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Transcript of doorstop interview: [Adelaide]: 14 June 2013: education funding; Labor division and dysfunction; Holden car manufacturing

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Hon Christopher Pyne MP Doorstop 14 June 2013

SUBJECT: Education funding; Labor division and dysfunction; Holden car manufacturing


Hon Christopher Pyne MP: Well now we know what side of the Gillard-Rudd divide Jay Weatherill is on in south Australia because he has decided to put the tribal loyalty to Julia Gillard ahead of his responsibilities to the state of South Australia by signing on to a new school funding deal that cuts funding for South Australian schools by $136 million over the next three years. Obviously Jay Weatherill is a Gillard supporter and he is trying to boost her leadership in the lead up to next week’s Parliament returning. Kevin Rudd is out and about today in Sydney, adding fuel to the fire of the chaos that is the Labor Party today and Jay Weatherill has decided to throw his lot in with Julia Gillard. The losers from this blatantly political act on Jay Weatherill’s part are the school students of South Australia because whatever honeyed words the Premier tries to put out into the public domain today, the truth is there will be a cut to South Australian schools of $136 million by his signing up to the new schools funding model and he himself has admitted that South Australia is getting a lesser deal than the other states around Australia. He also needs to answer the question, as does the Prime Minister, if Western Australia is being offered an extra $600 million, where is that money coming from? Which States are being ripped off to provide that $600 million? Or is the Government dipping into the Budget? If they are dipping into the contingency reserve as the Prime Minister said this morning, how much is going to be provided to New South Wales to compensate them for the fact that they were the first to sign up to a new school funding model. They were told no State would get a better deal and yet the Prime Minister is in Perth offering $600 million to the Western Australian Government in a blatant bribe. Now chicanery, bribery, threats and the ugly spectre of the Commonwealth saying they will cut funding to schools if they don’t sign up to this new school funding model is no way to run a country. We have the Budget unravelling; we have cuts to South Australian school students over the next three years and we now know that the Premier, Jay Weatherill has thrown his lot in with Julia Gillard in order to head of a Rudd Leadership ballot next week.

Journalist: Where do you get the figure of $136 million over three years from given that they’ve said they are putting in extra funding on top of what they already do?

Pyne: Well the Prime Minister has been making up figures all around Australia. She goes from State to State, promising billions of dollars of new spending or hundreds of millions of dollars of new spending as she has in Western Australia. The problem for the Prime Minister is with modern

telecommunications it’s possible for one State to communicate with another and even with the Commonwealth and the Opposition can find out that she was in fact in Victoria last week promising them $1.2 billion of new spending. Now, she said before that there was $2.8 billion of new spending so she’s saying that Victoria’s going to get 40 percent of that. Then she was in Perth this week promising them $600 million of new spending. The Prime Minister’s making up numbers as she goes along and we know the Prime Minister is a proven liar because she said before the last election that there’d be no Carbon Tax under the Government she led and then she introduced a Carbon Tax so you have to suspend everything you know about Julia Gillard and this Government to believe any promise that she makes about new spending. In terms of the $136 million cut, the redirections that are in the Budget to fund the new school funding model mean that the money being put in is less than the money being taken out and if the old system had continued as the Coalition has promised there would have been $136 million more money for South Australia over the next three years than will occur under the new school funding model. So they’re taking out $3.1 billion in the Budget and they’re redirecting $2.8 billion to this new school funding model.

Journalist: Is that out of the schools’ sector though? Or are you talking about added …..

Pyne: That’s just out of the school sector Nick, so that is just the school sector.

Journalist: Is there a specific type of...(inaudible)

Pyne: National partnership, the targeted funding. They are the two areas the money is being redirected from. That adds up to $3.1 billion and they’re putting $2.8 billion into the new school funding model. So they are cutting $325 million over the forward estimates and South Australia, because it is putting more money into schools over the last 10 to 15 years, like Western Australia, is the biggest loser from this new school funding model. $136 million will be cut from South Australian schools over the next three years and in that letter that has a table attached to it, that I think Adam has handed around, it’s quite plain, that they are taking out more than they are putting in.

