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Deputy Prime Minister discusses Schools Assistance Bill; computers in schools; ABC Learning Centres; and Julie Bishop.

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The Hon Julia Gillard MP

Minister for Education. Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations

Minister for Social Inclusion. Deputy Prime Minister

02 December, 2008


730 AM Tuesday

ABC Radio National Interview

ISSUES: Schools Assistance Bill, Computers in Schools, ABC Learning, Julie Bishop

FRAN KELLY: …Minister for Education, Employment, Workplace Relations and Social Inclusion. She’s in our Parliament House studio too. Deputy Prime Minister welcome to Breakfast.

JULIA GILLARD: Good morning, Fran.

FRAN KELLY: Julia Gillard, the Opposition wants changes to this funding bill for private schools, which guarantees $28 billion for that sector. It wants the bill split off so that you can get the money passed, but there can be more debate for issues like national curriculum and

private schools being forced to reveal all their funding sources. That’s not unreasonable, is it?

JULIA GILLARD: It’s completely unreasonable, Fran. We’ve been having these debates all year, and all year I’ve been saying we will deliver a new era of transparency for both government schools and non-government schools—and I want to stress that. There’s not one thing that we are asking of non-government schools that we’re not also asking of government schools. Premiers and Chief Ministers signed up to a new era of transparency for government schools on Saturday, including being transparent about resources going into schools. We want the same requirements on non-government schools.

And the reason we want that is we want to be in the situation to compare schools with similar student populations, and if we saw one going streets ahead getting really great results and one falling behind, we would be able to say, “What’s the difference? Is it teacher quality? Is it principal quality? Or is it the amount of resources?” That’s why we want the resources out there in the public domain—not to punish anybody but to enable us to have good information about lifting up those schools that are getting left behind.

FRAN KELLY: What about the whole notion of the national curriculum? Generally, there’s a lot of support for that notion. But is it true that it will work against schools like Montessori schools? Schools that have a very different kind of curriculum?

JULIA GILLARD: Once again, completely untrue and I’ve been making this clear in my speeches. I understand that for those that have particular views about delivering education— Montessori schools, Steiner schools, schools that are delivering the International

Baccalaureate—that they may have asked themselves the question: How does that work with the national curriculum? I’ve answered that question for them. The national curriculum will be there. It will be quality curriculum. It’s about lifting standards in every school in this country. Our National Curriculum Board will work with those schools, Montessori schools and Steiner schools, so that the national curriculum works with their special teaching styles and special views about learning. And, of course, the International Baccalaureate is a recognised quality curriculum and people will be able to teach the International Baccalaureate.

FRAN KELLY: Okay, but if some schools are still worried and they want some more clarity, if it’s a question of allowing more time for debating just that element, say, or sticking to your guns and seeing this bill go through and won, if you’re likely to get this voted down, is it worth it? Would you allow that to happen?

JULIA GILLARD: If the Liberal Party wants to deny non-government schools funding from 1 January next year, then it can make that decision. What the government is seeking to do is to deliver the things that have been subject of discussion and debate for 12 months—a new era of transparency, a national curriculum. Now, yesterday the Shadow Minister for Education described these things, transparency and national curriculum, as offensive.

Fran, this isn’t a debate about timing. It’s not that a few extra days would make any difference. The Liberal Party is opposed to transparency. It’s obviously opposed national curriculum. It’s opposed to it now. It will be opposed to it in six months time, 12 months time.

Well, the Government is determined to bring this new era to Australian schools—a revolution in transparency, quality curriculum, part of our measures to bring more resources to schools around the country: to lift standards up, to strive for excellence in every school—delivering the Schools Assistance Bill in this sitting week is a very important part of that.

We are saying to Senators the Bill has to be passed by the end of the week or the people who suffer will be the kids who go to non-government schools who will walk into those schools next year without those schools having the benefit of the government funds that they should have.

FRAN KELLY: Minister, during this new era for Australian schools, the Labor Government is still committed to an old formula. It’s the SES funding model for private schools, which, when you were in opposition and when you were the shadow minister, you were very critical of. You described it as flawed. You said it created an education market in which the wealthiest have the most choice. Why are you keeping this model for another four years? It’s a model you said is crook.

JULIA GILLARD: Because we gave an election commitment, Fran, and there’s nothing more important to the Rudd Labor Government than delivering what we promised.

FRAN KELLY: Even fixing a broken system?

JULIA GILLARD: We deliver what we promised, Fran. We believe in that. We believe in being honest with the Australian people. When we campaigned in 2007, we said to people around the nation that if elected for this Schools Agreement for non-government schools, we

would use the SES formula, that everything would stay the same. We gave those guarantees. We’re delivering on those guarantees.

We also promised to bring a new era of performance reporting to Australian schools, and what I’m talking about with transparency is delivering on that promise. We also promised to deliver a national curriculum and obviously national curriculum being associated with the Schools Bill is delivering on that promise.

