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Transcript of joint press conference: Melbourne: 24 August 2012: Schools funding; Slater & Gordon; Reserve Bank of Australia; Skills development; Aid budget; National Disability Insurance Scheme

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Subjects: Schools funding; Slater & Gordon; Reserve Bank of Australia; Skills development; Aid budget; National Disability Insurance Scheme

PM: I am delighted to be here in Melbourne Braybrook College with the Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett.

I can see a number of the students who have come round with us today as we’ve been on this great school visit. So thank you very much to you, students, for making us feel so welcome.

Thank you too, to Geraldine who’s been in this school for 36 years, serving as the school principal. She’s made us very welcome as well.

Peter and I have come to this great school today to talk about our plan for school improvement.

Right around the country we want to make sure every kid is studying in a school that’s a great school.

We’ve been doing a lot of work on that including doubling the amount of money in school education - really focusing on literacy and numeracy, providing better support for disadvantaged schools, focusing on teacher quality, empowering school principals, making sure everybody’s got the information through my school and the list goes on.

But as Prime Minister, I am determined we will do more to improve Australian school.

There’s nothing more important to the future life of our nation than what’s happening in Australian schools today. It will define our future economy; it will define our strength as a nation.

That’s why we want to make sure we are properly resourcing schools and seeing them improve. We are working on the independent review we commissioned into school funding. It’s a special opportunity given this is the first review in forty years of school funding.

But we want to make sure that this opportunity is one more we seize to improve school standards as well. So we’re doing better for every child in every school including this school here in Melbourne’s west.

I’ll turn now the Minister for School Education for some comments; including maybe about the band!

MINISTER GARRETT: Thank you Prime Minister and thank you to the students at Braybrook College for the warm welcome they’ve given to the Prime Minister and myself and also to show us what they’re doing in the school in terms of their learning, particularly we were so pleased to see the way in which this new science centre is being utilised by their students and also with the principal Geraldine, to see the way in which the school in continuing to focus on lifting its performance.

This is a school which has been the beneficiary of the considerable investments that this Government has placed in education.

Both through the socioeconomic partnerships, the special partnerships that we’d had underway through Building the Education Revolution and also some fantastic teaching that’s going on the school and I heard that when the band were playing as we came in.

What’s crucial now is that we build on that foundation of investment on policy reform by making sure that school improvement lies at the heart of the education journey this nation is on that is being driven by the view that we have for our future and for kids and their schools to have the best education possible.

I can’t say to you how disappointing it is that the Opposition had chosen to go into a default position on education funding and deny the opportunity for the school sectors in this country to be able to take up an to pursue these reforms and the fact that Mr Abbott on Monday said that he thought it was an injustice that Government schools would receive funding and that neither he nor Mr Pyne have clearly read nor taken any interest in the Gonski panel review findings is a staggering indictment of their negativity and hostility to genuine education reform.

And what we’re seeing in this school is a school that has benefited from the delivery in investments and support that we’ve made as a Government working in partnership, which is of course what we want to do in the future as well, so thanks very much to those students at Braybrook College for their warm welcome. It’s been a terrific visit, we look forward to visiting more schools in the future.

PM: Thank you, so we’re happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the Opposition have again said that there are more questions they need to hear from you in regards to what happened at Slater & Gordon. What are your thoughts on that today?

PM: How pathetic is this? I’ve been in Question Time four days this week, I’ve taken dozens of questions from the Opposition and not one about this matter.

When the Leader of the Opposition’s been asked time and time again can he think of a question for me, he’s been unable to do so.

So this is just a pathetic attempt from the Opposition that had the opportunity to ask questions and didn’t use it.

JOURNALIST: Does Glenn Stevens still have your full support in light of revelations that some people at the RBA in senior positions might have known about bribery allegations in 2007?

PM: The Reserve Bank Governor most certainly does have my full support. He is doing a fantastic job as the Reserve Bank Governor, and he today has been before a parliamentary committee explaining the strength of the Australian economy.

And he’s been very, very clear about how strong our economy is. He’s laid down a challenge to those who continue to talk our economy down. Here is the man who leads our Reserve Bank, saying our economy is strong. I believe of course our economy is strong.

Every indicator tells us about the strength of our economy. We should, as a nation, be proud of our economy because ewe built it together. The naysayers, the doomsayers need to stop talking our nation’s economy down.

Glenn Stevens himself was making a point about the damage the naysayers and doomsayers do to the Australian economy, the damage people do when they keep talking our economy down.

JOURNALIST: When did Glenn Stevens first raise these issues with the Government?

PM: The Treasurer’s dealt with this all very comprehensively.

JOURNALIST: Blackrock Primary School has banned all balls from the playground. What do you think of that, your reaction?

PM: Banned all balls from the playground? Well I’m a bit surprised to hear that. I would have thought it’s pretty commonplace for kids to want to engage in a bit of play with a bat and ball at recess and lunchtime.

