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Transcript of Press Conference of the leader of the Opposition Mark Latham and Shadow Minister for Employment, Education and Training, Jenny Macklin : Pakenham Secondary College: 14 September 2004: Great Australian schools. \n



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FEDERAL LABOR LEADER MARK LATHAM

TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE

PAKENHAM SECONDARY COLLEGE

14 SEPTEMBER 04

*E&OE ** Subjects: Great Australian Schools

LATHAM: Thanks to Pakenham Secondary College for hosting us here today. It's a good example of the benefits of our school funding policy for needy Government schools such as this. Jenny Macklin and I are announcing the greatest improvement to schools policy we've seen in this country since the 1980s. We're providing an additional $2.4 billion for needy schools around the country; $1.9 billion extra for needy Government schools. Every Government school in this country will benefit from our needs-based approach and, in the non-Government sector, we're reallocating, on the basis of need, $520 million, which will provide substantial benefits for needy Catholic, Independent and Christian schools.

Labor has a very, very different approach to the Howard Government. We fund schools on the basis of need. We want equity in action in the Australian school system. We won't tolerate a system where overresourced schools get 200-300 per cent increases. That's been the Howard Government approach. We want to actually get the funds to where they're most needed, to give parents in this country one of the most important guarantees in life - that, in sending their children to school, every school in this country, Government and non-Government - will be a good school, a high achievement school, backed by the resources to make those achievements possible in the classroom.

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This is all about need; it's all about equity. It's all about the Australian notion of fairness in the funding of our great Australian schools. All schools will benefit - all Government schools will benefit from our boost to that sector. All needy Catholic schools will benefit from an additional $378 million, as part of the funding reallocation in the non-Government sector. This is not just much needed resources for schools in need; it's also substantial policy reform, setting up a much superior funding structure in the future to what we've seen over the last eight years.

The first reform is to define a national standard for recurrent school resources. The Ministerial Council has been working on this to get an acceptable national standard of what we want all Australian schools to be resourced at and the achievements that flow on. The standard that we're setting, and bringing all the schools up to it by 2012, is $9,000 at primary level, $12,000 at secondary - that's ahead of the current level of $7,600 in primary and $10,000 per student in secondary.

Currently, 95 per cent of students in the Australian school system are at schools below this standard. Our approach of bringing them all up to the national standard by 2012 will benefit 9,400 schools around Australia. Andrew Refshauge, the NSW Education Minister, the head of the Ministerial Council, will be releasing the details of the funding standard today. What does this involve? Decent resources for teaching, for quality, for curriculum, for information technology - all the basic requirements in schools. We want every school to be getting to a national standard, defined across Australia.

The second important reform is a cooperative approach working with the States and Territories and also the non-Government school sectors. With Jenny Macklin, we've signed historic agreements with the States and Territories; also the Catholic system, a community charter with the Catholic system, and we'll be working with the other non-Government schools to ensure that we work together to achieve this wonderful purpose of bringing all Australian schools up to an acceptable national standard in the years ahead.

It's all about needs-based funding and ending the unfair approach of the Howard Government. We want to get the resources to the struggling schools, the extra quality, the teaching capacity, the expertise, the resources that make a difference and ensure that no school in this country will be a struggling school in the future. It's all about choice. The Prime Minister talks about choice. Well, the truth is, unless you’ve got that guarantee for parents that all schools will be at a high standard of resourcing and excellence, then choice is diminished. If you've got schools that are struggling, that don't get the results, that have got unacceptable resource levels, then that diminishes the choice available to Australian parents. Our approach is not Government versus non-Government, it’s

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about ensuring there’s a choice right across the sectors based on decent resourcing and excellence in the classroom.

Jenny will be talking about the extra specific programs that flow out of our funding package - can I just mention two. One is the abolition of TAFE fees for secondary schools. A school like this, Pakenham, would be a major beneficiary of eliminating the TAFE fees so that so many more students find it affordable, find it possible, to undertake those vocational studies - part at school, part at TAFE. I mean, we heard about Howard Gardner's theory of education for the students who have come back from the Alpine School: they were talking about the importance of working with your hands, applied learning. We need more of that and the capacity of those students to combine school and TAFE education for their future opportunities in life.

