Press conference with Minister for Education and Training

Transcript
23 Jun 2017
Parliament House, Canberra
Prime Minister
E&OE
Education and Childcare

PRIME MINISTER: Good morning.

I am here with Simon Birmingham the Education Minister. Last night as you know, we have secured an outstanding result for Australian schools and Australian students and their parents and their teachers.

You know this is the biggest reform in Commonwealth school funding ever.

For the first time that which has always been aspired to but never achieved has been achieved. National, consistent, needs-based funding right across the country.

A very substantial increase in the Commonwealth investment in our schools, $23.5 billion over 10 years. But above all, real structural reform - it is consistent, it is transparent and it's needs-based.

It's exactly as David Gonski recommended and where it is the antithesis of what Labor delivered.

Labor had 27 separate deals, contradictory, the same school with the same needs in the same state getting radically different treatment than it did in another. Inconsistent between systems, between states. It was unfair. It couldn't be justified.

What we are delivering is fair, consistent needs-based funding.

Now, now that we've got the funding model right, the next step is to make sure we get the great educational outcomes. The funding model is right, and it's fair and there's substantial additional dollars there. The next stage of Gonski 2.0 is the educational outcomes. And that's what David Gonski will be doing, the second stage of his work and I was speaking with him about this just a little while ago, and that is to ensure that we make the additional money work to deliver greater, higher quality teaching, higher quality educational outcomes so that we can get Australian students where they belong, at the top of the class.

MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Thanks very much Prime Minister.

Well, it was an outstanding outcome last night and I want to thank those of the crossbench in the Senate who worked with us to achieve this historic reform to back Australian schools, hard working principals, teachers, in our schools, to be the best they can be in helping our children to achieve the most they possibly can in terms of their educational outcome.

This is an historic outcome as the Prime Minister has indicated because it will see all schools across Australia transition to be funded under a consistent, fair, needs-based model, based on the recommendations of the Gonski report.

It's six years since David Gonski handed down his report and finally we see the Parliament put into place what it recommended. We're thrilled that's the case.

Now as you know there was some changes in terms of what occurred on the Senate floor to the model that was put in place. This will see an additional $4.9 billion invested in Australian schools over the next decade. This will take to total of around $23.5 billion of additional support relative to the budget position last year.

That’s a demonstration of our government's commitment to make sure the resources are there for all the schools who need it.

The changes we made bring forward the transition period for the vast majority of Australian schools, all of those who were receiving less than their fair share of funding to a 6-year period. So that 6-year period will see faster rates of growth across all school systems and sectors and in doing so, ensure the resources are there sooner for that fair, consistent, needs-based funding model.

So an extra and faster delivery of fairer funding for all Australian schools, clear expectations in terms of the states, and adoption and establishment of a new nationals schools resourcing body, an entity recommended by the Gonski report, which will help to continually improve and refine the funding model into the future so that all sectors, all systems, all schools, all stakeholders can have confidence in it.

Now I look forward as the Prime Minister said to getting on with the job of not just talking about the funding and how it's delivered, but most importantly, how it's used.

We’ve put the bucks in place - how do we get the best bang for our bucks?

How do we make sure in Australian schools the money is used as effectively as possible on evidence-based measures to help students be their best, to help every school achieve the best for their kids?

That is what this is about - outcomes in schools for our children and that’s where our focus will be.

JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull, states have complained that the Commonwealth tore up agreements, that it didn’t consult them, and now that amendments dictates how much they have to spend on their schools. Does Gonski 2.0 show that federalism is dead?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the needs-based funding model that we're setting up was warmly welcomed by premiers at the last COAG and can I say to you that the recommendations of Gonski have been for national needs-based funding were clearly right.

But the fact is that the last Labor government did not have the courage or the conviction to follow it. They set up one separate special deal after another, 27 in total, that failed Australian students, failed Australian schools.

We're delivering on a consistent needs-based funding model as David Gonski recommended and when I was last with the premiers in Hobart, they were very pleased with it.

JOURNALIST: To get this through, once again you have had to reach for the cheque book to the tune of $5 billion. You’ve had to reach a temporary arrangement with the Catholics. Are these concessions impositions on the budget starting to stack up? And just personally, is that a satisfying way of having to reach policy outcomes or compromises?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, let me remind you, nearly a year ago, after the election, and many distinguished members of the press gallery took the view the Parliament was unmanageable. And we wouldn't be able to get anything past. And yet we've had great success in delivering on our agenda, on our programs through this 45th Parliament. And you're right, we don't have a majority in the Senate, a long way from it. But we work with the crossbench, we respect the Parliament the Australian people elected. They elected this Parliament. Every single one, every Senator, every member of the house. We work with them to achieve the right outcomes for Australia and we have done this here, again.

What Simon and our Senate team have done, working with the crossbench - and we thank the crossbench for their support, we thank all of our colleagues in the Coalition for their support – because what we've been able to do is deliver a historic reform. This is the first time that Commonwealth funding for schools has been nationally, consistent, transparent, and above all, needs-based. Now that is a historic achievement. And it's an achievement of my government, of Simon's leadership as Education Minister, and indeed of the 45th Parliament.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask you about the South Australian Government's bank tax? The business community is absolutely filthy and they're blaming you, your government for letting the genie out of the bottle and Jay Weatherill this morning was essentially saying they were just doing what the Commonwealth Government is doing. Do you accept any responsibility for this and do you accept some criticism that this is a failure now of tax reform at a federal and state level now the states are running off willy-nilly?

