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Transcript of press conference: 11 January 2008: Treasury Place, Melbourne: Sir Edmund Hillary; security in schools; incentives for states; COAG working parties;\npolitical party funding.



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Interview

PRESS CONFERENCE WITH THE ACTING PRIME MINISTER THE HON JULIA GILLARD, MP TREASURY PLACE, MELBOURNE

11 January 2008

E & O E

Subjects: Sir Edmund Hillary; Security in schools; Incentives for states; COAG working parties; Political party funding

JULIA GILLARD: I’ll start first by making some remarks about the death of Sir Edmund Hillary. Of course he was a great New Zealander. This is a loss that will be keenly felt by the New Zealand nation. Sir Hillary’s achievements were of great (inaudible) and I think many Australians today will be reflecting on his long life and his legacy.

Sir Edmund’s name is synonymous with daring and with achievement. He is a man who dreams of doing something that hadn’t been done before and then achieved it. He became of course, the person who went to the summit of Everest first and stood as he did term it, ‘on the roof of the world’.

Having conquered Everest, his connection with that part of the world remained for the rest of his long life. He is now known of course as the person who ran the trust in a local area that provided so much of (inaudible) services to the people who live there.

This is the passing of an icon, someone who will always be remembered for his great achievements, for his sense of daring, for his adventures and for his capacity to dream about the things that hadn’t been done before. Surely it would be a matter that Australian’s and New Zealanders and people around the world reflect on today and in coming days.

Secondly can I go to Labor’s promises about security in schools. It is the Government’s intention to provide 20 million dollars to assist schools that are at particular risk.

We want to make sure that every Australian child starting at school can do that in a safe environment. Clearly for some schools there are special risks and Labor wants to assist those schools with meeting their security needs.

We intend to work with our colleagues in the Department of Home Affairs and also advised by the Australian Federal Police to develop a way of identifying the schools that face special risks. We will then use this funding to work with those schools to meet their security needs. Most simply put, we want to make sure that every child at school is there in a safe environment and that parents don’t have to concern themselves about security matters because they know that they are being dealt with by the school.

Any questions?

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

JULIA GILLARD: The money could be spent on additional security measures that would be appropriate to that school. Obviously there are all sorts of security technologies, surveillance technologies, technologies that consist of dealing with security matters.

We won’t be prescribing that the money needs to be used for a particular form of technology or a particular form of security. This is a process that would work through schools (inaudible) against guidelines that are being worked on now. Obviously we want to be able to assess risk and we want to be able to asses the best measures of addressing that risk.

JOURNALIST: Aren’t the AFP and ASIO already assessing risks at schools?

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JULIA GILLARD: Certainly, our security agencies generally are always working on questions of risk assessment. We are working directly with the Australian Federal Police on working through risk assessments for schools as part of developing the guidelines for delivering the policy. So of course there is always the general role, what is being asked for here is a more specific role to assist us with developing the guidelines for the policy so the money can be used for the best purpose.

JOURNALIST: What evidence do you have that they are under threat?

JULIA GILLARD: We know through consulting with school communities that schools have faced various forms of threat and they have had various concerns. Anybody who meets with school communities and talks to the education sector will end up talking to schools that do feel that they are at particular risk and have had security concerns in the past. Obviously we want to be working with those schools in the process of delivering these funds and improving security to make sure that any risks that have been identified are addressed.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

JULIA GILLARD: Whilst the policy is there for all schools, so we aren’t pre judging - the policy is there for all schools and all schools are able to apply - clearly there have been issues that have been raised publicly from time to time about security arrangements in particular sorts of schools. It would be of no surprise to people for example that many Jewish schools have had cause for concern about security arrangements. The program is there to assist schools who feel themselves to be at risk and who are at risk. We aren’t drawing a line in terms of school sector. It will be possible for all schools to

apply.

JOURNALIST: How many schools already (inaudible)

JULIA GILLARD: We are working with development on the guidelines of the policy. What we’re doing with that is obviously drawing on the AFP’s expertise about what constitutes risk and who may be at risk. That process is still in train.

