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Transcript of doorstop interview: Perth: 26 July 2013: Better Schools Plan; DisabilityCare Australia; Health investments; Infrastructure investments; NBN; Regional Resettlement Arrangement; Economy.

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Subjects: Better Schools Plan; DisabilityCare Australia; Health investments; Infrastructure investments; NBN; Regional Resettlement Arrangement; Economy.

PM: Well it’s great to be here with John Bissett who is our candidate for Swan, and here we are at St Norbet’s College.

John has a great background: he’s worked as a motor mechanic apprentice way back when. He furthered his studies at TAFE and John Curtin University, spent time in the Army Reserve’s 16th Battalion. You served as a Councillor for 23 years mate - that’s a serious effort - and apparently Deputy Mayor of the town of Victoria Park.

So here you’ve got a candidate for the Australian Labor Party in this part of Perth who has very strong credentials in the practical business of Government, and there’s nothing more practical than working in Local Government.

Here at this College, but here in this wider community, the Government has a strong record of achievement.

Here in the community, represented in the Federal division of Swan, we’ve been investing more than $106 million in 31 new classrooms, 14 new libraries, 11 new multi-purpose facilities, a new language centre - I think this is the one we’re in at the moment here at St Norbet’s.

On top of that we’ve been investing in 5,000 new computers just in the schools - the secondary schools - in this community. And the Principal told me before that all the computers - the lap tops - that are used here at St Norbet’s are a product of the investment by the Australian Government in this school.

We’ve also - across the electorate of Swan - invested nearly $20 million in six new trade training centres; I think one is here at this College as well. And these support some nine schools - secondary schools - in this area.

We’ve also been active in our investments in local health and hospitals.

We’ve got a share of a $52 million investment in the Bentley Hospital, with 18 rehabilitation beds.

And we’ve been investing in the local Medicare Local, the Bentley Armidale Medicare Local, which has been a strong investment, part of a nationwide set of investments by us to improve local primary health care in the community.

On DisabilityCare I think it’s important to note that once DisabilityCare Australia is fully up and running we’re going to have about 2,700 people, we estimate, in this community of Swan, who would be supported by that when it’s fully up and running.

School Kids Bonus - very important for cost of living - we’ve got about 6,000 families receiving the School Kid’s Bonus in this community.

Paid Parental Leave: 2,200 local parents who are benefitting from this Government’s initiative.

And also, we’ve been actively involved in the investment in local infrastructure.

In the roads, we have a $224 million investment in the Great Eastern Highway upgrade which I’m told is a done project. Then we have a massive investment also in the Gateway WA Perth Airport and Freight Access Road which is underway. So these are big investments.

The last investment I’d like to refer to is what we’re doing with the National Broadband Network.

NBN fibre services have been switched on for over 1,600 homes and businesses in Victoria Park. And then, across that - in addition to that - by November of this year we will have commenced construction on another 7,000 homes and businesses in the suburbs of Beckenham, Bentley, Cannington, Ferndale, Langford, Lynnwood, Queens Park, St James, Welshpool and Wilson. Have I mispronounced any of those? Well done. Always good to ask.

Finally, here at St Norbet’s let me just say a thing or two about the Better Schools Plan.

I mentioned how we’ve invested in the needs of local schools: language centres, computers, and new school libraries.

What I am really here in Perth to do is sit down with Premier Colin Barnett to talk about the future of the Better Schools plan. And whether we can get WA, also, to sign on to the DisabilityCare Australia agreement as well.

For the Better Schools Plan, the bottom line is this: with WA’s 1,100 schools, if we reach an agreement they would stand to benefit from around $920 million extra funding over 6 years - $590 million would come from us, the Australian Government, $330 million from the WA Government.

And that would mean an increase per school over WA of just under $1 million each over 6 years.

Here at St Norbet’s you would see a funding increase of almost $7 million over the next 6 years: an increase of about 31.6 per cent per student.

That’s all about enabling schools to have the extra resources necessary for their Principals to work out which kid actually needs a bit of one-on-one attention if they’re falling behind; which kid actually needs some one-on-one attention if they’re doing

super well and actually need to be challenged further; as well as having school improvement plans for the entire school community.

Which are then subject to public measurement through NAPLAN and an expanded NAPLAN-type assessment so that everyone knows that the school is seeking to improve in the following areas and have confidence that this extra investment is producing a better education outcomes for everybody.

And that would mean a whole lot here in this community as well.

My final point is simply this: I would appeal to Premier Colin Barnett to hop on board with the rest of the country because we have no interest at all in running WA schools. These things are always best done at the local level.

What we do have an interest in, however, is securing an agreement which would result in a further injection of nearly $600 million of Federal funding over the next 6 years into WA schools, whether they are Catholic, whether they are independent, or whether they are State.

And that’s what I think is really important for the future.

REPORTER: An agreement on Better Schools funding seems far, far away.

The Premier’s comments this morning was he sees no value in having State Public schools having to report to Canberra. He also made the claim that States that are currently signed up were pressured into doing so, and in the situation of Victoria who may or may not sign up later today, they would have been bullied into it if they signed up.

Now is that the case? And from those comments it seems you have little chance of getting WA on board.

PM: I think it’s really important for Colin to separate out political rhetoric from the bottom line here, which is that we stand ready to invest nearly another $600 million in WA schools. That’s what’s really important.

On his substantive point about reporting to Canberra, that’s just nonsense. That’s just nonsense. Schools are run locally.

What we simply have done with the other states is agree on a line of sight for the extra money we put into schools so that school improvement plans can be developed and then measured over time so that you get better education outcomes for each kid. It’s actually a co-investment.