The second initiative I’ve mentioned is one where I've had a focus for many, many years and that is what I regard as one of those hidden problems in our school system - the paucity of funding for disability, the paucity of funding for disabled students. We're putting an extra $380 million into learning for disabled students, Government and non-Government, providing the teacher aids, the capital improvements, the professional development, the diagnosis to make sure that this problem is addressed in all our schools.

We need to bring all students up to their potential in life and give particular attention to the needs of disabled students. We need to maximise their potential in life as much as other students and this $380 million improvement in funding

will overcome what has been one of the unfortunate and hidden problems in the education system, where disabled students are not getting the support they need to realise their full potential in life.

The third policy reform is redistribution of funding within the non-Government sector. Overall, we maintain the level of funding for non-Government schools but we're going to apply a fairer allocation within the sector. For 67 high-fee schools - these are the sort of schools that have received 200-300 per cent increases under the Howard Government - they'll have their funding reduced to the basic grant. That's set at 15 per cent of the new national standard on the basis that already, from private fee income alone, they've already achieved or got well above the national standard.

These are the schools that are high-fee schools. They’re collecting fee resources that have already put them ahead of the national standard and, on that basis, they'll get the basic grant of 15 per cent of the standard. That applies to just 2.5 per cent of non-Government schools carrying 6.7 per cent of students in the sector. So 67 schools affected that way, and they're listed in detail in the policy documents. There are a further 111 funding guaranteed schools where the

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grants will be held steady on the basis that from all income sources - Government and fees - these schools have already reached the national standard. So they'll be held steady in terms of their grants.

The third and most substantial and beneficial component in the non-Government sector is that 2,500 needy non-Government schools will receive additional resources. These are 93 per cent of the schools in the non-Government sector with 85 per cent of the students and, overwhelmingly, these needy Catholic, Independent and Christian schools will be advantaged under Labor's funding plan. For example, the 1,700 Catholic schools, they'll have their funding increased, doubled, by a further $378 million under our funding plan. We also provide them with full indexation, aiming to bring them up to the national standard - so all these needy non-Government schools up to the national standard by 2012.

I mention this is equity in action. Take the example of the Kings School which has received huge funding increases under the Howard Government. The truth is, that is a school that has got a resource capacity of at least twice a school like this, Pakenham Secondary College. I don't think, as Australians, we can tolerate a situation where public money is going into resource a school twice the level of your average Government school around the country. That is just unacceptable in terms of need and fairness. The Kings School, with its vast playing fields, its museum, its rifle range, its boat shed - I mean, it's a fine school in its own right but we've got to face the reality, as decision makers, that it's overresourced and a share of its public funding can be better utilised in a school like this.

This is about fairness. We don't walk away from that. Labor has always believed in needs-based funding, getting resources through to the schools and the students who require the funding most, and we'll always dedicate ourselves to that task in government. I believe in the importance of students living out the Australian dream of getting stuck in, working hard, having good teachers, good resources and, on the basis of merit, they can go through in life to realise their full potential. That's one of the reasons I'm here - the product of good Government schooling.

Over the years, some of those schools have run into trouble. We need to help them out, to solve problems. I know the Prime Minister tries to look down his nose at values in Government schools. I think we need to identify problems and solve them in the Government school sector, for all our needy schools right across the educational system. As Prime Minister I’ll never be there as some carping critic on the sideline, talking at schools, I'll be implementing this policy to help them and ensure that all the schools come up to an acceptable national standard of resources and excellence through the coming period.

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That is the fair way to run the schools budget. This is about extra money but also a fairer allocation of resources. It's also about a whole range of special programs that will make a good difference for struggling schools, in particular, and I'll ask Jenny Macklin to outline the detail of those initiatives.

MACKLIN: Thanks very much, Mark. Along with Mark, I'd also like to thank the school very much, the teachers and the school student leaders for having us here today. This policy, as Mark has said, is all about funding all schools on the basis of need so that we can lift all students in Australia. No matter the school they go to, no matter the town or city they live in, we want to make sure that all students in all schools get the chance to get a great education.