And I if can just make this point about the national curriculum. The Opposition is trying to somehow create the imagery that the national curriculum is being imposed from the outside on schools. Fran, I’m not writing the curriculum. An expert board is writing the curriculum. And who’s represented on that expert board? You guessed it, the non-government school system as representatives on that expert board. They are writing the curriculum, working with

other educationalists around the country. This is not being imposed from the outside. This is something that the non-government sector is absolutely part of, every step of the way.

FRAN KELLY: It’s 13 to 8 on Breakfast. Our guest this morning is Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister, Julia Gillard. Minister, yesterday in Parliament you renewed the Government’s commitment to delivering an effective 1:1 ratio of computers to students in Year 9-12. There’s no timeline here. The National Secondary School Computer Fund is a five year commitment. To echo Bob Hawke, by the year 2013 will every senior student have a computer on their desk?

JULIA GILLARD: Fran, the program is across five financial years, that’s right. And in those five financial years, we will deliver effective 1:1 ratios for Australian students in senior secondary, Years 9-12.

FRAN KELLY: So for five years, every senior secondary student will have access, will have a computer?

JULIA GILLARD: That’s right. They’ll have a computer when they need it. When they need it for their learning, there will be a computer there. We are not mandating a specific technology. Different schools will solve this in different ways. Some will have desktop computers, some will have laptops, some will have some of the new technologies—things called thin clients, which relate to a central server. There are different ways of doing this but the program will deliver an effective 1:1 ratio. So whatever technology the school has gone for, students in Years 9-12 will be there working with that technology when they need it in the curriculum for English, for maths, for history, whatever it is, there it will be for them to work on.

FRAN KELLY: Okay, can we talk child care now, another one of your responsibilities, and the future of these 386 ABC Learning Centres—the receivers have classed as unviable. We now hear that the bulk of those services, the less viable ones, are … look after children nought to two years old, so babies, really. What is going to happen to them? Will the Government make a commitment to ensure that those centres are not allowed to close? Because we’re talking 30 000 toddlers here.

JULIA GILLARD: That claim has been made about the centres that are on the list of some 380-odd that are still being looked at. Fran, what I’m saying to everybody, including those who are making that claim is we are stepping through a process here. We need to do it a step

at a time. What the receiver did last week was clarified that more than 650 ABC Centres would continue next year. That’s obviously the majority of them, the vast majority of them.

FRAN KELLY: But there’s 300-odd others that are in question. That’s what people are worried about.

JULIA GILLARD: Of course, of course. There are around 380—the circumstances of which are yet to be clarified. And what I said last week when the receiver made this announcement and I echo the receiver’s words: people should not assume that a centre on that list is going to close.

FRAN KELLY: Will you make sure they don’t?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, what being on that list means is that the receiver needs to do some more work to ascertain viability. The receiver will be in a position, he said within a week, to make a further clarifying statement. The Government obviously will then respond once that statement is made. We’ve made it clear all along here Fran, that our single highest priority is continuity of care for mums and dads that need that care for their kids. We guaranteed continuity of care by stepping in and providing funds to keep all centres going until 31 December this year. We did that because we wanted care to be continuous as we work through this very in-detailed process, centre by centre, step by step, with the receiver. We are working on that. The receiver’s working hard and the receiver has said that he will make a clarifying statement about the 380-odd centres very soon indeed.

FRAN KELLY: Okay. Minister, the Federal Government’s been pretty merciless in its attacks on Julie bishop. You made fun of her as well yesterday, which we heard earlier. What did she do to deserve this and do you really think Julie Bishop, the Shadow Treasurer, doesn’t understand what ratio means?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, I think the circumstance of the Shadow Treasurer is really a matter for the Liberal Party.

FRAN KELLY: Well, you were doing your bit for it yesterday.

JULIA GILLARD: Well, things get said in Question Time, by both sides across the chamber, Fran. You will probably be aware of that. Taunts and jokes and banter flow both ways everyday, each and every Question Time, and what I would say about the Shadow Treasurer is her circumstances are a matter for the Liberal Party.

FRAN KELLY: Do you think the bar is higher for a woman in a job like Shadow Treasurer?

JULIA GILLARD: Look, politics is obviously a world where women have increasingly made their way. A lot has changed in the last 20 years. Obviously to have a female Deputy Prime Minister, that’s a change. To have the number of women we have in our Cabinet is a big change. It’s a tough environment, but I actually think it’s a tough environment for all participants in it. I think there are times in politics where everybody finds the going tough. Question Time is a testing environment for everybody who participates in it, and I certainly wouldn’t agree with any impression that taunts or teasing or banter only flows one way in Question Time. The Opposition spends its time in Question Time yelling at government members—those at the dispatch box and those seated. That’s the way it works.

FRAN KELLY: Okay, Julia Bishop, thank you … Julia Gillard, sorry. Thank you very much for joining us on Breakfast.

JULIA GILLARD: No problems, Fran. Thank you.

FRAN KELLY: Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Education, Employment, Workplace Relations and Social Inclusion.