Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Education Dan Tehan at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, September 20, 2018.

Press Conference with the Minister for Education - Canberra

20 Sep 2018
Parliament House, Canberra
Prime Minister, Minister for Education
School funding; Budget; border policy; Peter Dutton
Education and Childcare

Photo: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, everyone. Our Government believes in choice in education. Our Government believes that parents should have choice in education. This has been a fundamental belief of the Liberal and the National parties for a very, very long time, indeed from our foundation. The policies that we pursue as a Government are about ensuring that choice for parents in education.

That's why I'm pleased to announce together with the Minister for Education, that we have been able to come to an arrangement, a final arrangement, to deal with the issues in education funding that have been of concern to the independent school sector and the Catholic Education Commission. I want to congratulate Dan on the work he's done in taking these issues forward and building on the work that was being done previously over the last three or four weeks.

From 2020, the Commonwealth will transition to a new method of calculating how non-state schools are funded and that will make the education system fairer and more equitable. The updated calculation was recommended by the National School Resourcing Board and its’ review on how the non-state school sector is funded. To support schools during the transition, the Commonwealth Government will provide over the medium term $3.2 billion to support students, parents and teachers of non-state schools. For students, this will mean the opportunity to get the best results from school.

For parents, it will mean that choice remains affordable. An affordable choice in non-government Schools. For teachers, it will mean certainty of funding so they can get on with the job. In addition to this funding, interim arrangements for 2019 will allow schools to plan with confidence for their 2019 school year. The Government will provide $170.8 million to non-government schools for these arrangements. The Government is also committed to supporting parental choice and diversity in the schooling system with a new $1.2 billion fund over the medium term that will provide a flexible means of targeting extra support for those schools in the non-government sector that require the extra support. Such as schools, I should stress, in rural, regional and remote locations, schools in drought-affected areas or underperforming school. I particularly want to welcome the offer by the National Catholic Education Commission and Archbishop Fisher for doing all they can to provide relief for students from families in drought-affected areas where they're attending school, which has been a key part of our discussions. Of course we remain committed to the state school system. We’re delivering record levels of additional recurrent funding for government schools growing from $7.3 billion this year, to $13.7 billion in 2029. I want to thank the National Catholic Education Commission for issuing a statement today where they make it very plain that the National Catholic Education Commission fully supports the package of measures unveiled today. I welcome also the correspondence from the Independent Schools Council of Australia where they say; “The proposal for the phased introduction of a new model for calculating government funding for non-government schools creates a foundation for a fair and reasonable resolution of the current funding issues. It has our full support.”

This is an important issue the Government has been working on for some time and it's been a keen area of focus of our Government over the last three to four weeks. I'm going to ask Dan as the Minister for Education, to take you through some more of that detail. But as a former Treasurer, indulge me for just one second. $1.1 billion over the forwards, $171.3 in 2018/19, $84.8 in 2019/20, $418 in 2020/21 and $499.2 in 2021/22. All of these will be reconciled in MYEFO. Dan?

THE HON. DAN TEHAN, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Thanks PM, and can I just start by thanking the Catholic and independent sectors for the very good faith they’ve shown in these negotiations. They’ve conducted themselves thoroughly decently and I’ve really appreciated the time that I’ve spent with them over the last four weeks and the way that I’ve got to know them. Obviously what they provide for parents and communities around Australia is incredibly important. I see it on a daily and weekly basis in my community in western Victoria. A small town like Penshurst in western Victoria, 750 people and there’s 35 students attending the Catholic primary school there and six kids which attend the local state school there. They both provide excellent schooling, but importantly, the way our system works is those parents in those communities have a choice. That is so important.

What this package today is, is making sure that affordable choice for parents continues. It builds on the good work of my predecessor Simon Birmingham and the work of Michael Cheney and the review of the SES methodology which he undertook. Very important work and we are announcing today that we are accepting all the six recommendations of the Cheney review. What that means is that we are creating certainty going forward for the Catholic and independent sectors. For next year, the 2018 interim arrangements will continue for 2019 with some minor tweaking based on the Cheney review. We will then transition to the direct measure, the personal income tax, or as it's described, the PIT measure that was recommended by Cheney. But we will provide some flexibility for both the independent and Catholic sectors as to how they transition. Finally what this package does today, is create a fund, a sector-blind fund which is called the Choice and Affordability Fund which, as the Prime Minister has said, will have $1.2 billion in it to ensure that going forward that parents across our nation will continue to have the choice that we believe they should have, for their kids' education. Thanks Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much Dan and congratulations for putting this together. My thanks also to all of the non-government school agencies that have been part of this discussion. Happy you to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Could you explain to us the flexibility that's included in this arrangement? Does that mean that people will be able to choose or school systems will be able to choose which SES system they use in the interim period?

MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Yes, so the systems approach continues, consistent with what was there for this year in 2018. That continues for 2019 and then will continue as part of the approach which Michael Cheney recommended with the move to PIT.

JOURNALIST: But sorry, can you just clarify whether they will be able to make a choice of which SES model they use, whether it will be the parents' income or the existing SES system or?

MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: So they will be able to transition, so between 2020 and 2022, it will be up to schools as to when they will make that transition. So they have a 3-year period in which to transition.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the systems will have the authority and autonomy to decide where they put the funding for their schools?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, those arrangement haven’t changed.

JOURNALIST: When Malcolm Turnbull first got up to announce the second Gonski review in 2017, he said he wanted to end the school funding wars once and for all. Since then, you first announced an $18 billion policy and then a $23 billion policy and now it looks like you're up to about $30 billion. How can you say this is now going to end the school funding wars?

PRIME MINISTER: We’re funding school education at record levels. I think all Australian parents, all Australian teachers and all students would be very pleased with that outcome. We're preserving choice, we're supporting state school education, we're stepping up at record levels of funding. I think that's good news.

JOURNALIST: How does this compare to Labor’s promise of an extra $250 million a year to Catholic Schools?

PRIME MINISTER: We can pay for it because we’re going to run a strong economy. That’s how you pay for these things. Labor makes lots of promises, but you can't trust them because they can't fund them. Because they don't know how to run a strong economy and they don’t know how to manage a budget.

That's why you can always rely on Liberal-National Governments. Because what we promise, we deliver. Our Government keeps our promises and we’ve kept them in Government. All the promises we have taken to the last election, we kept. We’ve pursued them and we will keep these because we know how to pay for them. That's why Australians can trust our Government. Because they have seen that our Government knows how to manage a budget, knows how to manage an economy, knows how to deliver on its’ promises.

JOURNALIST: Mr Tehan, the principle behind Gonski 2.0 was for non-government schools to get up to the 80 per cent of the school resourcing standard. Is this package consistent with that or does the extra $1.2 billion give the non-government sector an unfair advantage?

MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: No, no it's consistent with that.

JOURNALIST: What do you say to public school parents who watch private schools get another $3.2 billion over the medium term, just because they kicked up a fuss? Doesn't this just show if you lobby hard enough, you can extract whatever money you want from the Government?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’m not surprised you have a very cynical view about this, but I don't think parents will be cynical like that. They will know that we're funding public schools at record levels. All parents want to have choices about how they educate their children. Where there are issues that need to be addressed, we’ll address them. As you know, state governments are the principal funders of state schools. The Commonwealth Government has always been the principal funder of non-government schools. That's not news, that's a longstanding arrangement.

We’ve stepped up on public schools, we’ve stepped up on non-government schools. We believe in choice in education. We believe Australian parents should have choice and we're guaranteeing that choice through the decisions and the commitments and the agreements we reached today.

JOURNALIST: Mr Morrison, what impact will this have on the Budget trajectory?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I have just outlined it. It’s 1.1 over the forward estimates.

JOURNALIST: What about in terms of the return to surplus timetable?

PRIME MINISTER: Those issues will be resolved in MYEFO. But I’ve set it out year by year and we’re currently going through the MYEFO update process and that will be fully reconciled then.

JOURNALIST: You just survived a motion, a vote to suspend standing orders in the Parliament against Peter Dutton. One of your backbenchers said to another; “Supporting that man goes against what I want to do.” Does this not show that you don't have the unity in the Government, in the Party, you are seeking?