Journalist: So what is your timeline then for repealing the Gonski reforms?

Pyne: If we are fortunate enough to be elected and the Government has not achieved a national agreement, we can’t have different systems operating across the different States. We can’t have some schools operating off the student resource standard and some schools operating under a Socio Economic Status model that is much more complicated, much less transparent than the current system. Unless there is a national agreement, we will repeal this proposal and keep the current model for two years, while we sort out the chaos that Labor has created. If the Government achieves a national agreement, then we don’t want to create even more uncertainty than Labor has, so we will keep it. But at the moment they have three jurisdictions out of eight that have agreed to the new school funding model. I suspect Tasmania will agree, also out of tribal loyalty to the Labor Party. But I would be very sceptical about the other States. Three out of eight is not a national agreement.

Journalist: Do accept that post those first three years that this agreement locks in a rate of growth to education beyond what is currently in the forecast?

Pyne: Over the next four years Nick, there is a cut to school funding of $325 million. That ignores the cuts to universities, early childhood, childcare, apprenticeships and traineeships. That totals 4.7 billion. This is a swindle and Jay Weatherill has signed up to a swindle today because he wants to nail his colours to the Gillard mast in the leadership contest that is making the chaos that is the Labor Party today. Beyond the forward estimates, there are apparently rivers of gold. But that is fantasy money. Nobody can rely on promises in five or six years. It’s like your boss saying, I’m giving you a

pay rise and you get your pay cheque and there’s been a cut. You go and see the boss and say; I thought I was getting a pay rise, I planned my mortgage around that and the boss says, you’re getting a pay rise, but you’ve got to wait five or six years for it. No Australian would put up with that and no State or non-government sector should put up with this chicanery that is the current Government’s proposal.

Journalist: In that case does the same go for disability care?

Pyne: Well I’m here to talk about school funding today Nick.

Journalist: But surely if your case stands up and you can’t believe those promises in five or six years time, it’s roughly the same time schedule as disability care.

Pyne: I’m not the expert on disability care, Mitch Fifield is. I’m the spokesman on education and I’m here to talk about education.

Journalist: Are you disappointed that Mr Weatherill signed the agreement before meeting you next week?

Pyne: Well that is a very good question. Because I wrote to Jay Weatherill and Jay Weatherill arranged a meeting with me on the 20th of June and he has been foxing I assume because he has come out and announced his position today. I think probably he genuinely wanted to have a meeting on the 20th of June and Julia Gillard and her minders put pressure on him to sign up to this agreement today because it’s part of the leadership battle that is going on within the Labor Party between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, that is the only explanation. Unless he never intended to meet in good faith. I intended to meet with him in good faith and put the reasons why I thought South Australia should not sign on to this bad deal. So I assume his loyalty to Julia Gillard has overridden his plan to meet with me in good faith on the 20th of June.

Journalist: If it’s a swindle though, why wouldn’t you repeal anything that does go through?

Pyne: The Government has left this all very late Tory. They should have been doing this all last year, not this year. It is quite unfair, if they do get a national agreement, it will be unfair to throw the whole thing up in the air again between September and December 31st. On the other hand If they haven’t got a national agreement then at least half the country won’t be part of this new school funding model and it will be much more sensible to pause, take stock of the situation, keep the current system which everybody knows how that works and do that for two years while we sort out the mess that Labor has created, if we get elected.

Journalist: If you do keep it, will you then leave open the option of changing the funding mix or funding model or reassess how those funds get distributed?

