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Transcript of doorstop interview: NBN: 29 March 2012: School Funding Ministerial Reference Group

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Transcipt of doorstop interview - NBN; School Funding Ministerial Reference Group

Thursday 29 March 2012 Transcript

The Hon Peter Garrett MP [link:/garrett]

• Minister for School Education • Minister for Early Childhood and Youth

PETER GARRETT: Rolling out broadband to schools around Australia means that kids will be able to learn in the 21st century environment. Rolling out the National Broadband Network Australia-wide means that our students will have the opportunity to learn and develop the skills that they'll need in the 21st century. And today's announcement is especially important because it builds on the government's existing investment in digital education.

So I'm really pleased that school kids around Australia will be able to learn online, will be able to video conference with other students in other parts of Australia, will have access to digital resources which can be used in the classroom and which, importantly, can be used as a part of the Australian curriculum

We are absolutely committed to continuing to deliver digital education and today's announcement by the Prime Minister is a huge step for us to take and will mean a significant acceleration of learning opportunities in the digital environment.

Remember that this government has already delivered computers to kids in schools around Australia. We have delivered the first, world first, online curriculum which teachers can adapt to their purposes. We have a number of important measures in place to make sure that school communities and parents are able to access online material to understand how their kids are learning, and for kids to have the opportunity to learn in ways that we could never have imagined.

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So today is an important day for the education of Australian kids who are computer literate, computer savvy and increasingly will be learning and communicating in an online environment. I'm especially pleased that we already have in place so many strong, positive opportunities for students to be able to take up the increasing level of learning capacity that comes with an announcement like this.

One thing finally to say. In the virtual world of the future our kids need to be the best equipped they can be, and having access to the NBN provides them and their schools with that opportunity. And for teachers it means enhancing their capacity to source and access materials in the digital space and to have access also to the very best of learning materials and teachers in other places to help them in their jobs.

One final comment about today. I held the first ministerial reference group on school funding meeting. It was a very constructive meeting and we are now providing states and stakeholders with the modelling tool from the Gonski review report. This is an important next step as we now go about the very significant task of working through the data, working through issues around the loadings that have been identified under Mr Gonski's report, and really coming through by working closely with stakeholders, both state and territory counterparts and also stakeholders in the independent school systems, as to how we can best deliver a model of school funding that is fair and effective and transparent.

So I want to thank all of those people who participated today. This is an important next step in the Gonski review process. Mr Gonski himself identified that much more additional work needs to be done. We've laid out a timetable for that work to be done. People are rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck into it. That's good news for students around Australia, as is the news of an NBN rollout to many, many Australians that was made this morning.

JOURNALIST: You have said that - sorry, I've just gone blank I think you said today that the Treasury would blanche at the $5 billion needed to make this work, and that the funding model itself is not government policy That sounds like you're sort of backing away from...

PETER GARRETT: Look, the point I'm making is simply this, we have to do this the right way around. We need to work through the details of any proposed funding model before we start talking about dollars. It's the robustness of the model and the fact that we get the opportunity for all those education stakeholders to do that hard work that's necessary, whether it's around loadings, whether it's around the question of the Schooling Resource Standard itself, in order to see and agree what a future model might look like.

Once we've done that work then, of course, questions of money will arise but this is all about making sure that the horse is in front of a cart and not the other way around.

JOURNALIST: So what is the latest estimate of the overall cost?

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PETER GARRETT: Well, the only figures that we have out there are figures that were estimated by Mr Gonski himself. And he made it clear that there would need to be significant additional work done in terms of validating data, looking at the questions of loadings, the weighting of various loadings under those categories that he identified

We should not lose sight of the fact that this is the most significant piece of education reform, in terms of school funding, that this country has tried to undertake for nearly forty years. Whilst we've rolled our sleeves up to get on with it, we're not going to be caught

into cul-de-sacs of discussions about dollar sums until the work has been done.

JOURNALIST: How much change do you expect in the costings outlined in the Gonski review once the states do input their - the new data?

PETER GARRETT: Well, I think the key thing to focus on is this: we need to work together, the Commonwealth and the states and the school systems. We need to share the data that is appropriate, that states have and will want to put in to this model and we need to work through very clearly what that means in terms of what Mr Gonski has recommended

So to get distracted by talking about quantum sums at this stage isn't logical in actual fact. We need to do the work first. But we do it on the backdrop of this government providing more funding for education than any government previously has at the Commonwealth level $30 billion more than our Coalition counterparts did over a similar period when they were in government and with significant reforms under way, whether it's national curriculum, My School, the national teacher qualifications, the list goes on.

