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Transcript of interview with Julie Doyle: ABC News: 10 October 2017: climate change; funding for disabled students; schools' funding

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SUBJECT: Climate change; Funding for disabled students; Schools’ funding.

JULIE DOYLE, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, thanks for coming in today. I want to talk to you about issues in your portfolio, but just firstly, this speech that Tony Abbott has made overnight on climate change, where he said "it's climate change policy that's doing harm, climate change itself is probably doing good, or at least more good than harm." And then he went on to say "far more people die in cold snaps than in heatwaves, so a gradual lift in global temperatures might even be beneficial." What did you think when you heard about those comments?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well I think Tony Abbott has gone from just destructive to quite loopy. And you don't need to look far to see the devastating effects of the early evidence of climate change, you only need to look in our Pacific neighbourhood to see people who are able to point out into the ocean to show where their houses used to be as the sea encroaches on them. I've been to Kiribati, I've been to places throughout the Pacific where that is very obviously an issue. You don't need to look at the extreme weather events that we've seen in recent months around the world to see how devastating the impact of climate change is already, and will be in the future. But the problem is not so much that Tony Abbott has loopy ideas about climate change, the problem is that he's actually running government policy. And the fact that Tony Abbott is also announcing that the Government has given up on a Clean Energy Target in this same speech is the part that really troubles me.

DOYLE: Let's move on now to an area in your portfolio of the education area. We're talking about some concerns that have been raised today about funding for students with a disability. The education union has released some department figures showing a

big increase next year in funding for students with disability at independent schools in Victoria. Why is that concerning? Doesn't it just show that there's a need there and that's why they're getting that extra funding?

PLIBERSEK: The first thing that is of real concern here is that this information has to be prised out of the Government with Freedom of Information requests. The website that the Government came up with immediately after their new proposals for cutting $17 billion from schools, changing the funding arrangements - that website was up for a matter of days before it was taken down months ago, and nothing has replaced it. So to get any information we're having to go through these Freedom of Information requests and what this information shows, that's just been released, is that public schools, that education the vast majority of children with a disability, will lose billions of dollars in coming years. Catholic systemic schools also will lose billions of dollars. But some very elite private schools will receive multi-million dollar increases.

DOYLE: But on these disability funding figures though, they show that for public schools they will continue to receive more than the independent schools, so what's the concern about the figures relating to independent schools?

PLIBERSEK: Well they just don't reflect our experience or understanding about where the majority of children with a disability are being educated. The vast majority of kids with a disability are being educated in the public system and, to a degree, in the Catholic systemic system. They're not being -

DOYLE: And they'll get more than independent schools, according to these figures, over the decade.

PLIBERSEK: And we're seeing schools, that are already very wealthy schools, that traditionally haven't shown up in the disability statistics suddenly seeing very sharp increases. I mean, it's up to the Government to explain why the school systems that teach the majority of children with disabilities will receive multi-billion dollar cuts, and some very elite schools that haven't traditionally educated substantial numbers of kids with a disability will get multi-million dollar increases. It's -

DOYLE: What's the accusation that you're making then, as far as the independent schools -

PLIBERSEK: I'm not making any accusation. These are figures that show very dramatic changes and State by State anomalies. It's up to the Government to explain why the systems that teach the majority of children with disabilities are seeing cuts and some elite private schools are seeing very substantial increases. Maybe the Government can explain that.

DOYLE: On these independent school figures in Victoria that have caused some concern from the union and the Catholic sector, it does show that independent schools get a big boost next year - their funding for students with disabilities will double, but

funding for government schools is growing over next year and beyond and for the Catholic sector it dips for one year and then it grows. So what is the concern particularly about these figures?


LIBERSEK: None of these numbers add up. We know where the majority of kids with a disability are being educated and it's not in elite private schools. With the disability numbers we've seen -

DOYLE: So do you think the figures they're putting forward are dodgy then?

PLIBERSEK: Well I can't explain them. Maybe the Government can explain them. What we've seen is a doubling of the number of students with a disability - identified with a disability - and a funding increase of just 3 per cent. So you've got a 100 per cent increase in the number of students with a disability, a 3 per cent funding increase, and these anomalies where public schools, that educate the majority of children with a disability, lose billions of dollars and some elite private schools get multi-million dollar increases. It's up to the Government to explain why their formula delivers this. We have been saying all along that this formula is not fair. The fact that 85 per cent of public schools will never reach a fair funding level is not fair. The fact that school systems like the Northern Territory and Tasmania are the hardest hit, again not fair. The fact that Catholic systemic schools lose billions of dollars over the next decade, not fair. And we continue to see report after report showing that some very wealthy schools receive multi-million dollar increases - perhaps the Government can explain why their new fo

rmula is delivering this.

DOYLE: Alright. Tanya Plibersek, we'll leave it there. Thank you so much for your time.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks Julie.