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Transcript of interview: FIVEaa Breakfast: 3 August 2016: Kevin Rudd; NAPLAN results; school funding; Senate results

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Subjects: Kevin Rudd, NAPLAN results, school funding, Senate results

PRESENTER: We're joined by Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese with a full platter of topics to debate this morning. Albo, good morning.

ALBANESE: Good morning from Darwin.

PRESENTER: Sunny Darwin, are you escaping the cold, mate?

ALBANESE: I'm flying to Perth today so probably not as warm there as it is here.

PRESENTER: Christopher Pyne, good morning.

PYNE: Morning. He's still campaigning for the leadership.

ALBANESE: Give it a rest.

PYNE: He's on the campaign trail.

PRESENTER: There's a lot more Labor MPs for him to glad hand in Western Australia now, Chris.

PYNE: I know - he's very busy.

ALBANESE: And in the Northern Territory I must say.

PRESENTER: I want to kick off with you if we can Chris. This whole Kevin Rudd imbroglio - the decision of Cabinet to break with what's sort of regarded as tradition by not supporting the Australian candidate for the UN role. What do you think of the assessment by some that this is a sign of the pettiness that now mars federal politics in

this country?

PYNE: I think the best way to describe it is that if you're asked to write a reference for someone, especially these days, you have to write a reference based on the truth. You have to be prepared to properly put down in writing what you think of somebody who's asked you for a reference. And if you don't think they're a suitable person for a job, then you don't write a reference for them. And if you do, you can actually get into trouble these days. And with Kevin Rudd, the view of the Government is that he wasn't a suitable person to be the Secretary-General of the United Nations, largely informed in fact by the revelations about his character and his performance from the Labor Party when he was in Government.

PRESENTER: Do you think Albo, is that a fair assessment? Because given all the stuff that's on the public record; comments from Peter Garrett, comments from Wayne Swan, comments from Tony Burke, Kristina Keneally on Sky a couple of weeks ago, labelling Kevin Rudd one of the greatest psychopaths ever to have entered Australian politics. Labor really created the dossier that stopped Kevin Rudd from getting the job, didn't it?

ALBANESE: Well that is a nonsense argument. I'm a referee for a former Coalition Government minister at the moment for a job. I spoke to their potential employer yesterday, because I think that when people leave the Parliament they shouldn't be excluded from future employment. I mean, we're not going to have Cory Bernadi's assessment of Christopher Pyne define Christopher Pyne's character. That's the truth. And in politics from time to time, people who do things create enemies.

PRESENTER: But the stuff with Kevin was unique though, wasn't it?

ALBANESE: No. The fact is that Kevin Rudd is a former Prime Minister, a former Foreign Minister, a former diplomat. I've seen Kevin Rudd at the first G20 in London and he was a key player in negotiating between the US, Europe and China at a time where we had the Global Financial Crisis. It was up to Australia to nominate him and then Australia wasn't making the decision over whether he got the job or not, that would just have enabled him to be one of 13 nominees at this stage, potentially even more. This is petty, vindictive, it's small. I think it diminishes our nation.

PRESENTER: Have you spoken to him in the last few days, Albo? I know you are one of the few people in the Labor Party who stuck by Kevin Rudd all the way through. Whether people like him or not, you'd have to say, like the 2010 leadership coup, what happened this week was effectively a plebiscite on the man's personality? How is he coping with that? Have you spoken to him?

ALBANESE: I have spoken to him and it's very difficult. He was led to believe he would get the support of Malcolm Turnbull; he did have the support of Julie Bishop. We know from the leaks to the Cabinet that he had the support of the majority of the Cabinet. I'd be very surprised frankly if someone like Christopher Pyne didn't say that it was a good appointment. I went out there and supported Joe Hockey's appointment, for example, as Ambassador to the US. Many people in the Labor Party bagged me for that. There's much criticism of Joe Hockey's performance as Treasurer, but do I think he is capable of doing that job? Yes I do. And I think that we've got to rise above this sort of nonsense. And I thought it was a very small minded approach from a Prime Minister

who has shrunk in the office.

PRESENTER: Christopher Pyne, can we turn our attention to education for just a moment. Your South Australian colleague, and Education Minister, Simon Birmingham has put out the NAPLAN results this morning. And in the media he has put out, he's released an interesting chart to look at the change in NAPLAN scores in Australia and the various states as a break down to over the course over the last three or four years and contrasts that rather modest increase or decrease in some places against the increase in Commonwealth funding over the corresponding period. So it works out to a 24 per cent increase in funding at the same time as in his words, 'NAPLAN results have plateaued'.

But in reading the detail of what Mr Birmingham is saying this morning, he's also renewing his commitment to increasing funding from what he describes as a record $16 billion this year to $20 billion by 2020, which would be another 24 per cent. So at the same time as making the comment that increased funding has not led to increased NAPLAN results, he's recommitted to increasing funding by the same amount again. How is that justifiable if we're not getting bang for buck?