Out of the $2.4 billion additional funding that we're announcing today, $1 billion of that funding will go to struggling schools in both the Government and the non-Government sectors. In particular, it will be aimed at literacy and numeracy, especially in the early years, so in the preparatory years - grades one and two - to provide improved cooperation between the early years of schooling and preschool. This is very, very important in the struggling schools.

We have already announced additional funding for quality teaching. It’s a very important part of this package but, especially for the struggling schools, what we intend to do is provide additional incentives to get the most experienced teachers to go to our struggling schools, to make sure they're there to lift the students up who are really doing it hard. There's specific funding in this targeted package for more information technology funding, more funding to improve the capital, to improve the buildings of these struggling schools. As I say, this is both in the Government and the non-Government sector.

There's additional funding for Indigenous students. We know that in our Indigenous communities, whether it's in the cities or in country towns or in more remote Australia, our Indigenous students have some of the most difficult circumstances and they really need our additional support. So there will be $179 million extra for Indigenous students, and that will be targeted both at improving the schools, the buildings that students are learning in and also additional funding to support their teachers.

There will be $100 million extra for capital improvements in our Government schools. One of the most inequitable things in the Howard Government's current funding arrangements is that they've really just left the capital funding of Government schools where it is. Labor will provide a significant boost for Government schools, to make sure that the buildings our students learn in are constantly improved.

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Another important initiative is the additional funding that we will provide for the study of Asian languages. I think it was one of the most retrograde steps we had from the Howard Government when they abolished the National Asian Languages Program. Labor will make sure that the study of Asian languages in our schools, Government and non-Government schools, again becomes a priority.

There's additional funding here for the development of nationally consistent curriculum. We do want to see children, right across Australia, studying hard against a nationally consistent curriculum and we'll provide an additional $15 million to target that area. So there are a number of areas that really need our increased support. Labor is demonstrating today a number of ways in which we will lift the standard of education in schools that really need it. We will be reducing the funding to those schools that are operating way above the resources of this school, for example, to make sure that, whether you're in a struggling Government school or a struggling non-Government school, you'll get the chance to get a great education. Thank you.

JOURNALIST: Mr Latham, needy schools need help now, why are you only spending $39 million in 2005? If all schools are going to benefit under your policy, how much will each child receive, per child, under your policy next year?

LATHAM: There is a transition year because there is obviously planning that is needed with school funding and the need to get the legislation through the Parliament in the first place. When the Parliament was prorogued for this election, the Howard Government hadn't got its school funding legislation through. Obviously, we need to get legislation through for the first transition year and then you can see the funding profile building up for the period 2006 to 2009 -

JOURNALIST: No money for literacy and numeracy or best teachers in the struggling schools?

LATHAM: That’s the transition year, for the reason that I’ve outlined. But you can see the funding profile that builds up over time and that’s the appropriate approach to take with deference to the planning requirements of schools. This is a standard approach and we’ll be following it in 2005 and our funding initiatives start up in 2006 in earnest and run through to 2009, as set out on page four of the document.

JOURNALIST: Mr Latham, was one of the criteria for cutting funding to the elite private schools that students were paying fees of $10,000 or more?

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LATHAM: The test is: have they got private fee income which in its own right is above the national standard that we’re setting for schools around the country - that is, the $9,000 recurrent for primary students and $12,000 recurrent for secondary. So the 67 mentioned there are all in that category and that’s why their funding is being reduced. They’re coming back to the 15 per cent base grant and that money is all being reallocated within the non-Government sector. It is going to needy Catholic, Independent and Christian schools that obviously are below the national standard and need to be funded up so that they can have a fairer share of resources and give their students better opportunities in life.

JOURNALIST: Mr Latham, do you apologise to those parents who send their children to those 67 schools that will have funding cuts?

LATHAM: Well, Geoff, I never apologise for pursuing needs-based funding and fairness in the school system. All parents want the very best for their children. But I believe in that happening for the many and not just the few. The parents that I’ve got in mind are those who send their children to underresourced Catholic, Christian and Independent schools and, on the basis of fairness, their needs have got to be met. So, too, the parents who can’t afford any form of non-Government school fee. They’ve got that local neighbourhood Government school down the end of the road and it’s got to be a high achievement school to give them the same opportunities in life. This is not a policy that is about Government versus non-Government school. The Labor Party left that debate behind 30 years ago. It’s about needs-based funding. It’s about giving every parent in this country, not just the few but the many, a guarantee that, in life, they can be assured that their children can go to a well-resourced school, getting good results and fulfilling the potential of their children in life. That’s the approach we take and we’ll always stand by that and always advance it.

