Transcript of Press Conference
FRI 21 SEPTEMBER 2012
Prime Minister, The Hon Peter Garrett MP, the Minister for School Education
Subject(s): Education reform; Global economy; Newstart; Cuts to education in NSW; Sydney Protests; Manus Island; Australian Public Service; 2013 election
PM: It’s great to be here today at Our Lady of Mercy College in Parramatta. I’m joined by Peter Garrett, the Minister for School Education. And also Julie Owens, the local member. And Michelle Rowland, the member for Greenway went to this school, she was head girl here, so we’re thinking of Michelle as well.
Can I say a big thank you to Kitty and all of the staff who have helped us round on this visit. And a big thankyou too to all of the girls who have shown a lot of spirit and lot of welcome as we’ve gone round.
This is a great school and I want every school around the country to be a great school.
I want to make sure every child gets a great education. And that takes a very special combination of great teachers, and I have met some today, of good school leadership and Kitty is here leading this school, of support from the community, but it also takes the right level of resources in schools.
We're absolutely determined to make sure we keep building on what we've done so far for Australian schools, so that they've got a future where our education system is amongst the top five in the world.
We've done a lot, new buildings, new computers, trades training centres, national curriculum, MySchool, new national partnerships for disadvantaged schools, for teacher quality, literacy and numeracy, the list goes on. But we want to do more.
As Prime Minister I'm determined that we make the right set of choices as a nation so that we can better invest in our schools and the future of our young people.
That's why I'm so disappointed that here in New South Wales, Premier O'Farrell has made a different set of decisions.
And unfortunately schools like this one across the state of New South Wales are faced with cutbacks as a result.
That's at risk of causing a double-whammy for schools because state government Liberal cutbacks feed into the way in which we index our payments to schools.
That double whammy as Liberal states cut funds feeds into indexation. I want to make sure as part of our reforms for schools, starting from 1 January 2014, that we've got a better way of providing growth in funds for schools. A better index that helps schools see their funds predictably rise. There’s been a problem where it’s been unpredictable for schools, and now the way in which school funding is indexed is hit by state Liberal government cutbacks.
So part of what we’ll be talking to schools around the nation about – to state schools, to independent schools, to catholic schools – is a way of indexing school funding for the future.
It's been a delight to be here today. Thank you to all of the girls who've said hello and we're very happy to take your questions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, why is the Australian Government, courtesy of Wayne Swan, referring to elements of the US Republican Party as cranks as crazies just weeks out from the US election?
PM: The strength of the American economy matters to the global economy. America is of course a global economic giant, and what happens in the US economy matters to the world economy and it matters to us.
Risks to the US economy therefore matter for the global economy, and they matter for us. Wayne Swan was making that very commonsense point today.
JOURNALIST: They are quite strong comments to make though. And you were very critical of John Howard when he criticised Barack Obama's pre-election pledge to bring troops home from Iraq. Aren't you being a bit hypocritical here?
PM: The Treasurer's job is to be speaking to the Australian people about the strength of the Australian economy, but also things that are risks to the global economy and the Australian economy and that's what he has been doing today.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you agree with the Treasurer's comments?
PM: Certainly the Treasurer's been making appropriate comments today about potential risks for the global economy and consequently for the Australian economy. You would expect him to be doing that.
JOURNALIST: Will this affect your ability to work with the US Republican Party if Mitt Romney wins the election?
PM: Look, the Treasurer's made a set of observations about economic risks for Australia. Let's remember the context we're working in. We saw the global financial crisis, the biggest economic downturn our world had seen since the Great Depression.
That proved to us yet again that our economic fortunes are part of what happens with the global economy. Now, we in those circumstances were able to keep our nation out of recession.
But we're not immune from global economic events. We're not immune from what happens with the American economy and that's what the Treasurer has been speaking about today.
JOURNALIST: On that, the IMF has warned that if the economy does worsen, to scrap plans for a surplus. Is that something you’re prepared to do?
