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Transcript of interview with Laura Jayes: Sky News: 4 September 2018: Tennant Creek sexual assault; Labor's plan to help Australians study at university; Schools funding

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SUBJECTS: Tennant Creek sexual assault; Labor’s plan to help Australians

study at university; Schools funding.

LAURA JAYES, PRESENTER: Well today Tanya Plibersek has announced an

extra $174 million in funding. Now this isn't money for tuition, for getting more

people into universities per se but it is designed for mentoring programs to

encourage more people into higher education. I spoke to her about this a little

earlier but began by asking her about the shocking events, another sexual assault

of a three year old girl in Tennant Creek.

Tanya Plibersek, thanks so much for your time. First things first before we get to

you portfolio area, another three year old girl has been sexually assaulted in

Tennant Creek. Is it time for something more dramatic here?


shocking report, I read that, sick to my stomach again this morning Laura. I think it

is important that the Commonwealth offer every support to the community of

Tennant Creek and to the Northern Territory Government in dealing with this.

Whether those supports are extra law enforcement or extra supports to strengthen

families, prevent alcohol abuse and improve parenting skills or some combination

of all of those things. It needs to be with cooperation with local people for it to work.

JAYES: Yeah we'll keep an eye on this, we'll be speaking to Matt Cunningham

later in the program. Now you today have announced $174 million over ten years

to encourage more people to go to university. This is on top of the return to the

demand-driven system, uncapping university places. Why do you need this extra

measure and how do you make sure it's effectively spent?

PLIBERSEK: Well first of all we know that about nine out of ten jobs that will be

created in coming years will require a TAFE or a university qualification so we want

to make sure that more people are going to TAFE and going to university to be

eligible to do those jobs in the future. And we know that there are parts of Australia

where plenty of people have a university degree but that that opportunity is not

evenly spread, so for example in the north shore of Sydney 63 per cent of young

people have a uni degree but in Moreton Bay, where I'm visiting today, it's about

13 per cent of people. Now that's not because people are smarter on the north

shore of Sydney, it's because the opportunity is not evenly spread. We want to use

this $174 million to invest in outreach, mentoring and support programs with

universities but also with TAFE and non-profit organisations that are experienced

in this area to increase underrepresented groups going to university and we've had

some success with this in the past. When we were last in government, yes we

uncapped university places but equity programs like this saw thousands of extra

students go to university because universities were partnering for example with

disadvantaged schools, raising expectations for university amongst their students,

we saw a lot more students who were first in their family to attend university.

JAYES: And how much will your package cost? Including this $174 million, is it

well over $2 billion? How are you going to pay for that?

PLIBERSEK: The uncapping of university places is a $10 billion commitment over

the decade and this is a $174 million commitment. We can pay for it Laura

because we're not wasting money giving tax cuts to people earning a million bucks

a year. I mean we are substantially better off because of some very difficult tax

decisions that we've made, for example restricting negative gearing and capital

gains tax benefits to newly built housing, reducing the tax benefits to people on

very high incomes using superannuation and family trusts to reduce the tax they're

paying and of course we're certainly not giving tax cuts to very big businesses. The

Government says for the moment their not either but we all know what they're long

term intention is.

JAYES: So how much more are you planning to spend on education than the

Coalition and how much will students be better off in terms of where we would be

in the world rankings? I think tax payers, if we're going to be spending billions and

billions more dollars in the area of education would expect to see improvements.

What does your modelling show?

PLIBERSEK: Well absolutely. Taxpayers expect to see a return on every dollar

spent. They expect to see money well and wisely invested and we know that

investing in education has a very strong economic return, most economists would

say a stronger economic return than tax cuts at the top end. When you talk about

the decision to invest in education, families make that decision around the kitchen

table all the time. You know I grew up in not a rich house but whenever I said I

needed something for school my parents would prioritise that spending over pretty

much anything else in our family budget. I think as a nation we understand that

when we invest in education, not just universities but from early childhood

onwards, that has a return to taxpayers many times the amount that we are


JAYES: I understand that and the return not just to taxpayers but, you know,

there's been plenty of reports about us languishing in world ranking when it comes

to literacy, numeracy, maths, and the list goes on, so what kind of improvement

would you expect to see under your plan with all this money spent?

PLIBERSEK: We've committed to restoring every dollar of the $17 billion cut by

the Liberals from schools, you're quite right, and we were beginning to see the

return on that investment in the early years of needs-based funding. There are

examples right across the country, one school I visited that originally had about 16

per cent of its students going to university and ended up with closer to 60 per cent

of its students going to university because they did so much better in the HSC.

Because they had the extra investment through needs-based funding. And there

are examples like that right across Australia where extra money had lifted teacher

capacity. We have invested in upskilling existing teachers through needs-based

funding, we've given more one on one attention to kids who are falling behind,

we've caught those kids earlier-

JAYES: But Labor isn't giving any kind of commitment to improving those world

rankings, is that right?

PLIBERSEK: We did give commitments about improving our world rankings with

needs-based funding but the proof is in the pudding. We saw improvements in

schools where extra needs-based funding was flowing. Every teacher can point to

the difference that having more one on one attention with a kid who is mucking up,

or falling behind, or struggling with their literacy and numeracy, the difference that

early intervention can make and having occupational-

JAYES: Yeah but the Government would argue that more money hasn't always

lead to better outcomes, but can I just ask you about reports today-

PLIBERSEK: Well isn't it a coincidence when they cut $17 billion that they'd say

cutting $17 billion isn't going to make a difference? Of course it makes a


JAYES: But isn't that $17 billion a future spending commitment?

PLIBERSEK: Yes but investing that money is about reducing

educational disadvantage in this country, lifting our standards, more one on one

attention, more help with the basics, giving teachers the continuing professional

development they need. We need to do something about entry into the teaching

profession as well and Labor's already spoken about policies in those areas. Of

course we need reform as well, but you can't do reform without extra funding. You

can't say we're going to do reform and then cut $17 billion from our schools. That

defies common sense.

JAYES: Let me ask you about the extra funding that Malcolm Turnbull was going

to give Catholic schools. This is a leak in the Herald-Sun today, Malcolm Turnbull

was on the verge of a peace deal with the Catholics. You welcome that move?

PLIBERSEK: I think that it's interesting that the leaks, the chaos and the division

continue but I welcome restoring funding cut from Catholic schools, but it shouldn't

be just Catholic schools. We've already committed to restoring the funding cut from

Catholics and independent and most importantly, public schools, because public

schools have had 85 per cent of the cuts in the first two years alone. So billions cut

from public schools. It would not be acceptable to restore the funding to one sector

alone. Labor had said we will restore every dollar of the $17 billion cut from our

schools. That's only fair. It's not fair to fix one sector and cut billions from another.

JAYES: Tanya Plibersek, we'll have to leave it there. Thanks so much for your

time today. We'll speak soon.

PLIBERSEK: Always a pleasure.