JOURNALIST: First of all there was the school that banned the high-five, and now there’s no balls. Is it ridiculous?

PM: Individual schools are going to make their own decisions and parents and communities will make it very clear what they think about those decisions and whether or not they’ve got them right.

My view, as Prime Minister, is my job is to worry about kids’ education in every school and the quality of it. I mean we can’t win the economic race of the future if we don’t win the education race, and that’s why we’re here today talking about school improvement.

JOURNALIST: On that education outcome, what’s the Government doing trying to encourage lots of young school leavers to get back into education? There was a

University of Melbourne study today supporting coercing them back in with tough measures.

PM: We are the Government that has increased university places - 150,000 more places.

We’re the government that’s invested in skills development for the future.

That means we’re seeing more traineeships, more apprenticeships than ever before. We’ve doubled the amount of funding going into school education. We’ve invested in early childhood.

We understand that there’s a group of kids who drift away from school, and they’re at risk of a life of disadvantage unless we can get them back to the schooling system.

So we do work on what we call youth transitions and we do work to get kids back into schooling or training if they’ve drifted away.

Much of that work’s done in partnership with some great not-for-profit organisations that have made it their mission to reach out to these young people.

It’s tremendously important work - all of the studies show you that if in today’s economy you leave school early, you end up kicking around for a few years unemployed, you are on a path to a lifetime of disadvantage unless we’re able to get that young person and get them the skills they need for life and work.

JOURNALIST: Ita Buttrose said this morning that people like yourself and Gina Rinehart, in positions of power, are criticised because of sexism. Would you agree with that?

PM: I dealt yesterday with what I described as a vile and sexist campaign on the internet, so I think I’ve made my views pretty clear.

JOURNALIST: The intruder at the media conference yesterday, now you’ve heard a bit about how it happened, what are your thoughts about that? Should there be more security at Parliament House?

PM: I don’t comment on security matters. I wasn’t alarmed in any way by the young man handing me a document and obviously it will be properly investigated and any changes security people think are necessary as a result will be made.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it’s acceptable that Australia’s aid budget goes towards setting up offshore processing, or at least moving buildings around or creating new buildings with the aid budget?

PM: I don’t quite understand your question, I’d have to say. We do use our overseas aid budget for capacity-building, for assisting the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Yes I think that’s appropriate.

JOURNALIST: Will it go towards setting up offshore processing centres, or moving, say education facilities that are currently in those centres to other areas?

PM: We will make appropriate provision for the creation of the processing centres on Nauru and PNG, but what our aid budget goes for is very specifically defined and internationally defined.

We work under rules that are known and that the international community works under, and our aid budget goes to things that assist development in countries that we want to see move from poverty to greater wealth.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, good sharp questioning there from Ryan Higginson about school funding. Can you appreciate that where Ryan sits in Braybrook College in the education debate, there is a certain degree of incredulity that a Labor Government will spend the next 12 months defending the current level of funding at very wealthy independent schools?

PM: I was happy to take Ryan’s question, very happy to take it. But let’s be clear about our mission and our purpose here.

It’s about every child and every school. I went to a state school. I went to Unley High, I went to Mitcham Primary, I went to Mitcham Infants’ School.

My schooling was entirely in public education, so I know what a difference a great public education can make to your life’s prospects and life’s chances.

I wouldn’t be standing here if I hadn’t gone to some great state schools, and that’s back in the days where you didn’t have choice, it was back in the days where it was zoned, where you went for your education depended entirely on the streets you lived in and you went to the local school and I did.

So I understand the power of a great state school, but I also understand that kids go to schools in all sorts of different circumstances, and whatever school they go to, I want them to have a great education.

Whatever background they come from, no matter how poor or how humble, I want them to have a great education. That’s what our reforms will be about.

JOURNALIST: How confident are you working with the state government to deliver the (inaudible) reforms?

PM: I am very dismayed by the approach that the Liberal Government in Victoria has taken to the funding of TAFE. We’re seeing huge cuts - $300 million taken out of TAFE.

We’re seeing the best part of $50 million hacked out of the support for schools to kids who want a vocational education path.

This is bad news for the Victorian economy for the long term. It’s bad news for the individuals who are bearing the brunt of those cutbacks. The Victorian Liberal Government has got this entirely wrong.

But, we do know that it’s the Liberal approach to be there cutting back education, cutting back the services families rely on, and we certainly know at the end of the sitting week that we have just had, that Mr Abbott’s approach should he ever be Prime Minister would be to cut back funding to Australian schools.

JOURNALIST: Just on the NDIS, will the NDIS agency be based in Geelong?

PM: We’ve talked about the National Disability Insurance Scheme here - I’m very proud there’s a launch site here; not in a position to deal with the location of the agency today.

Thank you very much.