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

27 April 2013

Doorstop interview

Joint interview with
The Hon Peter Garrett MP
Minister for School Education

Brisbane

SUBJECTS: National Plan for School Improvement; 'Fair Go Under Fire' essay; Rural finance; Nick Minchin's comments on the GST; Tony Abbott's PPL scheme; the Coalition's $70 billion budget crater.

TREASURER:

It's great to be here at Boondall State School with my friend Peter Garrett to talk about something of national importance. The most important thing about the meeting this morning is the deep interest that all parents have in the future education of their kids. What they see in our National School Improvement Plan is a chance to lift all of our schools up and to make sure that we don't leave any child behind. Hard working teachers, hard working parents here at Boondall understand the importance of getting some additional resources into our local schools to lift educational standards over time and to make sure that local kids are amongst the best educated kids in the world. That's really the aim of the national school improvement program which can only be delivered in Queensland if the Newman Government decides to get on board. If it is good enough for the Liberal Government of New South Wales to join together with the Commonwealth Government to put in place this vital national reform, then it should be good enough for the Newman Government in Queensland to put Queensland kids first and Tony Abbott's politics last. The fact is that the Federal Liberals are opposed to these reforms and Mr Newman is getting behind the Federal Liberal position. We need Mr Newman to get behind these reforms in Queensland just like Mr O'Farrell has got behind these reforms in New South Wales. Over to Peter.

GARRETT:

Thank you, Wayne. What's really striking to me this morning is how much community and family interest and concern there is about getting a fair, effective funding model in place which would see additional resources going to students and schools right acround Queensland. So I appreciate the opportunity to spend time with my colleague, Treasurer Wayne Swan, here this morning, and also to speak to the community and explain to them what is at stake in Queensland for their kids in every school under our National Plan for School Improvement. Yes, we now have the New South Wales Premier who administers the biggest education system in the country on board, and it is time for the Queensland Premier to put the interests of Queensland students first and sit down at the table to negotiate and work with us on our National Plan for School Improvement. Remember, if Premier Newman doesn't get on board with this National Plan for School Improvement, Queensland schools will be around $1 billion worse off. If you care about schools, if you care about providing additional resources to schools and making sure that every school is a great school, then you'll care about sitting down and working through with this Federal Labor Government on a National Plan for School Improvement.

TREASURER:

Over to you.

JOURNALIST:

You wrote an essay published today saying Labor hasn't always got it right. What you have got wrong in the government that you regret?

TREASURER:

Can I make this point about the essay. I passionately believe in the fair go, and the reason we're here today is we're talking about one of those policies that produces opportunity for Australians. The Gonski school improvement program is all about ensuring our kids get a fair go in Australia. And this one program which goes to the very core of what I'm referring to in the essay. A whole program to create wealth and to spread opportunity by giving opportunity to everyone of our kids. And I make the point in the essay we've got all the big economic decisions right over the past five years and will get them right over the next five years as well, particularly with programs like the school improvement program. I made the point that I'm not perfect. I made the point that from time to time people may not be happy with individual decisions, but the most important thing is getting the big economic decisions right for the future of the country. We got them right during the Global Financial Crisis and the global recession and the consequence of that has been one of the strongest developed economies in the world with low unemployment, solid growth, a strong investment pipeline, lower interest rates, contained inflation, and strong public finances. They are the points I made in the essay.

JOURNALIST:

What specifically do you regret?

TREASURER:

I think there are many things that you could go back over and say ‘oh well, perhaps I could have done that a bit better', but I'll leave that to the commentators. I was simply making the point that when you look at this government, it has got the big economic decisions right, particularly in response to the Global Financial Crisis, and we're putting in place the big decisions which will drive opportunity in Australia over the years ahead.

JOURNALIST:

In that essay you say Labor is not the flavour of the month. Is that an admission of failure?

TREASURER:

No, I think it is a recognition that from time to time governments have a bit of paint stripped off them, and I've said that on many occasions, and it happens to governments over time. I was making the point in the essay that governments, like our government, have got the big economic decisions right in recent times and that's what really counts when it comes to the peace of mind of Australians. The fact that we've got relatively low unemployment in Australia, unlike most other developed countries, the fact that we've got solid growth. When you look to Europe, where unemployment is high, and in those countries governments through conscious acts of austerity are causing even higher unemployment. And I contrast what is done in Australia to protect the fair go with what an Abbott Government would do in Australia, like those European governments, which is cutting to the bone particularly in areas such as health and education – and I make the point that there's a clear contrast between those approaches.

JOURNALIST:

$60 million in concessional loans for (inaudible) farmers. Isn't this going to leave farmers with more debt?

TREASURER:

No, we'll work closely with State Governments and the rural community to ensure that viable farmers get a fair go and get access to finance to assist them through difficult times. We recognise that parts of the rural sector are suffering, suffering particularly from a high Australian dollar, and of course in other areas there may be a whole host of other local conditions as well. This package has been worked through with industry, we think it is very important to get behind Aussie farmers who have got good prospects in the future but who are doing it tough at the moment and we make no apologies for putting together a responsible package to support them through some difficult times.

JOURNALIST:

You mentioned about a fair go. Does that mean this Budget won't be savage, and where will you be looking to make savings?

TREASURER:

Well you'll have to wait for the Budget, but this Budget will be built on our support for jobs and economic growth, and every decision we take in this Budget will be one which supports jobs and growth and there will be a very clear contrast between the Liberals who have got a whole host of policies which will cut jobs and cut support for health and education.

JOURNALIST:

Nick Minchin's comments in the AFR, he said the GST needs to be raised or broadened. Will the Government consider doing this to avoid a funding crisis?

TREASURER:

No, the Government will not consider doing either of those things. We all know in their heart of hearts that the Liberals believe in lifting the GST and in broadening its base. It is in their DNA and we all know that's the secret agenda that lies behind the failure of Mr Abbott and the Liberals to put out any alternative policies. They're out there all the time claiming the Government is spending too much but they won't nominate any area that they will take spending from. I think what we are seeing with the Federal Liberals is the same approach that Queenslanders saw from Premier Newman. He went to the election, he didn't tell them what his real intentions were, he had an audit commission which hid his real intentions, and came out after the election and said that he was going to cut to the bone. Of course, that is what Mr Abbott would do if he were to be elected Prime Minister of Australia. Seek to hide his real intentions from the people of Australia during an election campaign and afterwards come out with Newman-style policies to cut to the bone.

JOURNALIST:

Back on that New South Wales, the farmers' relief package, the New South Wales Farmers Federation says the scheme should apply to existing loans. Will you consider that?

TREASURER:

I haven't seen the comments from the New South Wales Farmers Federation, so the first thing I'll do is go and look at them before I comment on them.

JOURNALIST:

Tony Abbott's indicated his paid parental leave scheme may not be brought in until late in the first term. Do you think he's getting ready to drop it?

TREASURER:

Well, Tony Abbott has been all over the place on this issue and he has not been frank with the Australian people about what his real intentions are in a range of policy areas. Because we know the Liberals have got a $70 billion black hole in their budget bottom line and he wants to skate through the election campaign without telling the Australian people where he would cut to the bone after the election if he were elected. The shemozzle that we're now seeing over the funding of his so-called paid parental leave scheme - which is basically a parental leave scheme for the very rich - demonstrates his failure to be candid with the Australian people about his real intentions. Thank you.