We've done a huge amount in education reform but I will not be waylaid by debates around a quantum here or a quantum there when the important work of sitting down and sorting through the data, the policy issues and the consideration from states and from systems about what Mr Gonski's recommended is in front of us.

JOURNALIST: But what's the point of doing all the work if you're never going to fund it?

PETER GARRETT: Well, I didn't say that. What I said was this needs to be taken in stages

And it's appropriate for us to provide today the modelling tool to those important stakeholders. And look, I noticed the Opposition spokesman Mr Pyne out today making ridiculous, silly claims about what this government is doing. I mean, this government today is providing state governments and stakeholders with the modelling tool that was developed through Mr Gonski's recommendations We’re laying out a clear timetable of work, including working groups around issues such as disability, Indigeneity, low SES

communities and the like.

And you know what, I think the community of Australia, who has an interest in their kids’ education, would expect us to do this in a deliberative fashion and that's what we are doing.

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JOURNALIST: How much harder will the task be of negotiating with the states now that Queensland's no longer Labor?

PETER GARRETT: Look, there's no doubt that the federal landscape has changed and we now go into ministerial councils with many more Coalition states at the table. But we have managed to work in these ministerial councils with Labor states, with Independent education ministers, with Green education ministers, with National Party education ministers. I think we have a shared responsibility, as state and federal education ministers, to deliver a funding model that suits the students of Australia as best - as it should and as it can.

So I hope that they are going to work in that cooperative spirit. I would hate to see partisan differences emerge in the education ministers' council which diverts us from the important national task in front of us, of reforming the school education funding model.

JOURNALIST: What sort of a timeframe are you putting on this funding model and what do you expect to achieve at the end of that time?

PETER GARRETT: Well look, we've said we want to legislate this year and we've said that in the context of needing to do two things. One is to agree the principles of education funding reform, and that is a process that needs to happen through the Council of Australian Governments. And the second is to do the hard yards, the difficult work, on Mr Gonski's recommendations in terms of the Schooling Resource Standard and the loadings.

No one should underestimate the level of detail and the hard work that now can be done but needs to be done by officials and by stakeholders in those working groups. They have an extremely time compressed work schedule ahead of them

But what I'm saying to people is let's get on and do it, let's not get distracted by false debates about what it's going to cost and where are you going to come up with the figure now, and tell us what you're going to do here and tell us what you're going to do there. We're going to do the work, and that's what people would expect of us.

JOURNALIST: Is there going to be any money allocated in the May Budget to the Gonski changes?

PETER GARRETT: Well, I'm not talking about the Budget I think the Treasurer has made clear what the parameters of this Budget are, and I simply repeat what I said before: this government has provided record levels of investment in education. This government has started the implementation of the world's first online curriculum, digital curriculum, the Australian curriculum. And the extra bandwidth that comes with the National Broadband Network rollout means that kids in schools around Australia will be able to jump onto the National Library website and have a look at Captain Cook's diaries, as they're learning history of our country. What an incredible opportunity for them, and that is just the tip of the iceberg

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So we're all systems go. Education sits right at the heart of this government's agenda. I commend what's happened by way of announcement today from the Prime Minister and Minister Conroy, and I can tell you that for education, for teachers and for students this is yet another step in making sure they get the very best education that they can.

JOURNALIST: So given Mr Swan's comments this morning, are you signalling that there won't be any extra funding to the Gonski changes in this Budget?

PETER GARRETT: Well, we've never said that there would be additional funding around the Gonski recommendations at this point in time because we've always said that we want to sit down and do the work that's identified in his recommendations, work by the way that he made clear would need to be done.

JOURNALIST: How close are you to putting a dollar figure on what kind money you'll be investing in schools?

PETER GARRETT: Gee, it seems like I'm dancing on the head of a pin here, doesn’t it? [Laughter]


PETER GARRETT: As I've said previously, the most important thing that we can do now is share the modelling tool with stakeholders, sit down and do the work that's necessary around the areas of loadings that Mr Gonski identified. And there's a lot in that. Remember, he identified low SES schools, Indigeneity, English proficiency, disability, a range of things there which need to be worked through

And we will go through that task with those stakeholders in a spirit of cooperation, which I think is necessary for this reform. And after we finish that work then we'll consider those questions.

JOURNALIST: So will the states be expected to pay the same amount per student? Is that part of the plan?

PETER GARRETT: Well again, we will work through this next period of work with the states. Mr Gonski had recommendations in his report about what he thinks is an appropriate way for the Commonwealth and the states to approach that matter.

But I want to take this one step at a time and I think that's what the education community wants to do, and I think that's what the people of Australia would expect us to do. So we're happy to speak to you again when we've got something further to say. Thanks everybody.

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