JOURNALIST: You’ve set those fee thresholds as benchmarks and on that basis you’ve left Western Australian private schools untouched. There’s at least one private school in WA that has fees over those rates. Christ Church Grammar School charged this year $12,148 for secondary students and prep students were charged $10,608. Now, if that’s an arbitrary fee threshold, why is Christ Church still having its funding guaranteed when it breaks your own benchmark?

LATHAM: We’ve provided this with the publicly available information that we’ve received and we’re confident that those figures are correct.

JOURNALIST: We published those figures in our newspaper so they were publicly available.

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LATHAM: Hang on. Not from newspapers, I mean from education authorities and those sources.

JOURNALIST: No, they are publicly available figures. Is this list revisable if you find that some schools are over those limits?

LATHAM: That’s the list we’re producing today. In your calculations, are you sure that those schools have got private fee income over the national resource standard that we’ve set? I mean, it’s the first time you’ve seen our standard today so we’re not doing calculations here on the spur of the moment, on the back of the envelope. We’re doing them in a considered way, based on the material and the funding figures that have been made available to us.

JOURNALIST: But, if out of that list, it’s found that in fact they go over your -

LATHAM: Hang on. We’re not getting into hypotheticals here. We’ve produced our material based on the information available to us. In terms of -

JOURNALIST: If they do exceed it, then they have to be in the list of 67, making 68.

LATHAM: Geoff, we are not dealing with hypotheticals. But it is certainly true, over time, that some schools will move above and below the standard. That will happen inevitably over the next five or 10 years and of course we’ve got funding adjustments that occur in those circumstances, because no school is frozen in time. I’m just saying to you that our list here is not hypothetical; it is based on the information. We’re not here for spur of the moment calculations. We’ve done this in a considered way and we believe the list to be accurate on the information provided to us.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

LATHAM: I’ve answered your question, Karen. I’ve answered your question.

JOURNALIST: I’m asking you a different question.

LATHAM: I’ve answered your question.

JOURNALIST: Are they arbitrary figures if they -

LATHAM: No, they are not arbitrary figures.

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JOURNALIST: So if you fall slightly below or slightly above they could be adjusted?

LATHAM: I’ve just mentioned over time schools change in their resource capability. Our national standard is set, bringing all schools up to that standard in 2012, and that’s the approach we take.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

LATHAM: Can those who’ve had a go just have some regard for their colleagues and share some of the questions around.

JOURNALIST: Won’t this policy encourage those students above the benchmarks to rejig their funding sources to stop slugging parents and start slugging the Government?

LATHAM: Students don’t rejig their funding sources. You mean schools?

JOURNALIST: Yes.

LATHAM: We think that’s highly unlikely, given the nature of the schools that we’re talking about but, if some of them decide to drop their fees, isn't that a good thing? It would prove the affordability of Labor’s approach but we don’t regard it as likely in the circumstances, no.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned on the other side that they could rack up their fees to make up for the lost Government funding?

LATHAM: They wouldn’t receive any extra Government funding for doing that.

JOURNALIST: It is still going to be a problem for parents to have to pay higher fees.

LATHAM: In those schools, we’ve set the standard and they’re resourced well above it. The Howard Government gave the Kings School an increase in 2001 to 2004, of $2.3 million. They will have a funding decline of $1.7 million in 2004-08. That’s an equitable approach that we’re putting in place. How the school responds is subject to their own strategy but our strategy is very clear: we want to take those resources and reallocate them within the non-Government sector to look after the needy schools - Catholic, Christian and Independent - and provide the extra $1.9 billion that will benefit every Government school in the country, particularly targeting the struggling schools

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that are well below the standard, well below the excellence, that we want right around the country.

JOURNALIST: Mr Latham, have you done a calculation for the parents of the 67 schools, if their schools choose to make up the lost money by whacking up fees, have you got any idea of what sort of fee increase they would face?