PM: We're determined to bring the budget to surplus and actually the IMF report backs the Government’s economic strategy.
JOURNALIST: The Labor-dominated human rights committee has recommended that you hold off switching single parents to Newstart. Will you consider that recommendation?
PM: What we want to see for single parents, for people on welfare benefits generally is that we are creating the right incentives and giving the right supports to get people into work at the appropriate time.
Of course when people are caring for very young children, they need to be there looking after their family. But all of the evidence shows that if a parent gets back into the work force as their child goes to school that's better for the parent and ultimately better for the child. That’s what our policies are aimed at.
JOURNALIST: So the Government will not be waiting for the Senate inquiry?
PM: We’ve already announced these policies in the last budget.
JOURNALIST: Can we just go back to the cuts to education in New South Wales. Have you had any discussions with schools here that may have to increase fees at Independent or Catholic schools as a result?
PM: I invited school representatives to meet with me in Canberra during the course of this week. I met with representatives of the Catholic school system and of Independent schools and they are very concerned about what the cutbacks from Premier O'Farrell mean for their schools.
They certainly said to me that they're concerned about potential fee rises and the position that that puts them in and the parents of the children at their schools in.
So there is a lot of concern around in the Catholic school system, Independent schools and also in State schools about what this means for school communities. I mean, at its most simple, I believe that even when they're tough budget choices you've got to make the right choices so that we are giving kids like the ones I've met today the best possible education and the best possible future.
The work we asked David Gonski and his school review team to do was to define the amount of resources a school needs to get the children in the school a great education. And that's what we're driving for, a great education in every school around the country. And that's why we're so concerned about these cutbacks here in New South Wales.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, are you surprised that the US Consulate has ordered its citizens to stay away from Sydney's Hyde Park and Martin Place this weekend, obviously in reaction to what happened here last Saturday?
PM: I'd have a more general message and I certainly said it immediately after the conduct last weekend, and I'm very happy to say it again. There is no excuse for violence. We live in a wonderful multicultural democracy. That brings rights and it brings responsibilities. And amongst those responsibilities is always abiding by the rule of law.
JOURNALIST: Some locals on Manus Island are questioning whether they deserve compensation to the tune of $45 million for the processing centre to be set up there. Is that something your government has been alerted to?
PM: We've signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of PNG. We're now working through officials to settle all details and to construct the appropriate accommodation for asylum seekers on Manus Island. So all of these will be worked through by officials but the MOU has been signed.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Joe Hockey has asked the public service commissioner asking him to investigate the Treasurer's office after it used two public servants to create a document tracking how the Coalition votes. Is the Government politicising the public service?
PM: Certainly not. I do note there is a set of stories about all of this today, so let's get some of the facts on the table. Fact number one, in terms of ministerial staffers and advisers, there are less under this government than there was under the former Howard Government. Something you might like to ask Mr Hockey about.
There's also a clear code of conduct for ministerial advisers, something that this government created. Once again, something you might like to ask Mr Hockey about. And in my experience people abide by the code of conduct.
JOURNALIST: Liberal Party success in the local government elections is a reflection of your Labor Government?
PM: People will have the opportunity in 2013, in around about a year's time, to make their choice on who's best to lead the nation, who's best to be the Federal Government of this country.
And that choice will turn on whether or not you believe that this nation's future is being defined in Australia's schools, whether or not you believe in putting our kids first as the highest priority of government. Whether or not you believe in a better deal for people with disabilities, and whether or not you want a plan to keep our economy strong.
We've got a track record of doing it and a plan for building on that track record. That's what the 2013 election will be about.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister just back on the public service question, should Mr Swan cooperate with any investigation?
PM: Look, Mr Hockey obviously involved in a little bit of negative political carry-on. That’s the Opposition, it's not really for me to have deal with it.
Okay, we're right, thank you.