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Transcript of doorstop interview: 5 April 2008: Canberra: applications to $1 billion National Secondary Schools Computer Fund; RBA; Costello leadership speculation; HMAS Sydney II.



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Transcript Doorstop Interview,1:45pm Saturday,5 April 2008,Canberra

Applications to $1 billion National Secondary Schools Computer Fund, RBA ,2020 Summit, Costello leadership speculation, HMAS Sydney II

JULIA GILLARD: On the 5th of March this year, I opened applications for the first round of Labor's computers in schools program. This is to make sure that every secondary school student in years 9 to 12 has access to a computer when they're learning; to make sure that computers are embedded into what they are doing in school. Last night, applications for that first $100 million closed. It closed at 8 o'clock last night in order to give our friends in Western Australia the full amount of time necessary to apply for the program. And today I just want to provide an update on the number of schools who have applied. We invited 946 schools to apply for this first $100 million dollars. The first $100 million was to be targeted at the schools in greatest need. That is, the schools that have a computer to student ratio that is worse than 8 students to one computer, counting computers that are less than four years old. Of the 946 schools invited to apply, 843 applied by the close at 8 o'clock last night. That means that of the schools invited to apply, 90 per cent have applied. Now this is great news and I want to thank those schools that have got their applications in. I think what this 90 per cent rate shows is that there is a huge demand for computer technology out in our secondary schools. Principals and teachers want to see their students learning with the tools of the future. They know when they leave school that in the world of work and in their personal lives, computers are going to be in everybody's hands; they are going to be a part of every aspect of life. And given we know that our students today are going to live and work in that world, principals and teachers want to see students learning with computers available to them. What will happen now with these applications is that they will be assessed. We are going to ensure that the first hundred million dollars we've allocated to this program is spent as promised by the 30th of June this year. But of course this is just the start of Labor's Digital Education Revolution. This is a $1 billion program to put computers into the hands of secondary schools students and to make sure that there are fibre to the schools connections so schools can get access to faster broadband. The first $100 million has been met with enthusiasm with 90 per cent of schools applying, of the schools who were invited to apply. Forthcoming rounds will be available, with the next round in July and that will ensure that students and schools once again around the nation can make an application for this very important program. So I am happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Is there a mix of public and private schools?

JULIA GILLARD: Because the applications were received up to deadline last night, that is at 8 o'clock last night, I am not in a position today to give you a full breakdown across States and across systems but we did invite schools from all States and from all school systems; from State schools, from Independent schools, from Catholic schools to apply and with the 90 per cent rate what that of course means is schools right around the board have responded favourably to our invitation to apply.

JOURNALIST: When will the first computers actually be rolled out to those schools?

JULIA GILLARD: Well we are ensuring that the first $100 million which is allocated for this financial year and is therefore due to be spent by the 30th June, that that gets into the hands of schools by the 30th of June and they will make equipment purchases. This of course has been a quick process. When we were elected to Government late last year with our commitment to the Australian people for a $1 billion Digital Education Revolution for our secondary schools we said we would start it quickly. We have started it quickly. We are delivering the first $100 million by the 30th of June this year and then the rest of the program will roll out.

JOURNALIST: Ms Gillard, is it justifiable for a newspaper headline to describe Glen Stevens as the most useless man in the country given he is the independent central Bank governor that is essentially doing what he is asked to do?

JULIA GILLARD: Well I think that's probably a question properly directed to a newspaper editor rather than me. I am not the editor of any newspaper in this country. Obviously Glen Stevens is the independent Governor of the Reserve Bank. We've been keen to ensure that the Reserve Bank gets to do its job independently. Indeed my colleague the Treasurer, Wayne Swan has taken steps to strengthen the independence of the Reserve Bank and to make sure that for the future people can be guaranteed that all appointments to the Reserve Bank Board are done on a merit based and an independent process.

JOURNALIST: Does some blame lie with the people who are borrowing beyond their means, it is perhaps that criticism could be directed a little bit more at the borrowers?

JULIA GILLARD: I think right around this country we know families are under financial pressure. They've seen rising interest rates. The legacy of the former government to them has been high inflation; that's put upwards pressure on interest rates. It means of course that families are faced with a double whammy. Interest rates go up and so the amount of income that is paying for the mortgage goes up. And then every time you go down the shops to get the basics, prices have gone up as well. We are doing everything we can to lift that pressure on working families. We are dedicated to the fight against inflation; to putting downwards pressure on inflation. Part of what we are doing with the Budget is to make sure that we have a fiscally disciplined Budget which puts downwards pressure on

inflation. And we know of course that we are in a skills crisis; that the inability of employers to get skilled people means inflation gets upwards pressure and we are doing everything we can through our Education Revolution to invest in skills. As recently as a few days ago I announced our first 20 000 skills packages to engage in that fight against inflation. There is lots of pressure on working families; rising house prices, bigger mortgages, rising interest rates that they've had to put up with and of course prices going up at the shops.

