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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 21 August 2012: Gillard Government anniversary; education; Slater & Gordon

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Hon Christopher Pyne MP Doorstop Interview Parliament House, Canberra 21 August 2012

SUBJECTS: Gillard Government anniversary; Education; Slater & Gordon


Christopher Pyne: Well, ladies and gentlemen today is the second anniversary of the election of the Gillard Government. We have less than 12 months to go before the next election is due and yet today the Government shut down the suspension motion condemning them for putting the worries of Australians about cost of living rises second and their own political survival first. The MPI for the Opposition was knocked off by the Speaker who gave the MPI to the Government on the issue of education in spite of the fact that it’s the second anniversary of the Gillard Government and the Opposition has asked question after question today and yesterday and last week, whether it was examples from the Lakes Resort Hotel, the Belair Hotel, Ben Turner a small businessman in Brisbane, the HM Gem Engines in Victoria in Dandenong, the Ingleburn High School in Sydney and the list goes on of examples that we’ve raised of people’s genuine concerns and worries about their massive rises to their electricity bills, the hit to their cost of living because of the carbon tax. On every one of those occasions the Prime Minister has turned her face against the concerns of ordinary Australians, refused to answer questions, obfuscated, pretended the questions have been fabricated; all very much of a piece in the way she used to respond to questions about the waste and mismanagement in the school hall programme.

Australians are thoroughly sick of a Prime Minister and a Government that doesn’t put their concerns first. It’s time the Prime Minister and her Ministers started taking the worries of ordinary Australians about cost of living and rises prices seriously and I can also assure ordinary Australians around the country the Opposition will not lose heart in it’s campaign to raise these carbon tax concerns. We know the most important issue facing Australian households is how they’re going to pay their bills, how they are going to ensure they can put food on the table and no amount of the Prime Minister ducking and weaving and her sophistry will stop us from getting to the bottom of her great big lie before the last election that under her Government there would be no carbon tax.

Journalist: Chris, green light?

Pyne: Probably a quorum. Any questions?

Journalist: (inaudible)

Pyne: That is another one of the Government’s weapons of mass distraction in an attempt to convince the press gallery to pursue any other issue other than the carbon tax, other than the continuing arrival of boats, other than the concerns about cost of living that ordinary Australians have. Today the Government knocked off a suspension of standing orders that condemned their performance on the second anniversary. Time and time again the Prime Minister refused to answer questions about cost of living issues. The Government would rather talk about any other subject than the carbon tax and for that reason the Opposition will at least stand up for ordinary Australians. The distractions that Ministers raised today was purley designed to try and flick the switch to any other subject.

Journalist: Do you think Tony Abbott is more outspoken with Anna Burke than he would be with Peter Slipper?

Pyne: I haven’t noticed the slightest change in Tony Abbott’s performance as Leader of the Opposition regardless of who sits in the Chair. After 18 years in the Parliament Tony Abbott has a record of treating the Chair with the respect it deserves, whoever sits in the Chair.

Journalist: Should private schools get more government funding?

Pyne: Under the Coalition all schools, government and non-government will receive more funding from the Commonwealth Government. We are the only political party with a policy on the table to support the current quantum of funds to government and non-government schools plus six per cent indexation. That represents a $4.2 billion dollar increase in funds to government and non-government schools. That’s a needs based funding model. The Government is talking about how they have a policy for schools, well, let’s see their policy. They went into damage control on Sunday when the News Limited papers revealed a hit list of 3254 schools that would receive less money under the Gonski model of funding than under the current model of funding, so the Coalition supports more funds to government and non-government schools. The Labor Party supports a 3254 school hit list, which is one in three schools.

Journalist: Don’t you have $3.5 billion of cuts for education spending on the table? How can you say that every school will get more funds if you go through with those cuts?

