Labor's 'Your child. Our future' plan for Australian education; Malcolm Turnbull's 15 per cent GST on everything



JOURNALIST: The Opposition's education spokeswoman joins us from Sydney. Good morning to you.

KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Good morning Michael, great to be with you. 

JOURNALIST: Do you know what you're talking about? Will you address those issues the former Education Minister talked about then? 

ELLIS: Well, I'm certainly not going to take lectures from Christopher Pyne, who of course was the education spokesperson when the now government promised that they were on a unity ticket when it came to school funding, that promised that there would be no cuts to education, and that have gone on to announce the biggest cut to our school funding in our nation's history - $30 billion over the next 10 years - and the equivalent of ripping one out of every seven teachers from the classroom. Christopher Pyne of course would like to divert attention from what the Government has done and their own broken promises and I'm happy to stand by the fact that we need to invest in our schools, we need to increase every child's chance of getting a great education, and that we have a costed plan to do so. 

JOURNALIST: And we know how relatively poorly in international standings we do on literacy and numeracy, so what targets are there in Labor's plan to move all of these students up to a better level?

ELLIS: Certainly, we want to see Australia return to the front of the pack. We want to make sure that once more, we are regarded as a high-quality and high-equity education system. And we know that the way to do that is by making sure that every student has more one-on-one support. When it comes to literacy and numeracy, under our plan, announced by Bill Shorten yesterday, every child will have the opportunity for more literacy and numeracy support. When children are falling behind, they will have the opportunity for special attention and special classes. But equally, when children are excelling in literacy and numeracy, parents want to know that there will be special education programs for them to ensure that they can continue to excel. The Government likes to say that it isn't all about money. Of course that's true. But it does cost money to make sure that we can have, in every school, in every classroom, the sort of programs that our children need and deserve.

JOURNALIST: No-one could quibble with that in terms of greater engagement with students and teacher/student engagement as well, but what particular targets have you got in your plan to make sure this money you're proposing to spend is properly spent?

ELLIS: Well, first of all I'd say - I will talk about the targets. We have a number of targets by both 2020 and 2025. But we also, in terms of ensuring that this money goes towards evidence-based programs, that we spend more money on the programs that we know work and less money on programs which do not work. We will be returning accountability and transparency to the system. It was the Federal Government which famously said that they were going to ensure that their school funding was no strings attached. What that meant was they sent a blank cheque to the states to do what they wished with. And we will be ensuring that every state, that every sector is spending federal taxpayer dollars on evidence-based programs that deliver results.

Now, we expect that that will assist us to be able to reach the targets that we've set. For example, 95 per cent Year 12 completion by 2020. We set that target but we know that that means that there needs to be additional resources so that there are alternative pathways through our schools and so that there is vocational education available to students. We also set the target of ensuring that all science and technology and maths teachers have a tertiary qualification in that area. I think that parents would be mortified if they learnt how many of our secondary school teachers today have no background education, have no professional development, in the subject areas that they are teaching. And we need to close that if we're going to ensure that they can teach to the best of their abilities and make sure that we get the best results from our students. And also we've set a target to have digital technology and coding available to every student by 2020. So all of these are clear targets but they also come with programs which are attached to them and with accountability and transparency, so that we can see that that is where the money is going.

JOURNALIST: $4.5 billion, Labor's proposing to spend over 2018-19, $37 billion all up over the course of decade. Are you completely confident this plan is fully funded?

ELLIS: Absolutely - and we knew that this is obviously the line that the Government were going to take. They'd rather try to attract and divert attention away from their own massive cuts to school funding. So we have ensured that we've outlined a number of savings measures. We've outlined a number of government programs which we would discontinue in order to use that fund being you but we will be continuing to announce Labor savings initiatives. Ultimately this is about priorities. And we believe that education must be a priority, not just as a strong social policy - but if we want to talk about innovation, if we want to talk about future economic growth and if we want to talk about making sure that Australians have the skills for the jobs of the future, then getting our schooling system right must absolutely be our priority. Australians can now say that it is Bill Shorten's priority, and Malcolm Turnbull is pledging the biggest cuts in nation's history.

JOURNALIST: On another issue, as a South Australian MP, should your State's Premier Jay Wetherill have his right to the view that there should be a rise in the GST?

ELLIS: Of course Jay is entitled to his views. Equally, I am clear, as is every member of the federal Labor Party, that we will oppose an increase in the GST, and that we do not believe that the best way forward for this nation's future is to hike up the cost of everything, as Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison would see us do.

JOURNALIST: So he shouldn't be muzzled because there are a couple of your federal Labor colleagues who want him to stop talking on the GST?

ELLIS: I'm really confident that we can win the debate and that we can have an argument about the way forward. I would say that my colleagues are rightly concerned about the fact that we represent a number of working-class suburbs and areas, we represent a number of Australians who would be hit hardest by an increase in the GST. I understand the frustration of my colleagues in wanting to do everything that they can to ensure that we do not see the GST increase, that we do not see everyday hardworking Australians hit hard as a result of the Government's wrong priorities. I accept their position, but equally, I believe that every day from now until election day, we will be out arguing the case and showing that there are clear alternatives and that people can vote for the federal Labor party and we will not increase the GST.

JOURNALIST: Kate Ellis we'll leave it there. Thank you for your time this morning.

ELLIS: Thank you, great to be with you.