PYNE: Well we are committed to record spending in school education from the Commonwealth Government over the next four years as we have been over the last two years and I think that is largely a bipartisan position because we do want to make sure our schools are properly resourced. We also don't want to confuse extra spending with being the only solution to not excellent school outcomes. That's why when I was the Minister for Education, and Simon is continuing the Government’s agenda. We need to improve the quality of teaching. We need to engage parents more with their children's education. We need more school autonomy, because in those jurisdictions where there is more school autonomy -

PRESENTER: But does it surprise you that you've increased funding by 24 per cent over a four year period and not seen an improvement in NAPLAN results?

PYNE: Well to put it around the other way, if we didn't increase school funding, or if we cut school funding, you'd be saying it was an absolute outrage that the Government was cutting or not increasing school funding. So we can't have it both ways. We do have to properly fund our schools but we also have to focus on the things that really matter and they are the curriculum, the quality of the teaching, the engagement of parents, and the autonomy of public schools. Because in those jurisdictions with more autonomy they are getting better results. Now, we've changed the curriculum and we're working on parent involvement and we have to keep working on teacher quality because the number one items in all the studies that show a good outcome for students is the quality of teaching, and I think that's where we need to be putting our resources and our efforts.

PRESENTER: Does it give you pause Albo, given that the Labor Party federally campaigned strongly on its commitment to the Gonski reforms and increases of funding that are key in that policy, that perhaps the correlation between funding and performance isn't as strong as has been historically made out?

ALBANESE: No, not at all. What it does is show that you can't expect instantaneous results. The results will flow through as a result of the increased funding that happened in terms of Gonski. There's some evidence from the report, my understanding is that

those schools who have benefitted most from Gonski have had the best improvement in terms of the basic testing and that wouldn't surprise given the evidence has been anecdotally from schools in disadvantaged areas who are saying to me that they've had a great deal of benefit. Even within my electorate there's a big disparity from the wealthiest schools down to those who are most in need and that sort of special assistance so that no child gets left behind is absolutely critical. The idea that funding doesn't matter is a bizarre excuse for governments to not properly fund and I refer to not just someone in the Labor Party but the NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli who has made some very strong comments this morning about the need for the Gonski reforms and about the success that has happened in NSW schools which is obviously the area that I'm most familiar with, but this is from a Coalition Government minister who I think has been very principled in the way that he's dealt with these matters.

PRESENTER: Now guys, we got the Senate results here in South Australia yesterday and after eight o'clock this morning we spoke to Skye Kokoschke-Moore who was one of the three Xenophon senators who were elected on July the second. To you Chris, the whole point of calling a double dissolution and changing the voting laws to freeze out the micro parties was so that you could get some semblance of sense operating in the upper house. It hasn't exactly been a roaring success, has it?

PYNE: The purpose of changing the voting laws was so that people would genuinely get elected because they got the vote as opposed to winning a lottery because they gamed the system and that has been achieved. So every Senator, whether they're major parties or whether they're minor parties or independents have now been elected because they actually got the requisite votes from the public. So democracy has been respected, whereas under the previous system, people could win elections simply because they had gamed the system with registered How-To-Vote cards.

PRESENTER: That's right with the laws, though but the double dissolution, the thinking behind that was that you guys could get control of the Senate. Now we've got Hanson candidates, we've got Hinch; we've got three Xenophon candidates.

PYNE: That's not right. We never expected to get control of the Senate. The last government to have control of the Senate was the Howard Government in 2004-2007. It's very rare for that to be the case in the last thirty years or so of Australian politics. You could argue that Labor sometimes has control with the Greens but the purpose of the double dissolution was to pass the legislation, the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and the Registered Organisations Commission Bill, in a joint sitting of Parliament because Labor has blocked them twice because of their support for the CFMEU. Now, we will still have the chance to do that with this Senate and the House of Representatives in the coming months that are ahead. So on both of those counts, David, with great respect to you; you're not actually right, about either. Very rare.

PRESENTER: Hey, what do you think Albo? Surely the Libs expected a better result than the one they got upstairs.

ALBANESE: Of course they did. They've had a shocker. The idea of a Double-D election was put forward because they were going to control the Senate, that was the idea, that was the rort they were engaged in with the Greens where they did this deal. Of course, it's backfired. The Greens have fewer Senators now than they had before.

The Coalition has fewer Senators now than they had before and we've seen not just people like Derryn Hinch elected but Pauline Hanson has been revived. Pauline Hanson has been banished from the political system. She's been running and running and running for NSW seats, QLD seats, federal seats unsuccessfully and as a result of a halving of the quota what we've seen now is that Pauline Hanson will have not just herself but at least one other in the Senate. We've seen Nick Xenophon gain three Senators. We've seen various independents, Family First. There will be a larger crossbench in this Parliament than there was in the last.

PYNE: And that's perfectly fine, because that's what the Australian public voted for. Now, you can't complain about the Australian public expressing their will and getting the outcome they wanted.

ALBANESE: The Senate is designed to elect people, to elect half the number at each election. That's what it's designed to do. When you halve the quota, you change the outcome, and that's what's happened here.

PRESENTER: To quote John Howard, he famously said, regardless of the result, the public always gets it right, so I guess a take it on the chin message from that is clear. Anthony Albanese and Christopher Pyne, always great to catch up with you, we'll do it again next week. Thanks for joining us for Two Tribes today.