus side of children wanting
to know where they sit in relation to their class, how do you deal with someone who tries really
hard and is constantly bottom? I mean, at some point if you keep telling them where they are
they'll give up?

KATHARINE BIRBALSINGH: Well, I don't know about that. First of all the children ... it's funny,
people seem to think if you don't tell them where they are, they will be alright, they don't know.

They're not that stupid. They know - if they're failing at something, it doesn't need you to tell
them. They know that they're not understanding it. They know that they're at the bottom. So, not
telling all of the children in the class does not help the ones at the bottom. It helps no-one.

And, in fact, I would argue that those at the bottom even - when they're working hard and they get
to second from the bottom or third from the bottom then they manage here in English, but maybe not
so much in science, they know where they're doing better and how they're improving.

It's very difficult when you're kind of working in a sense of blindness. But we do have kind of
national testing and so on.

But the thing is, is that because our exams have been so dumbed down over the years? It almost
becomes a nonsense. And so many children are coming out with As and they don't realise that in the
private sectors, they don't even use those standard exams any more. They use a whole different set
of exams because they've become so easy. It's just not challenging enough.

ALI MOORE: I know that you visited some schools in Sydney today. Do you have a perspective on the
Australian system? Do you see anything that you've seen in the UK reflected here?

KATHARINE BIRBALSINGH: Well, I think all over the Western World - I visited many schools all over
the place - and I think that there are similar trends everywhere. That we have this tendency to
move towards what's kind of fashionable and what we consider innovative, and we reject tradition in
thinking that that's "old fashioned" and "fuddy-duddy".

And so we want to teach children more skills instead of knowledge, and so on. And it's not to say
that skills aren't important, but when you teach knowledge, skills necessarily are part of that.
When you just teach skills we often forget about the knowledge.

And then as you would've read in my book, you know, you've got situations where children don't
know, literally, who Winston Churchill is, and they think he was a dog on an insurance ad which is
on television in the UK. So I think it's really important that we not forget about tradition, and
from what I see in Australia ... I mean clearly, you don't have any - most - of the issues,
frankly, that we have in Britain, but I do think there's always a danger in our Western societies
to move down that route, and I think that the Australians would do well to look at Britain and
learn from our mistakes, and make sure you don't go down that route too.

ALI MOORE: Indeed, it's a bugbear of one of our vice chancellors, with that very issue of really
learning wisdom. And we learn skills, we teach skills, but do we teach the getting of wisdom?

KATHARINE BIRBALSINGH: That's an important thing, and honestly, when you think about our top
private schools - Eton and Harrow and Westminster and so on - in Britain, they don't do that.

So we need to wonder - when 50 per cent of our Parliament has been privately educated in Britain,
when only 7 per cent of our population is privately educated - we need to start questioning and
thinking, why is the state system teaching everything in a very different manner to the way in
which the private system does, if the private system serves its children so well?

ALI MOORE: Katherine Birbalsingh, so much to... I suppose thought for argument and for discussion.
Many thanks for coming on the program tonight.

KATHARINE BIRBALSINGH: Thank you for having me.

Obama proposes $US3 trillion savings plan

Obama proposes $US3 trillion savings plan

Broadcast: 19/09/2011

Reporter:

US president Barack Obama has unveiled a plan to cut government spending by $US3 trillion over the
next decade, including increasing taxes on the wealthy and ending the combat mission in Iraq.

Transcript

ALI MOORE, PRESENTER: President Barack Obama is about to unveil a plan to cut the massive US
deficit by $3 trillion over 10 years.

The details will come out in a speech to be delivered at the White House shortly.

The president is expected to put himself on a collision course with Republicans with a call for
$1.5 trillion in tax increases, including raising the relatively low taxes that currently apply to
the super wealthy - the so-called Buffet rule, a reference to the billionaire Warren Buffet, who
believes rich people should pay more.

Republicans have vowed to block any tax increases.

The president's plan is also expected to include a saving of $1.1 trillion by ending the American
combat mission in Iraq, and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

Now time for the weather. That's all from us. If you want to look back at tonight's interviews with
Scott Morrison and Katherine Birbalsingh or review any of stories or trance scrimtss you can visit
our web site. Can you also follow us on Twitter and Facebook. I will see you again tomorrow.
tomorrow. Goodnight.