JOURNALIST: Is there any particular cap or limit on what one school will get?

JULIA GILLARD: We’re intending to devote 20 million dollars of resources to this. We want to work with school communities. It will be an applications based process with guidelines. We obviously want to make sure that every dollar is a dollar well spent - spent on a school that does have particular needs and spent in a way that does have security concerns.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

JULIA GILLARD: I think that is a question, the answer to which is almost unknowable. Obviously there are schools that in contemporary times feel themselves to be at particular risk and we want to make sure that we are addressing those concerns.

JOURNALIST: Shouldn’t this be a State Government responsibility?

JULIA GILLARD: Well I think it is a responsibility for the National Government to make sure that Australian children, no matter what sort of school they are learning in, feel safe when they are at school. Obviously we work with our State colleagues in the education area. Our State colleagues are

the predominant funders of the State school system. We also work with them on providing resources to state schools and we directly fund non government schools around the country. I think most Australians would say to themselves that they would be keen to see the National Government playing a role in making sure that Australian students are safe when they’re at school.

JOURNALIST: There was a report today that the Federal government will provide incentives to the States to achieve national reform. How would those incentives be determined?

JULIA GILLARD: We are working through, as a Government a major process of reform with our State colleagues. This obviously flows out of the COAG meeting that Kevin Rudd convened with his State and Territory colleagues before Christmas. Out of that we have a series of working parties. I am

in fact chairing one on productivity, but there are working parties in a number of areas. Out of those working parties, we will get action plans for reform. So we’re not at the stage where we are going to be specifying what’s in those action plans, obviously, but COAG working party process is being gone

through. It is a very thick process. We will be working intensively. We will be working through February

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and March on the COAG working party process.

JOURNALIST: Can you say whether they’d be determined by an independent body?

JULIA GILLARD: Well there are all sorts of different areas that are on the COAG agenda and there will be all sorts of different approaches in different areas. So we are talking to our state colleagues about education, we’re talking to them about housing; we are talking to them about Indigenous affairs and so on. There’s a lot of work to do in those COAG working parties. It’s going to be done intensively. What is the aim? The aim is for the National Government to work with our State and Territory colleagues to improve the way that services are delivered and end the blame game. I think Australians are rightly sick of watching Federal Members of Parliament blame State Members of Parliament when something goes wrong. They want to see solutions and that’s what the COAG process is about, finding those solutions.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

JULIA GILLARD: This particular form of funds, this 20 million dollars is to address security issues. Obviously, when you talk about the broad suite of Labor’s policies, there are many other ways in which we are benefiting schools. The one billion dollars which has been dedicated to computers for students in years nine to 12. We are already well advanced talking to our State colleagues, talking to the independent non government school sectors about that policy and the first delivery of that policy was 100 million dollars for that policy this financial year. We have our 2.5 billion dollar plans to deliver trades training centres to every secondary school. We’re working of course with out State and Territory colleagues more broadly on education: working on universal pre-schools; working on schools; working on technical and further education and of course we’ve got commitments too to the higher education sector. So there’s a very broad sweep of policies, many of which are about benefiting the schools. This 20 million is a very specific program about security risks.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

JULIA GILLARD: The 20 million dollars is a four year program. We are working on the set up of the program now. So we would be looking at delivery in the next school calendar year.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible - re: political party funding)

JULIA GILLARD: We certainly made commitments during the election campaign to electoral reform. We were concerned of course when the Howard Government changed the electoral rules in a way which could disenfranchise young voters and people who rent. These were the changes about when the roles closed for Federal elections. We have got a policy commitment to address that and to make sure that there is time during Federal election campaigns for people to get on the roles. We’ve also said of course, we believe in proper disclosure laws. We opposed the Howard Government’s changes to disclosure laws when we were in opposition and it is our intention to have a more transparent disclosure regime. On any other suggestions or policies or plans, others might have, I can’t specifically comment, but we do have those commitments.

ends

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