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Transcript of press conference: Queensland: 8 September 2008: Digital Education Revolution; age pension; Henry Review; recruiting non-teaching graduates; Western Australian election.



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The Hon Julia Gillard MP

Minister for Education. Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations

Minister for Social Inclusion. Deputy Prime Minister

08 September, 2008

Transcript

Queensland Press Conference

Digital Education Revolution, Age Pension, Henry Review, recruiting non-teaching graduates, Western Australian election

JULIA GILLARD: Well, it’s a great pleasure to be in Queensland today and particularly today to be here at John Paul College to launch a major conference on digital education. The Rudd Labor Government is committed to an Education Revolution. We want every student around Australia to have the benefits of a world-class education. We want people to have a 21st century education. And in order for our students to have a 21st century education, the Rudd Labor Government is committed to a Digital Education Revolution to ensuring that every student, Years 9-12, has access to a computer to learn with.

This is a school that started its own digital education revolution more than a decade and a half ago. It’s a world leader and today it’s sharing its knowledge with other schools who have come here to learn. We want every school to be able to offer this kind of quality digital education, one where computers are integrated into every part of the learning experience. And the evidence from around the world shows that through using information and communications technology properly, we can better engage students, we can better teach them and we can get better outcomes.

There’s no false divide here between time on the computer and time learning other skills. The best use of computers is integrated into every part of the curriculum and makes a difference to student outcomes, whether it’s in reading, writing, numeracy, or any other part of the curriculum.

It’s been a great pleasure to be here today to see what our Digital Education Revolution can achieve around this country. Of course, our Digital Education Revolution is about the hardware because schools so vitally need those computers. But it’s also about the professional support for teachers to integrate computers in their teaching practice and new resources for online curriculum so there are materials available for teachers and students to use. And part of our Digital Education Revolution is to make sure schools have access to high quality fast broadband, with fibre brought to schools so that they can get broadband access that meet their needs.

JOURNALIST: Minister, are the computers getting through on the ground because I know New South Wales was … was there some problems for you a while back [inaudible]?

JULIA GILLARD: The computers are definitely getting through on the ground. We have already had the first allocation of funds from our National Computer Fund. 116,000 computers were funded by this Government in the first six months of this year. We already have Round Two opened for schools to apply and Round Two closes in a few weeks time. So

the Digital Education Revolution is being rolled out in Australian classrooms; 116 000 computers already funded for schools.

JOURNALIST: Wayne Swan has said he couldn’t live on the age pension. What level should it be set out to give Australians a decent standard of living?

JULIA GILLARD: Our Treasurer has made it clear that we are very concerned about aged pensioners who are under financial pressure. In the May Budget we took some steps to take some of that pressure off by delivering a $500 cash bonus and by delivering a $500 utilities allowance to help pensioners with those bills as they come round every quarter.

And on the 20th of September, we will deliver indexation to the pension, which will give single pensioners around $15 more a week. Now we understand even with these measures to take the pressure off, that pensioners face difficulties; that they are under cost pressures. And

that’s why the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, has asked the Henry Review to consider this matter and to provide advice to Government.

But can I say this is problem that’s been a long time in the making. We are acting to take some of the pressure off pensioners through our budget measures—$500 cash bonus, $500 in the utilities allowance, indexation on the 20th of this month, and then further measures to be considered as part of the Henry Review.

JOURNALIST: Do you think you could live on it?

JULIA GILLARD: No, I don’t. I would agree with Wayne Swan. I think it’s very tough for people to make ends meet on the single-aged pension. They are obviously there facing the cost of living pressures. We know the price of food has gone up, we know the price of oil has gone up. These are global challenges around the world with people around the world feeling pressure from the global rise in oil prices and global rises in food prices—that does put pressure on. That’s one of the reasons we delivered relief in the May Budget and we’re asking the Henry Commission for advice on what more can be done to assist Australia’s pensioners.

JOURNALIST: Do you think its fair they still have to wait months to get that increase though?

JULIA GILLARD: No, I’ll say again, this has been a long time in the making. Over the lifetime of the Howard Government, we did not see any profound changes in our pension system. Pensioners, particularity single pensioners, have been doing it tough for a long period of time now. That didn’t start last November; it started a long period of time before that.

We’ve taken steps to alleviate some of that pressure. We obviously want to look for further changes and that’s why we’re dealing with the matter through the Henry Review.

JOURNALIST: Given that you’ve got a $20 billion surplus, would you like to see in the next Budget quite significant increases in very basic community services, such as aged pensions, disability pensions. Would you be fighting for that?

JULIA GILLARD: One of the reasons—you obviously ask a review to look right across the tax and welfare system—is to provide comprehensive advice. These things are related and they’re particularly related in terms of creating problems for people who are moving from pensions and benefits perhaps, into a little bit of work. That’s not a comment about aged pensioners obviously, but a comment about people who receive other forms of payments. People particularly who receive working aged payments. So we want to take a comprehensive look—that’s what we’ve asked the Henry Review to do.

JOURNALIST: But as Minister for Social Inclusion, you surely have your opinion. I mean, do you think that there’s enough …

JULIA GILLARD: You don’t commission an expert review and then not take into account its advice. So we will await the advice of the Henry Review.

JOURNALIST: Minister, why do you want the rest of Australia to follow Victoria and recruit high-flying younger undergraduates to teach in Australian schools?

JULIA GILLARD: We need the best teachers in front of Australian classrooms. Nothing makes the greatest difference to a child’s education than the quality of the teacher standing in front of them. When we look at Australia’s teachers today, we have thousands, tens of thousands of fantastic teachers. But we have ageing teacher workforce. We are critically short in some specialist subjects, and we know that demand for teaching has fallen. While some excellent young Australians decide to go teaching each year, demand for teaching overall is falling.

When you are confronting problems like that, you have to act. We want our best and brightest to go teaching. I’ve looked at some of the models overseas and I think we can learn from them. I think we can learn from models that get the brightest graduates who have studied science, who have studied arts, who have studied law, into Australian classrooms and we will be working with our state and territory colleagues and the Catholic and independent school sectors to design a system that achieves just that.

JOURNALIST: But you also want to shorten some courses and boost practical experience, don’t you? Do you think you’ll run into conflict over that?

JULIA GILLARD: At the moment there are a number of pathways into teaching. You can take a full degree that takes a number of years to complete. Many people do a course of study—for example, study science—and then do a one-year graduate diploma to go into teaching. We will be talking to the Deans of Education in our universities and our states and

territory colleagues about whether there are other models that would get people in front of a classroom more quickly, and other models that better combine learning in university with learning by doing in front of classrooms.

JOURNALIST: Just on the West Australian election—do you think it’s had an impact on the Federal Government?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, in terms of the weekend’s results, obviously we are yet to know the full suite of results from Western Australia. Presumably more results will come through today. Whether what ultimately emerges there is a government led by Alan Carpenter or a government led by Colin Barnett, the Rudd Labor Government will work with them. We

want to improve schools and hospitals around the nation. We want to make a difference to the more than decade of neglect by the Howard Government, and we will work with states and territories around the nation on that project no matter who leads them.

In relation to the elections on the weekend, obviously we saw a devastatingly bad result for the National Party—losing a seat that it has always held—and we saw the Liberal Party almost lose one of the jewels in its crown, in Alexander Downer’s seat. So I think it’s been a tough weekend for Brendan Nelson.

Thank you very much.

Media Contact:

media@deewr.gov.au