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Election 2007: Prime Minister campaigns in Brisbane; focuses on comment made by ALP candidate about school funding.

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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Parliamentary Library.


It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in an y other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.


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Tues day 13 November 2007

Election 2007: Prime Minister campaigns in Brisbane; focuses on comment made by ALP candidate about school funding


MARK COLVIN: In an election race notable for rigi d control by both parties, one of the few campaign stories left to seize on is the gaffe. 


And today, the Coalition believes it's caught Labor out in another gaffe by a star recruit. 


This time it's the Iraq War veteran standing in the seat of Eden-Monaro, Mike Kelly, in the Coalition's sights, and the issue is a so-called independent schools hit list.  


The hit list was one of the most controversial questions at the last federal election campaign, when Labor's leader, Mark Latham, promised to strip money away from some private schools. 


Labor dumped the policy after that election, and has committed itself to the Government's model until at least 2012. 


Today Colonel Kelly said the Labor Party would move towards a needs-based approach to funding public and private schools. 


But after the Prime Minister seized on the comments, Mike Kelly released a clarifying statement, as it was put, saying the statement he'd made on schools funding was wrong and inconsistent with Kevin Rudd's and Federal Labor's election commitments. 


Karen Barlow is travelling with Mr Howard, and she filed this report. 


KAREN BARLOW: The students at the Our Lady of the Way Catholic Primary School in Petrie, north of Brisbane, were very pleased with visit of the Prime Minister. 


(Sound of cheering) 


KAREN BARLOW: But the lyrics of the Kelly Clarkson song sung by the school choir were calling for change. 


(sound of choir) 


KAREN BARLOW: John Howard was using a tour of the school in the safe Liberal seat of Dickson to sell the education tax rebate announced at yesterday's campaign launch in Brisbane. 


JOHN HOWARD: The significance of what we announced yesterday is that it applies to school fees, and it applies to all parents. 


Mr Rudd's proposal only applies to laptops and broadband connections. 


KAREN BARLOW: The tax rebate will apply to all parents- even the rich ones. 


Labor's own education tax rebate - which is worth slightly less than the Coalition's - has an income cut off just over $100,000 a year. 


John Howard says all families deserve a break. 


JOHN HOWARD: When it comes to things like education, parents make enormous sacrifices … I mean, I went to a government school, we educated our own children at government schools at a primary level, and we sent them to private schools at a secondary level, and I support both systems. And I believe in both systems. 


But I know parents who are by no stretch of the definition wealthy who've made enormous sacrifices, where grandparents put money in, where parents borrow money to send their children to the school of their choice. 


KAREN BARLOW: But the ALP has even more to defend in the field of education. 


On ABC Bega this morning, Labor's Eden-Monaro candidate, Mike Kelly, took a swipe at the socioeconomic status schools funding formula. 


MIKE KELLY: Schools have had to go out to draw these funds in directly from parents, because of the failures to support particularly the public system over the last 11 and a half years, and the Government's ridiculous postcode system is totally crazy.  


I mean, just because the postcode doesn't give you an actual reading of how a particular school's doing in that area, and certainly there are not only public but independent schools in some of these postcodes that are missing out. 


So, it's a ridiculous approach to looking at the needs of schools and we'll move away from that and get down eventually to a proper needs-based approach. 


KAREN BARLOW: The Prime Minister says it proves that Labor is gunning for non-government schools. 


JOHN HOWARD: It indicates that the hit list has never been put away, it's only been put in a drawer, and that a future Labor government will, if people like Mike Kelly have his way, re-visit that whole issue. 


KAREN BARLOW: Mike Kelly is going against official Labor policy. Kevin Rudd has vowed to continue the current system of funding until at least until 2012, as part of his education revolution. 


PM has sought an interview with the Eden-Monaro candidate to explain his comments but he has been unavailable. 


And late this afternoon Mike Kelly issued a statement admitting he was wrong and retracting his comments. 


Colonel Kelly says the current funding formula is a "definite and concrete" commitment, which a Rudd government will not resile from. 


In turn Labor has attacked the Prime Minister on his commitments.  


Kevin Rudd has questioned whether any of his election promises are believable since he plans to hand over the reins to Peter Costello in just over 18 months. 


John Howard will give no date for the hand over but today gave this commitment: 


JOHN HOWARD: The policies that a leader articulates represent the values of the party he leads. 


And what I announced yesterday - not just my views, they're the views of the, of the Liberal Party and the National Party. 


We have a continuity of attitude, we have a continuity of policy. 


REPORTER: Cause the leader enunciates that policy, we should expect that the government, whoever leads in the future, will implement that? 


JOHN HOWARD: Absolutely. 


MARK COLVIN: The Prime Minister John Howard ending that report from Karen Barlow.