PRIME MINISTER: The first thing is Phil - I will answer this and then let's come back to schools.

The first thing is states obviously have taxing powers and they can raise such taxes as they wish and they do so. The second thing I observe is that the major bank levy that we imposed and is now legislated, is a national and consistent levy on bank liabilities, major bank liabilities.

The South Australian tax that was announced yesterday, is of course it's limited only to South Australia. The question that Mr Weatherill has got to answer is that is his decision going to make business in South Australia more competitive or less competitive?

See, it’s one thing to have a tax that covers the whole country, but when a state imposes higher business taxes within its own jurisdiction, is that actually going to drive investment, support jobs within that state or is it in fact going to make it less competitive?

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what is the cost over the forward estimates of that extra $4.9 billion? Will that be reflected in MYEFO and will there be commensurate savings in MYEFO to offset that?

MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Sure – that's around $1.5 billion over the forward estimates and of course, it will be reflected in MYEFO and as is always the case under this government, we make sure that we pay for our spending in terms of how we continue to work to bring the budget back to surplus.

JOURNALIST: So you're saying the forecast surplus won't be impacted by the $5 billion you negotiated last night?

MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: I’ll let the Treasurer and the Finance Minister speak about the forecast surplus, but we always - as the government has always done - made sure that we pay for our spending commitments and that we will continue to work to bring the budget back to surplus in the year that is forecast in the budget.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’ve said previously that spending more money doesn't necessarily get better educational outcomes. You’ve cited Kazakhstan as an example which spends significantly less than us but is actually outperforming our students. What is $23 billion going to get us that we don't already have? Will you connect this with key performance indicators for our students?

MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: A few points there.

Firstly, additional funding gets us fair and needs-based funding that ensures that schools across the country can have equal opportunity to succeed, kids in those schools can have equal opportunity to succeed. That’s critical.

Yes, you're buying a better funding model through some of that investment but indeed we want to make sure it's used effectively. That's the point of the new David Gonski reform. And under this legislation, we have ensured there are provisions that expect states and territories to work with us when David Gonski hands down his next report and he identifies the evidence-based reforms to lift student performance.

We expect the states and territories to work with us. Agreeing on reforms to help further lift the quality of our teachers and to help ensure that they can access the best programs, products to use in their classroom and to know which of those will be most applicable to their classroom environment, to help their kids succeed in the different areas whether it's STEM subjects, English subjects, basic literacy skills - getting the states to agree. And under this legislation we actually have some mechanisms to hold states and territories to account to follow through on those commitments.

That's all really important in saying that no longer is it just a case of the Commonwealth handing over a blank cheque. It's about the Commonwealth working in partnership with the states and territories to deliver high quality education around the country and ensuring that when they make commitments, we can hold them to account to ensure the benefits flow through to kids and classrooms.

JOURNALIST: As you enter into that process, is it inevitable that teacher work practices will need to change? And how can that be achieved given some of the goodwill or, the divisiveness that’s developed in this debate particularly with the education union?

MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Teachers are incredibly hardworking. I have to say, on my visits to schools, particularly since the Prime Minister and I stood alongside David Gonski a couple of months ago now, the enthusiasm from teachers, for what it is we're doing, for fair, needs-based funding has been strong. Teachers, of course, have been adapting to a range of pressures and challenges for a long time. Social changes, technological changes, curriculum changes - they are having to work hard to keep up with all of those different changes and practices.

This reform will help ensure that they can keep doing so. The resources and support is there for them to do so. Then the extra work of the new Gonski review should also help to provide a clear evidence base for teachers that enable them to see what it is in the classroom that they can do better to help their kids succeed and to know that there's thorough evidence and research underpinning those actions.

JOURNALIST: When a Coalition MP or Minister has a spending idea they are often told find a way to pay for it, and we’ll consider it. Is that ever put to a crossbencher such as Nick Xenophon or is that just an exercise in futility, asking him to identify savings to satisfy their demands?

PRIME MINISTER: Phil, the job of government is to deliver for the Australian people. To deliver the right outcomes.

And in the case of school education, as you know, I mean look, let's not kid ourselves, let's put all the politics aside for now - everyone has known what we needed to do. Everyone has known for years. We needed to have needs-based school funding that was consistent across Australia. But the fact is, governments and in particular the last Labor government, did not have the courage to deliver that. Instead, they stitched up all of these deals on the fly. Bill Shorten, running around the country doing one deal after another and they were all inconsistent, utterly unfair.

Now what we have done is taken on this big challenge, this big challenge of leadership, of government, of policy, of justice and we have delivered a nationally consistent, transparent needs-based funding model and we have put substantially more money to that over the next decade.

But now the next step, as Simon has said, is to ensure that we get the maximum educational bang for the taxpayers' buck. That we get there great outcomes for our kids so that they get to the top of the class. So that we get the outcomes that we deserve, that they deserve and that they need.

So this is a great day for Australian schools. It's a great day for economic reform. It's a historic moment.

For the first time, people will be able to say that every school in Australia will receive Commonwealth funding based on its need. That is justice, that is reform, that's leadership.

Thank you all very much.