27 February 2014

KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Last night in senate estimates it was revealed that the Gonski reforms have been thrown aside in their entirety and with it every election promise on school funding that the Abbott Government made to the Australian public. Last night it was revealed that Gonski is gone.

It was revealed that every state is free to cut their school budgets. It was revealed that the Commonwealth has let every state off the hook for the co-contributions that they had promised to invest in the schools.

Tony Abbott made a very clear promise before the election - he stated that no school would be worse off. What we have seen here, in senate estimates, is that that statement is absolutely a lie. He cannot guarantee that a single school will not be worse off because he has opened the doors to cuts and he has walked away from every commitment that he made.

Now I want to just compare a couple of statements from before the election and right now.
Before the election Tony Abbott said:
"We will honour the agreements that Labor has entered into. We will match the offers that Labor has made. We will make sure that no school is worse off."

Last night in senate estimates the education department secretary Lisa Paul was asked:
"So they're not committed to implementing the previous agreements?"
"That's right," she replied.

When they were asked whether it comes to keeping the agreements that have already been made, they were asked:
"And the current government is insisting on those conditions?"
The education department: "No, I don't think that that is the case at all."

Now it is clear that the only school yard that Christopher Pyne cares about is the one that he tries to create in this Parliament each and every day.

But what is also clear is that Tony Abbott should cut his ridiculous paid parental leave scheme, not every education promise he's made to parents, students and educators around Australia.

JOURNALIST: Will Labor be receptive to the idea of loosening the foreign ownership restrictions?

ELLIS: Look I think it is incredibly important that QANTAS remains in Australian hands. I think it is incredibly important that all of those QANTAS workers have job security moving forward. But I do think it is important that we make sure that QANTAS and that QANTAS jobs remain in Australian hands.

JOURNALIST: Surely the government can't insulate a company from market forces in order to make it sustainable. You can't prop up a company forever.

ELLIS: Well what we can do is make sure that QANTAS remains in Australia. What we can do is work with QANTAS to ensure that we can protect those jobs. Now I know in my electorate in Adelaide I have spoken to QANTAS workers who are going through an incredibly difficult time, a tough week and an incredibly hard day. But what's important is that the Government of Australia does everything that we can to protect QANTAS in Australia into the future and give those workers job security that they sadly haven't had this week or today.

JOURNALIST: Do you (inaudible) Stephen Conroy as your defence spokesperson

ELLIS: I think Stephen Conroy has made very clear that he withdrew the remarks made earlier in the week and he has also made very clear that he has every respect for the military. What he does not have a respect for and what no member of the opposition has respect for is this government not being accountable and hiding behind a veil of secrecy when it comes to their border protection policies. Now everybody knows that the responsibility of a minister and of a government is to be accountable to the Parliament and to the Australian public. That is what we have not seen repeatedly from this government when they refuse to answer questions, refuse to reveal information, and now in fact, refuse to answer questions about when they can into information which was later revealed. This is absurd and we cannot let a government hide behind the military. It is incredibly important that we have clear accountability about what happened, that we have clear answers in a case where a man has died.

JOURNALIST: The Chief of the Defence Force has said that this has cast a shadow over Angus Campbell. Has Stephen Conroy done that?

ELLIS: As I said, Stephen Conroy has withdrawn his remarks but he has also restated yesterday morning that he has every respect and every confidence in our military.

JOURNALIST: Why hasn't he just said sorry?

ELLIS: Stephen Conroy withdrew his statement

JOURNALIST: That's not saying sorry.

ELLIS: He made clear his respect to the military. What we have been focusing on is trying to get this government to stop hiding, to stop the secrecy and to be accountable.

JOURNALIST: Are you offended by the 'Princess of Adelaide' comment?

ELLIS: I think as I said yesterday, I'm pretty sure that members of the government have called me worse things and I know for a fact that they've called Julie Bishop worse things.

JOURNALIST: Is it sexist?

ELLIS: I don't really want to give it anymore attention. We see these ridiculous things come and go. I do think that given the point I was making at the time was that the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party should grow up, she probably proved my point.