LATHAM: I just gave you the calculation for the Kings School. But how schools respond, as ever, in determining their fees, is up to them. Governments don’t determine school fees, the schools do that themselves.

JOURNALIST: Do you include school building funds in calculation of private resources? If not, schools could then surely use the funds from their building funds to offset the -

LATHAM: This is based on fees. And that’s the standard and calculation we’re making.

JOURNALIST: Mr Latham, if you are so proud of this equity and access redistribution, will you give a commitment to release school-by-school how much funding each will have taken from them or given to them in the non-Government sector?

LATHAM: You’ve got the list for the 97 schools that are having a funding decrease and the 111 funding guaranteed. And I’ve given you the Kings School. We are happy to provide further information but we regard that list as instructive and the Kings example as but one of what we are talking about. People can focus on the argument that a school with vast playing fields, museums, rifle ranges, curators, twice the resources of this school, are going to have a reduction in public funding. You can focus on that but, for the real life circumstances of the great majority of Australian students; the consequence of this policy is more resources, more opportunity in life, better classroom results in the schools that need it most. And we’re doing this on the reasons of equity and we’re doing it in a fair way in the treatment of the sectors. In Government schools, it’s $1.9 billion extra. Every Government school getting extra resources, helping them come up to this national standard that is so important for our country’s future. In the non-Government sector, it is not like there’s a policy to take money out of non-Government schools and send it to the other sector. In fact, there is a fairer allocation within the non-Government school sector with the overall funding maintained. I’ve got to say in my own experience, representing a significant number of Parish schools, Christian schools, visiting those schools around the country, so many of them are so poor, and to have a rifle range in their school grounds would be unthinkable. Their first step is to have a decent library and decent learning materials, computers, and teaching capacity for the

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benefit of their students. We’re doing this in the non-Government sector in the name of fairness and it’s the only approach a Labor Party could ever take.

JOURNALIST: Mr Latham, if you’re into truth in Government, the figures of per child spend are available from DEST. They’re publicly available on the web site; why not tell parents at each school how much you are going reduce their grant? Why bodgie up a graph where you explain how much the Howard Government has given them over the last four years and not explain what their funding cut is?

LATHAM: I just did for the Kings School, which is the example we are using here today.

JOURNALIST: Mr Latham, the Government gives more to private schools now than publicly funded universities. Will you give a guarantee that that won’t happen under a Labor Government?

LATHAM: No, we don’t frame our policy in relation to university funding. Obviously, our stance is clear: we are maintaining the funding in non-Government schools in overall terms but producing a fairer allocation within the sector. We’ve got other ambitious plans for the benefit of public universities in Australia, indexation of funding, 20,000 extra places, $150 million regional fund, $450 million Universities of the 21st Century Fund. That’s a substantial benefit for universities. But, in school funding, we’ve only got one test here, we’ve only got one way of doing things: that’s on the basis of need, on the need of the school, and that’s the approach we’ll always take.

JOURNALIST: Kings School was an aberration in fees. Most private schools charge considerably less than that. Middle Australians send their kids to those private schools. How do you convince those parents who, apart from having their squeeze eased, will be feeling the pinch?

LATHAM: They'll be better off, you see. The point we're making is the 67 schools on that list have all got fee capacity above the national standard we're defining for schools. Where does the reallocated money go? It's to your local Catholic school, your local Christian and Independent school. That is middle Australia. Whether we like it or not, Kings School is not middle Australia. Kings School was an allocation of fees that has already got them in that area alone above the national standard. Middle Australia is a school like this. Middle Australia is the comparable Catholic, Independent or Christian school in the non-Government sector. That is middle Australia and obviously what we're doing helps not only with education but has the potential to help with fee relief.

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JOURNALIST: But the other schools on the list, do you think they'll understand what you're doing?