Pyne: At the next election we will outline our budget position for the Australian people to be able to choose between our economic management and Labor’s economic management, but this debate is about the base funding model. The base funding model is the per student payment from the Federal Government to both government and non-government schools. On the base funding model the Coalition is proposing $4.2 billion of increased spending based on indexation. The Government has made no commitment to indexation. It has talked vaguely about no school losing one dollar which is not in real terms and the schools sector knows that under the Government’s model they are facing cuts to 3254 schools and that’s excluding the issue of indexation. So lets be absolutely clear. The debate about the Gonski Review is a debate about base funding. It is not a debate about all the other spending that the Commonwealth does, that both Liberal and Labor Governments have done on other issues.

Journalist: The current funding model (inaudible) … was described by the Gonski Panel as inequitable and not transparent and you still propose to continue that?

Pyne: Well the Gonski model is so complex and so complicated and so lacking in transparency that the Government has had it since last December, released it in February, which means they’ve almost had ten months to examine it, review it and respond to it. And yet the Government still hasn’t responded to it. The Gonski model, if you speak to people in the school sector, is even more complicated and complex than the current model. The current model is the simplest model that’s been devised in spending by the Commonwealth in schools since the Second World War.

Journalist: Are you saying Mr Gonski didn’t do a very good job?

Pyne: I think Mr Gonski, in his attempt to please all people in the school sector and the Govenrment in particular, has devised a model which is unworkable, complex, grotesquely expensive considering the budget situation the Government has found itself in and would leave 3254 schools worse off if that model was implemented. And the Government hasn’t yet ruled out leaving schools worse off. In fact, Peter Garret yesterday in the media backed away from the Prime Minister’s speech to the ISCA Conference saying he couldn’t guarantee that schools wouldn’t be worse off after the Government finally responds to the Gonski Review.

Journalist: Tony Abbott said yesterday that it was an injustice in funding to private schools. Will you correct that injustice if you win the next election?

Pyne: What Tony Abbott was referring to, quite correctly, was that 80 per cent of all government funding - State and Federal - goes to public schools and they educate 66 per cent of students. And 20 per cent of funding goes to non-government schools who educate 34 per cent of students. He was trying to address the myth that is created by the Left in this country that somehow public schools are short-changed by government when they simply are not short-changed by government.

Journalist: Wayne Swan says there is a link between the Liberal Party and some of the stories we’ve been hearing lately about Julia Gillard’s time at Slater and Gordon. Your reaction?

Pyne: Well look if the Prime Minister feels she has been misrepresented by the stories that have been appearing about her time at Slater and Gordon there is a mechanism in the Parliament for her to take a personal explanation to correct those misrepresentations and the Coalition would welcome her taking that opportunity if she chooses to take it. But the truth is that Robert McClelland first raised these issues in the House of Representatives and the Coalition has never raised them.

Journalist: So the Coalition has no link with some of the stories we’ve been hearing?

Pyne: I’m not aware of any link at all, in fact Robert McClelland was the first person to raise this issue in the Parliament and the Prime Minister should stop trying to distract people to the Coalition and in fact focus on perhaps concerns in her own side about these allegations that have been raised.

Journalist: You could have asked her the question in Question Time today. Why didn’t you?

Pyne: Well this is a matter properly dealt with by Slater and Gordon; by Paul Howes who has a request in front of him to release the files that Slater and Gordon appear to want to release, by the media. And the Coalition is going about its job of highlighting in Question Time and elsewhere when we get the opportunity to that Australians are very concerned about cost of living pressures made that much worse by a carbon tax that is massively increasing electricity prices.

Journalist: But there wasn’t room for just one question this week on that subject?

Pyne: Well I manage tactics and strategy in Question Time and I think the better questions to be asking are examples from ordinary Australians about the enormous pressure they are feeling because of the carbon tax. Whether that’s small businesses like the Lakes Entrance Fisherman’s Cooperative, whether its individuals like Ben Turner who runs a small business, whether its larger businesses like Tey’s Meatworks. I think these are the concerns that I want to be see raised in Question Time and I think they are very effective because the Prime Minister simply refuses to answer them but the Australian people will have their opportunity to cast judgment on her at the next election.