The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

10 December 2012

Doorstop interview

Brisbane

Joint interview with
the Hon Peter Garrett MP
Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth and
Gene Miles
Executive Chairman, Former Origin Greats

SUBJECTS: Additional funding for the Former Origin Greats ARTIE program; Budget; Electoral roll; Christopher Pyne's comments.

TREASURER:

It's great to be here with all our former origin greats today to announce additional funding for the ARTIE academy. This is money which is going to make an enormous difference at the grassroots level across this state. A really big difference for a lot of kids who need role models to follow and of course with our former origin greats and their organisation, they can reach down and inspire these kids to stay at school and to study. That's what it's all about. This is a really effective program that gets people right down there into communities. Sends that message very strongly because as the Education Minister says, we need kids to stay at school, we need them to achieve at school and this program is very, very effective when it comes to achieving that objective.

GARRETT:

Thanks very much Wayne. I think it's a great day today because we'll see this program expanded. What this means is that kids in school are getting a chance to focus on what they need to have as the underlying fundamentals through their school life and we're seeing increased school retention, good attendance and good engagement. That's a big challenge for us right around Australia, but it's especially pleasing to see how former origin greats and the ARTIE program can work here in Queensland. Just think of the modest beginnings; very, very few schools involved in this early period and it continues to grow and it continues to develop. As I said earlier, nothing is more important to a young person in Queensland, a young person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background than to make sure they've got some education fundamentals under their belt no matter what they want to do. And that's why this program is a successful one and that's why it is pleasing today to announce this additional investment.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, can you tell us how much money and exactly what will be spent on, what sort of programs?

GARRETT:

It's over $4 million to expand the existing program, both into primary schools and also into other parts of Queensland. I was talking earlier to some of the young tutors who have been involved in this program and the fact that kids in the school not only have an opportunity to hear from footy players that they respect and who they know and who can send them a message on how it important it is to stay at school and to do that learning, but also, have these tutors that are coming into the school setting and providing them with one-on-one assistance, mentoring and support. What we do know is that for a young person from a socially disadvantaged background, or from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background, focussed attention and support during the school setting period will make the biggest possible difference to them. Every single young person, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person has got the capacity and the ability to succeed. Whether it is on the sporting field, whether it is in work, whether it is in study, whatever it might be. To be able to provide that particular focus on the way through with a program like this can make a very big difference.

JOURNALIST:

What sort of results are you seeing?

GARRETT:

We've seen some good results. We've seen some good results in terms of retention in school, good results in terms of people staying on track for their study, good results in terms of the actual delivery of education outcomes. When I look around Australia, I think that these programs where we actually marry sport and learning and send a very strong message to young people, that if you want to play your sport and keep active, your education is a big part of it, then we see improvements in education as well.

JOURNALIST:

Gene, how important is that, marrying sport and education? Obviously it is a program that encompasses everything. How does sport and Rugby League motivate?

GENE MILES:

Rugby League in particular, and the players play a very important role. It is to engage the students obviously and to set those students certain goals, achievable goals that we can celebrate and the end of achievement. It's not all about football, it's not all about kicking the footy around and doing drills and so forth, it's about school attendance and improving numeracy and literacy. Our program is delivered by former school teachers and the players obviously play a very important role in engaging the students initially.

JOURNALIST:

What do you think Artie would be thinking today, to see this sort of program in his name?

GENE MILES:

I think he'd be very proud. It's just over 12 months now since we lost the big guy. To have this program, to have this legacy continued because he's very passionate about his mob and we have been focussed around the South-East Queensland area. Today with the funding extension it will allow us to go further up north.

JOURNALIST:

This is obviously going to expand this program. But how big is the potential job out there? What could you guys do and need in more than four years' time?

GENE MILES:

Yeah, it's amazing. Because Rugby League is a staple sport here in Queensland, it's not just all about the male side of things here; there's girls engaged in this program, comparably with the girls [and] with the boys – it is about a 50/50 split, so that's very encouraging. We just don't want to spread ourselves too thin. We obviously move into Townsville now and we have the support of the Cowboys up there, where the Brisbane Broncos play a very important role in our program as well here, so it'd be nice to have it move up to North Queensland and spread this, but we just don't want to go too big too early. We have a formula that is working and we'd like to share that with North Queenslanders as well.

JOURNALIST:

Wayne, Queensland's got the FOGS and the ARTIE Foundation. What about the other states where Rugby League isn't the staple sport. What would you be encouraging others -

TREASURER:

Programs will seek individual or regional specifics so Rugby League's a no- brainer here in Queensland, it's pretty important in New South Wales. If you go around the other sports there are an enormous number of programs where similar things have been done by different people in different circumstances. There's a wide variety of programs around the country, and I can get Peter to send you a list, but there's plenty of them.