LATHAM: Yes, it's very easy to understand. They've got resources, recurrent resources, from fee income alone which has got them above the national standard that we're setting for the rest of Australia. Now, having reached that level of resourcing, you'd expect that on the basis of need. Not as much public money would be required for that school in the future, and that's the nature of our policy. That's very easy to understand. And what's more important to understand is the benefits to the students who have gone without - the students who have gone without under the Howard Government as [inaudible] $300,000 increases have gone to the high-fee private schools, the students who have gone without in schools like this, in schools in both sectors right around the country, they're the beneficiaries, the beneficiaries of our overall policy approach, and that's the important thing to understand. This is a policy with a vast number of beneficiaries. Children in our school system now are going to have a better opportunity in life, better opportunity in life on the basis of fairness, and that's a principle I'll always fight for in public life.

JOURNALIST: Mr Latham, different States have [inaudible] in some States year 7 is primary school. With these fee benchmarks, are you going on the basis of the way each State structures its system? In other words, if a State has year 7 in primary school, will you apply the primary school fee? Because Penross Primary School in WA, which is also on your guarantee list, year 7 students are charged $10,269 which would seem to also be above your threshold?

MACKLIN: What we've done is apply the national standard and then looked at whether or not they are primary schools or secondary schools. We've applied the rule depending on whether it's a primary school or a secondary school.

JOURNALIST: Can I assume that's to be considered under your national standard in the primary schools category?

MACKLIN: I'd have to look at the detail, Karen. I haven't got the detail of every single school in my head, but I'll have a look at it. The information that we have here is from published sources from every publicly available place we can get it. It's been checked, I can assure you, a number of times, so we certainly stand by the figures.

LATHAM: Karen, you seem unusually keen to knock off funding for Western Australian schools. We don't want to let that out - the circulation of the paper might start dropping.

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JOURNALIST: I'm just checking your list.

LATHAM: Sure, and we're happy to collaborate with you on all these theories and show you our stats.

JOURNALIST: We all want to get it right.

LATHAM: That's why we're here.

JOURNALIST: Has a rule been applied to Catholic schools [inaudible] rule of the national resources standard or is that an arbitrary figure that's been given to the Catholic system to distribute?

LATHAM: No, same standard, same principle, and a very significant funding increase to help bring those schools up to the national standard. The Catholic systemic schools have got a significant funding increase, a doubling of the increase that they had earlier in the year from the Howard Government.

JOURNALIST: What's the funding guarantee worth? On the bottom of this page, it has schools listed here on the basis of most recently publicly available data. Are the schools guaranteed or not, and how much extra are they going to get than they would get under the Howard Government, or are they actually just being frozen? I'm not quite sure when you say ‘funding maintained, funding guaranteed over five years’, are these schools in a sense over five years going to be worse off? Are they actually in a sense more like the 67 schools?

LATHAM: To answer your two questions, yes, and their grant is held steady.

JOURNALIST: This is a back of the envelope type calculation but on the 67 schools, is that roughly of the order of $7.5 million loss to those schools over the next four years?

MACKLIN: It would start in 2006.

JOURNALIST: We need to have an idea.

LATHAM: We've just given the idea for the Kings School. That's a leading example and obviously we can make the other comparable calculations available. The whole point here is a set of policy reforms and principles. This is not an enormous matrix of school by school funding allocations around the country. What you've got there is significant policy reform, better policy reform in terms of the needs-based funding system and very clear instruction on how it

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works and some examples we've provided to guide the public understanding of how this policy goes forward.

JOURNALIST: So is the 1.9 new money and where is it coming from?

LATHAM: It is new money, 1.9, and obviously through the course of the campaign we identify all our funding sources, and the $1.9 billion is for the benefit of Government schools and you've also got the detailed calculations for the forward estimate period.

JOURNALIST: Didn’t you announce last slabs of this just last week?

LATHAM: It's included. This is our full schools policy. We had our initiatives for Better Teachers in Struggling Schools, for discipline, for values, and it's included in the initiatives here but it's our overall schools funding and the significant thing is the extra resources for Government and non-Government schools on the basis of need, and the relevant lists that people have been seeking in the non-Government sector.

JOURNALIST: You say this is a needy school, how much in dollar terms will it benefit per year under your policy?