So I’d say to Colin: it’s really important for him to have another think about whether WA schools will benefit from $600 million which you would otherwise be saying goodbye to.

On his final point about the Vic’s and the other states, food goodness sake, you know. You sit down, you talk with Premiers, you say are you interested in this or are you not.

Bill Shorten the Education Minister has been debating this quite a lot with his State counterparts. And remember, through the process of discussion, he’s reached agreement with the Catholic system nation-wide, he’s reached agreement with the Independent School system nation-wide, the State of New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania.

I think they believe they’re actually getting a good outcome for them and this would be a great outcome for the West as well.

REPORTER: Prime Minister, in relation to asylum seekers, there has been some reports that Sir Michael Somare says he’s not happy with the PNG plan, and also there are some reports that Indonesia is not very happy about the PNG plan as well because they were not consulted. Is that incorrect?

PM: Well the first thing I would say is that we make no apology for our position on asylum seekers, which is that we are saying very clearly, to any people smuggler, that if you try and bring someone to Australia by boat they will not be settled in this country.

Second point I would make is: that is the only credible response to the people smugglers if you want to maintain Australia’s border security and if you want to stop not hundreds but thousands of people drowning in the future.

As for our negotiations with other Governments, we have worked very closely with the Government of Papua New Guinea over a month now in working these details through, both during my meetings with Prime Minister O’Neill in Australia, in Port Moresby, subsequently in Australia again, and with multiple Ministers.

And as for Indonesia, we have worked very closely with the Indonesian Government on the work that will result in the regional conference on people smuggling which will be held in Indonesia I think on the 20th of August.

I’ll just make one other point: that’s our policy. It’s clear cut. There will always be bumps in the road, but that’s the direction we’re taking the country. It’s the right approach.

The contrast is this: what we have now is Mr Abbott showing he cannot work with either Indonesia or Papua New Guinea. And you’ve seen the most extraordinary statements recently by the High Commissioner of Papua New Guinea about all of that.

And on top of that, we have Mr Abbott’s most recent ‘Operation Whatever’, ‘Operation Whatevs’, you know, which the Defence experts across Australia have said is just a three-word slogan which doesn’t work. And in fact it’s worse than that.

So there’s our policy direction, that’s his alternative, and it’ll be a matter for the Australian people to sort out what works. And as for our collaborative relationship with PNG and Indonesia, they’re very close.

I spoke to the President of Indonesia just yesterday about all these matters and will continue to collaborate on a regional framework to make this work for the nation. It’s not easy, it’s hard.

REPORTER: What about the UNHCR’s criticism? I mean, they say that they’re troubled by the PNG Solution?

PM: Yeah, I think I said in Port Moresby the other day after they had done an earlier report on Manus, that we had received the report, we’d noted on it, and together with PNG we would seek to take all the appropriate steps to lift the standards that are currently applying in Manus.

I think that’s the right thing to do. This takes a bit of time, and we’re going to take our time to do it, and make sure we do it thoroughly.

And, similarly, I think Minister Burke has responded to the most recent statement by the UNHCR.

I draw your attention his comments - because of where I’ve been I haven’t actually seen the statement from the UNHCR - but I’m sure Minister Burke has answered that this morning.

REPORTER: Mr Rudd, how long until the education deal is off the table for WA?

PM: We’ve said all along - I spoke to Premier Barnett about this on the phone not long after becoming Prime Minister, so that was several weeks ago now, and I spoke to all Premiers about the need to discuss this through - I know our officials have been talking and certainly I want to continue that conversation with him when we meet later today.

But as both Bill Shorten and I said a couple of weeks ago, we’ve extended this a couple of times already and I think time’s kind of running out.

And I’d just say to Colin, who I know very well and I’ve done a lot of cooperative deals with over the years - that big inner city rail cover project in the middle of town, whether it’s investments there, the road systems that I’ve talked about, our huge funding into the Ord Stage II, we’ve got a big record of working with the WA Government - I would actually urge him to reconsider his position on the Better Schools Plan and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

I think that’s going to be really good for the people of Western Australia and I don’t think we should let politics get in the road.

REPORTER: Did you or your Government provide Jakarta with details of the PNG asylum plan before it was announced on Friday?

PM: You know, we have multiple diplomatic channels with all of our friends and partners in the region and I’m sure our Embassy and our Foreign Minister, who’s in semi-daily contact with Marty Natalegawa, would have attended to all the necessary communications with regional Governments.

I just go back to what I said before: we are developing regional cooperative arrangements to deal with the real problem of people smuggling.

We have a clear cut policy which says that if you’re a people smuggler and you’re going to try and get a person to Australia by boat, that your business model is over because that person will never settle in Australia.

The alternative is a cocktail of three-word slogans, as I said ‘Operation Whatever’, plus extraordinary statements by Government spokesmen from Papua New Guinea and elsewhere which really cause us to question whether Mr Abbott - cause us to question - whether Mr Abbott is fit to handle complex questions of national security, let alone complex questions on the national economy.

And I’ll just conclude on this: on the economy we’ve also had Mr Abbott’s Finance Spokesman say yesterday that the global credit ratings agencies don’t matter, his Treasury Spokesman saying today that they don’t intend to adhere to the same standards I had to adhere to in 2007, laid out by Mr Howard and Mr Costello back then, about proper scrutiny of their $70 billion black hole - that’s what they’ve said themselves.

So on these big questions of national security, big questions of national economic and Budget management, I think people are beginning to scratch their heads as to whether, in fact, Mr Abbott’s up to the job.