PRIME MINISTER: I think that’s nonsense. The Labor Party have been kicking up a lot of dust this week about votes and how it's all going to go. On each and every occasion, our team has stood fast in the Parliament. So what it has shown today, is frankly that Labor are just full of a lot of hot air. They trumped up a partisan-based committee report in the Senate, which I said this morning, if that same committee used its’ numbers to say the sun didn't come up this morning, well, that wouldn't make that true either.

The Parliament has dealt with this matter now and it continues to deal with the matter. I think it's time for the Labor Party to move on from their games and the Greens to move on from their games.

The Government is focused 100 per cent on the needs of the Australian people.

This week, a Royal Commission into the aged care sector.

This week, dealing very quickly with the issues of alarm that has been happening in our farming community, whether it's with strawberries or whether it's drought today, with the announcement we made about ensuring you can get the hay to the farmers.

Here today again, demonstrating that we are focused on the needs of Australian parents and students.

So that's what the Government's been doing this week. The Labor Party and the Greens and others have just been playing the usual Canberra games. When politicians play Canberra games and when others play Canberra games, you know what the Australian people do? They grab for the sound and they turn it down. They're turning it down on Labor. They’re turning it down on the Greens. They’re turning it up on our Government because our Government is focused on what they're interested in. Yes, Phil?

JOURNALIST: Mr Morrison, earlier this week you postponed or cancelled the COAG meeting with the states. There was also, before the leadership change also scheduled an Energy Ministers meeting this month, state and federal. Can you tell us what the status of that is?

PRIME MINISTER: I haven’t made any decisions in relation to that Energy Ministers meeting and the meetings between ministers have been progressing. In fact Dan was at one last Friday with Education Ministers and they are quickly moving to resolve the issues around how the state’s contribution to the funding arrangements in part we have been talking about today, are being resolved. It was a matter I was pursuing as a Treasurer. The Treasurers are also meeting next month and they'll finalise those issues. So those things have been well addressed, I understand.

You don't have to have meetings if you don't need to have meetings, that's my view. The Labor Party can have as many meetings as they like, they doesn't seem to be able to resolve anything when they in Government. They were great at having meetings. The only thing that happens as a result of not having that COAG meeting, is less Tim Tams will be consumed in Canberra that week. But when the Drought Summit is held, that’s when you’ll see some real work being done.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just two, if I may, to be greedy? Just on the Budget and the education announcement, you said the figures would reconciled in MYEFO?


JOURNALIST: Will the savings be offset in MYEFO? Second - if I may - the AMA President has written to you and the AMA is in the building today lobbying on asylum seekers. They’ve described the conditions on Nauru as a humanitarian emergency and they’ve asked for families to be removed and for a delegation of doctors to attend in order to assess the physical and mental wellbeing of people in offshore immigration detention. What's your response?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, firstly, the announcement we’ve made today and the funding implications of that, that will be reconciled in MYEFO. That's where that will be announced and MYEFO is in the middle of December. There's still a lot of work between now and then, particularly as you update the various elements of the Budget. That also includes the revenue estimates and as you must have seen from the most recent national accounts, we’ve seen a very improving performance when it comes to the corporate sector and we'll reconcile that along with these other measures by the time we get to MYEFO.

In relation to the other matter, we are getting family off Nauru. That's exactly what we're doing. That's why we have the arrangement with the United States and that's why we're pursuing that. We thank our partners in the United States for the way we’re able to progress with that. But I think you all know my views about this. I'm not going to put at risk any element of Australia's border protection policy because I know when you do that - which is what Labor did last time, thinking it would have no effect - 1,200 people died. So I'm not going to do that.

JOURNALIST: On the school funding, how close was the Turnbull Government to landing this deal and do you give Malcolm Turnbull credit?

PRIME MINISTER: Sure, I mentioned that in my opening in terms of the work that had already been done. This process had been going on for some time and both Malcolm and Birmo had both been involved with those discussions. We’ve picked up those discussions and brought them to a conclusion. But this is my point; our Government has resolved this, our Government was elected in September 2013 and our Government has been getting on with these jobs and our Government has delivered this outcome today. Brett?

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, in March Peter Dutton told the Parliament; "I don’t know these people," in relation to the au pair issue. The evidence presented to the Senate inquiry shows very clearly that he did. Your Minister misled the Parliament, didn't he?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I don’t accept that at all and neither does he and the Parliament doesn't take that view as well. Thanks very much, thank you.