LATHAM: This school is run by the Victorian State Government and we'd obviously be providing extra resources on the basis of need. But that's worked out in collaboration - I mentioned earlier on our cooperative approach, where, whether it's a State or Territory school authority or a Catholic, Christian or Independent schools, we do these things in cooperation. We're not here to micromanage every funding allocation out of Canberra. We're here to get the principles right, the needs-based funding right, and obviously we'll be sorting out those details in cooperation with the relevant state authorities

JOURNALIST: Have you received any further briefing on the situation in Iraq related to the reports of hostages having been taken?

LATHAM: We're getting regular updates but as I understand it the general situation hasn't changed. It's still unconfirmed and the various checking processes are being undertaken out of our mission in Baghdad, and we're receiving updated information from DFAT as well.

JOURNALIST: The $1 billion that you have here in additional targeted support, is that part of the $1.9?

MACKLIN: No, it is part of the $2.4. So some of it will go to non-Government schools that are struggling, struggling Catholic schools, for example.

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JOURNALIST: It takes eight years to get to your new funding benchmark; wouldn't most of these schools through normal school funding increases have got to that level of $9,000?

LATHAM: They're starting a long way behind. You've got a vast number of school students - what, 95 per cent of school students around Australia - in schools that are well behind the national standard. So it will take a considerable period of time to achieve this great national goal. We make a good start, particularly in the 2006 calendar year, but it will take a number of years to bring all the schools - I mean, 95 per cent of students - up to the national standard, which is way above where it's been for the average school around the country. So it is a long-term task, but we've got to start now. It's one of the most important tasks we can have as a nation - we are going to have a guarantee that every school has got the resources to get the good job achieved for its students, get the results, the excellence in the classroom that students and parents want right around Australia.

JOURNALIST: Can you tell parents what this means for them? Does it mean lower, smaller classes or better halls or what is it going to translate in?

LATHAM: These are recurrent resources so it should mean better teachers, a capacity to reduce class sizes, if that's the determination at school level, better information technology, better learning materials, better teaching capacity, professional development. As much as we can, as policy makers, an assurance to Australian parents that every school, every classroom, is going to have the resources to get the job done, to achieve excellence for Australian students, to give them opportunity in life. I can't think of a more important task as a Labor Party than achieving that great goal.

MACKLIN: As I mentioned there, there is also a significant increase in capital resources. So that does mean improved buildings, improved school halls, libraries, all of those very important buildings that children learn in. So there is a very substantial increase in capital as well, especially for Government schools and struggling non-Government schools.

LATHAM: But national standard is recurrent resourcing and it's obviously about the recurrent expenses.

JOURNALIST: Ratios? Will you get that 25 students per classroom?

LATHAM: We don't micromanage the classroom. That's why we have school leaders, principals, education ministers at State and Territory level. That's why we have Catholic systems. We're providing the resources that allow them to

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taper and mould their own decisions in the classroom with more resources to get a better job achieved. So it's not for Labor Party politicians or Government leaders in the future to do those things. Our job is to get the resources out to the schools who need it and then for the school leadership to ensure that those resources are used in the best interests of the students and maximising their learning potential in life.

JOURNALIST: Ms Macklin, just on the $520 million that you are going to redistribute on the basis of need to, I think, about the 2,500 targeted school, needy non-Government schools, $500 million into 2,500 over five years doesn't sound like a lot. How much are they going to get in 2006 when it starts up?

MACKLIN: You can have a look at the tables. It's actually set out and allocated by program. If you look at page 4 of the document, it shows you exactly the answer to your question, Sam.

LATHAM: For Catholic schools, it's a $378 million funding increase, which is very significant. It's a very significant funding increase.

MACKLIN: Double the amount the Government provided them.

JOURNALIST: The Scoresby is still continuing to raise its head with the tollway [inaudible] proving to be difficult for the Labor Party. Why won’t you admit that is difficult and promise to, once reaching Government, force the Labor Government in Victoria to change its mind?

LATHAM: The tollway has reared its head to the point where both Labor and Liberal at State level have said it will be just that: a tollway. If Mr Howard can't persuade Robert Doyle to go to a freeway - that is, to tear up the

contracts and tear up the toll, then obviously, on both sides of politics, the hard, cold reality is it’s the tollway. In those circumstances, it's appropriate for Federal Labor to respond to that reality and say that the money stays in Victoria. The risk you run is that, given that Mr Howard and Mr Costello haven't been able to persuade Robert Doyle to abandon the tollway in the future, then they're holding that money in limbo as some sort of political trick and of course run the risk that it will be reallocated interstate after the election. Robert Doyle, if he's ever elected, will have the toll. The Howard-Costello money will go bush, interstate, and Victoria will be in net terms worse off. That's the reality that we have to deal with rather than political trickery and political tactics where Federal Liberal policy is way out of whack with State Liberal reality.