JOURNALIST: You have just come from Budget discussions and you are a member of the Expenditure Review Committee, can you tell me how much the 2020 Summit will cost?

JULIA GILLARD: Obviously Budget discussions are confidential so I won't be talking about Budget discussions. On the cost of the 2020 Summit, the Government has done everything it can to make sure this is an event that brings together the best and the brightest, an event that is supported by events that include the rest of the community. I had a local 2020 Summit in my own electorate as recently as yesterday afternoon. So we are making sure that the 2020 Summit here in Canberra is as lower cost project as we can make it. Overwhelmingly the 1000 delegates who are coming are paying their own airfares and paying their own accommodation and costs. The Government has extended some assistance to people who simply wouldn't be able to come here otherwise. And we are obviously providing some assistance to the young people who are coming next weekend to the Youth Summit to provide their views about what they think this nation should be like when they're adults in 2020. But these are low cost events and they're events where we are asking people to effectively put their own hand in their pocket to pay their way. And I really think that it says a lot about the enthusiasm of the people for the event, that people are going to come here to Canberra having paid their own airfares, own accommodation costs and own food costs and the like.

JOURNALIST: Can you give us an estimation of what it would cost, you've said it's low cost but how do you define that?

JULIA GILLARD Well look, this is an event where we've done everything we can to make sure that the costs are kept low. If you are having an event for 1000 people and you are saying to the people who are coming basically, can you pay for yourselves - that clearly keeps the price down.

JOURNALIST: The Commonwealth Bank has lifted its variable home loan rate. Are the banks holding the Government's message about lifting rates independently or are they holding Government in contempt?

JULIA GILLARD: The Government's been very clear and we have said to the banks that they should be bearing in mind the pressure on working families when they are making these decisions about interest rates. And we know of course that the interest rate hikes that we saw under the former government and the high inflation environment that we've inherited which has

fed into interest rates and rising prices is putting pressure on working families. But we've also said to the banks, we are going to make it easier for consumers to vote with their feet. My colleague the Treasurer, Wayne Swan has been making sure that we have a system in place, an interim system now with a final system to be come, that will make it easier for people to swap banks if they believe that their bank has done the wrong thing by them in relation to the cost of their mortgage.

JOURNALIST: Did part of you cringe when you saw Kevin Rudd salute?

JULIA GILLARD: Oh no, Kevin was obviously having a joke and I think that well and truly showed.

JOURNALIST Just in terms of Brendan Nelson's leadership, Peter Costello been flagged again as a contender but do you think that the Liberal Party is stuck in the past?

JULIA GILLARD: Can I say on this question, I don't think that there's an Australian in this country who knows what Brendan Nelson stands for. I would defy anybody to tell us what Brendan Nelson stands for. He said as recently as February that he agreed that if his colleagues were going to jump ship and leave the Parliament, they should at least have the decency to all do it on the same day. So we could have one day of bi-elections and save some of the cost that bi-elections cost taxpayers. Now, bi-elections cost us around $600,000 for each of them and it would clearly be cheaper if everybody who was going to jump ship went and we had all of the bi-elections on the same day. Now, in February Brendan Nelson said he thought that was a good idea and he would talk to his colleagues. No he is saying effectively it's nothing to do with him and he won't comment further. Well if Brendan Nelson can't even stick to his word about a promise that is about his own political party, how can Australian's expect he is going to stick to his word about anything else? And on speculation about Mr Costello coming back, well I think that that really is a back to the future strategy for the Liberals. Mr Costello is part of the political past.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of discussion that they may raise part of the Sydney wreck to be part of the permanent memorial possibly here in the Australian War Memorial, they may [inaudible] the bell. What do you think of that?

JULIA GILLARD: These are sensitive matters. I had the opportunity obviously to talk to the Chief of the Defence Force, Angus Houston when we announced the Commission of Inquiry into the circumstances of the loss of the Sydney and of course tragically the loss of everyone who served on the Sydney. These are sensitive matters because we want to make sure that our war memorials are genuine memorials to the people who died, to the people who lost their lives, to the families that still grieve for them and something of significance to the nation. I think that the degree of community interest in the discovery of the wreck of the Sydney and what has happened since shows that this is important to the nation. So I know that our Defence Force wants to make sure that they are consulting and that all of this is handled in the best possible way. Now I am not going to say exactly what that should

contain, that's a matter for the Defence Force, working of course with the relevant Minister, talking to families and finding the best way for this nation to honour and honour for all time, those who lost their lives when the Sydney went down.

END

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