JOURNALIST:

About the Budget, are you still going to have a surplus next year?

TREASURER:

I've been asked this question a lot and I just want to make this point because I made it at the mid-year update, and of course I made it at the National Accounts the other week. The fact is that in an economy where there is low unemployment, where there is growth around trend, where you've got a strong investment pipeline, where you've got low public debt and where you've got strong public finances, it's appropriate that we return to surplus. Now of course, that's become more challenging, and I made this point at the National Accounts a couple of weeks ago, because commodity prices have come off substantially. So we've written down revenues, not just recently but over a number of years, to the tune of almost $160 billion. That's the after-shock, if you like, of the Global Financial Crisis and its impact on our budget. But we don't re-do our budgets every month when new data comes out, we have a look at what's going on. But when you have got an economy with low unemployment, growth around trend, strong investment pipeline then it is appropriate you return to surplus. They're the settings that we've put in place for the mid-year update and they're the settings that we are dealing with at the moment.

JOURNALIST:

Isn't it fair to say Treasurer, when the commodity prices come off a bit, the wafer-thin surplus then turns into a fairly large deficit?

TREASURER:

There's no doubt, and I've made this point very strongly last week, that commodity prices came off substantially. Commodity prices were down something like 35 per cent between the end of June through to September and I think I used a graph when the National Accounts came out to show what they had been over the quarter. So there's been a very big impact on the budget, but we don't reset commodity prices based on where they are on what month, we've got to see what the trend is over time. As you know, there are significant challenges in the global economy. We've got the question of the fiscal cliff in the United States and what the fallout from that will be on global growth. It is good to see some of the data coming out of China now is a little stronger, that's encouraging. But we have to follow these trends through before we reach any conclusions about their impact on one the global economy, two, on our economy, and three, on our revenue.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, you would concede that there could be a deficit, there's a possibility of it?

TREASURER:

I don't deal with hypothetical situations -

JOURNALIST:

Why not? You're the Treasurer though.

TREASURER:

What I deal with is the economy that we've got here in Australia. The economy that we've got here is one which has got low unemployment, growth around trend, strong investment pipeline. But of course there are other factors impacting; we've got a high dollar, we've got a cautious consumer and a prudent borrower. So those are all features of our economy at the moment. But I don't deal with hypotheticals. I would just make this one point that is very, very important - that this Government has a proven capacity to respond to challenges in the global economy, we showed that through the Global Financial Crisis and global recession and Australia has come through it in a far better position than many other countries. Because unlike other countries, we've got low unemployment, we've got growth around trend, we have a strong investment pipeline, we've got low debt and we've got strong public finances.

JOURNALIST:

Is there a witch-hunt against a radio station, or are there -

TREASURER:

This is a tragedy and I'm sure there'll be a public debate about all of the elements of it. I don't intend to add to it. These are matters for the regulators and there is a regulator involved here. I'll leave the discussion of that to the regulator. This is a tragedy, and I don't intend to really add to the public discussion.

JOURNALIST:

On the changes to the electoral roll. The Coalition says it is looking like you're just trying to rort the system to get re-elected?

TREASURER:

They'll say anything, won't they? I mean really.

JOURNALIST:

But it helps Labor though getting younger people on the roll, they vote Labor, they vote for the Greens. That'll help the Government?

TREASURER:

Could we just actually just strip this back a little and say is it a good thing that all Australians who are eligible to vote are actually on the roll? I think the answer to that is yes. Let's forget the rest of it.

JOURNALIST:

How many seats do you think it would affect?

TREASURER:

I have no idea. I spend my time concentrating on what I regard as the most important thing a Treasurer can do, which is making sure that our economy is strong enough to support the employment we require to support the living standards that Australians deserve.

JOURNALIST:

Christopher Pyne says that people should have to show ID to enrol and to vote. What do you think of that?

TREASURER:

Well he's just interested in kind of trying to exclude people from the electoral roll. You'd have to ask him why that's his objective. But I noticed he's made some comments this morning on the economy and Christopher Pyne wants to pretend that the Global Financial Crisis never happened, the European sovereign debt crisis never happened, the fiscal cliff in the United States is not looming - these people are delusional.

JOURNALIST:

Do we need to crack down on radio stunts do you believe?

TREASURER:

Look, there are standards that are set by the responsible regulator, they are looking at this matter, and they are the people who take those decisions not politicians.