JOURNALIST: The Federal Government yesterday announced its water policy and is using National Competition Payments to fund its program. Does that

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mean it's $1.6 billion that a Latham Labor Government would use or are you saying that the National Competition Payments are off the table for you?

LATHAM: What we're saying is that the Howard Government has set back the cause of water reform in Australia, because it's placing the States in a position where they have to defund their schools, their hospitals, their police stations to try and embark on water reform. I believe in cooperative federalism, not slash and burn federalism where you take money out of schools, hospitals and police stations and say to the States, ‘Hang on. You better get some water reform done as well.’ It just won't happen that way. It's an absurd proposition. They've set back the cause of water reform in this country and, with good reason, invoked the hostility of all the States and Territories.

JOURNALIST: You won't be putting your hand on that money?

LATHAM: We won't be expecting States to defund schools like this, or hospitals or police stations to embark on water reform. The other hole in their bucket in terms of this package is they've got nothing there to save the Murray-Darling. How can you have meaningful water reform unless you save the grand old river system in Australia, one of our great natural resources? So Labor will have a better policy that's real in terms of water reform and focuses on the central task of saving the grand old river system.

JOURNALIST: When will we see it?

LATHAM: Soon.

JOURNALIST: Christian Zahra is in a marginal seat -

LATHAM: And a great member of Parliament.

JOURNALIST: It is now a marginally Liberal seat -

LATHAM: And what a great man to do it and win the fight.

JOURNALIST: Do you concede that it is going to be very difficult for Christian to hold the seat?

LATHAM: He loves a challenge. He's a young true believer. He's got a bit of fire in the belly and he believes in the right things about fairness in life and we've got a great fighter in this constituency. I'll be giving him every support I can to ensure the people of this district continue to be represented by someone of Christian's calibre and dedication.

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JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

LATHAM: This is not Centrebet. It handles all of those things. Susan is a wonderful candidate. She's got a lot of experience in parliamentary life and doing a great job as well. We're not here rating chances; we’re here advocating good candidates, good people and, most importantly, good policy for the people and the needs of the schools around the country.

JOURNALIST: With the situation in Iraq -

LATHAM: I'm not dealing in hypotheticals. I said yesterday that in national security it's wise, it's prudent; it's commonsense to deal in information, in facts. So I'm not getting into hypotheticals or speculation. Let's just find out the facts of this matter. We've had an instance where some information was put out about the SMS message out of the tragedy in Jakarta. It's always best to deal with the facts of these matters and make a sensible response that way.

JOURNALIST: Just on tax, there were some reports today of people saying that the figures don't entirely add up in terms of the number of jobs it will create because it doesn't take into account the jobs that might be lost through some of the new taxes particularly in the area of tobacco and some other areas. Have you had a chance to go through that analysis?

LATHAM: I read the article and I'll always back the Melbourne Institute ahead of Neil Warren who has come to this debate late on the scene, and the Melbourne Institute in that article defended themselves. The other point that needs to be made is that their calculations didn't include the $248 billion Families in Work initiative, which would obviously add further to participation. If anything, the Melbourne Institute figures are an underestimation because they didn't include that substantial package of training and child-care assistance that would bring even more people into the labour market, boosting participation in this country. I think when Mr Warren gets on to that reality he might be assessing the position he put out earlier in the day.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that [inaudible] was a Liberal stooge and does it matter if she was?

LATHAM: I just don't know, I'm sorry.

JOURNALIST: Does it matter if she was?

LATHAM: I addressed that particular case study earlier in the day and our analysis is sound. Last one from Jason from the mighty Herald Sun. Stand up, Jason, actually. I thought you were about to.

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JOURNALIST: Did you cop any grief for seemingly getting married again yesterday and is that why -

LATHAM: Okay, thank you.

[Ends]

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