Pyne: Well our promise is that we’ll keep the current quantum of funding and the indexation arrangements that are in place now, the national Partnerships and the targeted programs for two years while we sort out Labor’s mess. That gives the government sector and the non government schools sector absolute certainty about how much money they would have available to them because they know how it’s operated since the year 2000 but of course, we reserve the right over the next 2 years in our negotiations with the states to tweak the system to make it better but we don’t believe the current system needs to be thrown out and the chaos that Labor’s created to replace it.

Journalist: Mr Pyne can I ask you about Howard Sattler’s questions to the Prime Minister yesterday did you, what did you make of those?

Pyne: Well, I think the Fairfax Media has responded appropriately and the comments were unnecessary and irrelevant and I understand Fairfax is investigating them internally and has taken them off the air and I think that’s the right approach.

Journalist: What do you make of the political discourse this week? Do you think it’s descended to a new low?

Pyne: Well, the Prime Minister needs to lead by example and unfortunately, the Prime Minister always reaches for the personal rather than the policy debates and earlier this week, she gave a bizarre speech about blue ties and she’s always trying to flick the switch to any subject other than cost of living, border protection, economic management and job security. Now the Australian public want adults in the room, running the country. They don’t want to hear these silly debates about blue ties or menus or claims of people being women haters. What they want to know is what are the solutions to their concerns about their jobs , how are we going to reduce electricity prices ; how are we going to stop the influx of 45,000 people through our borders and try and get some Budget rigour back to the way the Government runs the federal books.

Journalist: Would you concede though that gender, people are interested in gender no matter how badly the Prime Minister may have expressed it? Does it reflect the broader view that woman are still behind in many sectors of society?

Pyne: Well, we have a woman Prime Minister, a woman Governor General a woman Speaker a woman Chief of Staff to the Leader of the Opposition, a woman Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and I don’t think those old

Journalist: Proportionately though ….

Pyne: … Those old debates about gender. I think they are old hat and honestly, I don’t think the public want to get caught up on percentages and quotas and who has what positions. I think they want people in positions who are going to make good decisions that make their lives easier and increase the prosperity of the country.

Journalist: On, I think it was on the 2nd of June I heard you on the ABC Radio saying there would be a Leadership challenge by the end of the day

Pyne: Well it looks like it’s coming. Well it looks like it’s coming Verity.

Journalist: Have you had any word now from your internal sources that there will be a challenge very soon?

Pyne: I’m over making predictions. The Labor Party is in such chaos that nobody would want to make a prediction about the dysfunctionality of the Labor Party. I’ll leave it to Labor to continue their spiral into the mess that they’ve created for themselves and leave it at that.

Journalist: Is Can I ask a quick question about Holden? Jay Weatherill is saying “If you vote Liberal, Holden will close”. What do you make of Holden’s public comments about potentially cutting the assistance to the car industry? Are they sending the Opposition a message?

Pyne: Well, the two things I’d say about that is the arrangements for subsidies for the car industry have not stopped Ford closing. So if subsidies to the car industry are the only answer for workers in the car industry, how come it didn’t work for Ford? What we need to do with the car industry is help them to export more so that they can expand their markets and give their workers job security. Secondly, I’d say that there’s a billion dollars or more in the fund for the car industry over the next two years and then post 2015, there is more than a billion dollars available for the car industry. That was to be split between three car companies, it will now be split between two car companies so, I think this is a debate, if you look at the facts, Holden should be in a strong position to access those subsidies but subsidies are not the only answer to helping the car industry.

Journalist: Do you think it’s a bluff then to say they will cease manufacturing?

Pyne: I’ve been in Parliament for twenty years . The car industry has never said they don’t need Government subsidies and I’m sure they will continue to say that for time immemorial but I support the car industry and I won’t be waving goodbye to the car industry on the tarmac of Adelaide Airport. I said that twenty years ago and I’m happy to repeat it today.

Journalist: On another topic, we’ve heard talk of a new EB arrangement that could actually result in kids going home from school a bit earlier what can you tell us about that in your portfolio?

Pyne: Well I don’t know anything about a new EB arrangement so when I do know something about it I might comment at that point.