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

1 June 2013

Doorstop Interview

Brisbane

SUBJECTS: Newman Government's proposal to sell Everton Park High; Qld State Budget 2013/14; National Plan for School Improvement; Newman Government's electricity price rises; ALP; National Broadband Network

TREASURER:

What we have seen here today is a very strong community reaction to the decision of the Newman Government to flog off this school. As you can see today there is very strong community opinion about that decision. It is not a decision that passes the common sense test. It is short sighted and it is another example of the Newman government cutting too hard too fast and having a dramatic impact on front-line services, not just in education, but particularly in health. There has been an attempt to close nursing homes right across the state and very savage cuts in the health system, particularly here locally but right across the state.

All of that is having an impact on the Queensland economy and it's having an impact on confidence. The confidence compared here with the rest of the country has gone backwards over the past year after sacking 14,000 workers. It has had an impact on employment in this state, and there is a state Budget coming out, and they should think again when it comes to these savage cuts which are hitting economic growth, hitting living standards, and making life very uncertain for many workers and their families. But also taking the axe to education at this school and refusing to sign up to the National Plan for School Improvement which would bring more funds to schools like this. What we are really seeing here is the Newman Government's agenda, a hidden agenda which they didn't tell the people of Queensland about before the election, now savagely impacting on local communities like this. But as I said to the community today, I do believe that people power can have an impact and they will continue, I believe as you see today, to lobby the Queensland Government to at least have some genuine consultation about this particular school because this school is located in the middle of a growing area. Young families are moving in all the time, development is intense. This school is required for the future. So what we have in a short-sighted way just sums up the whole approach of the Newman Government to economic policy and to social policy more broadly.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)      

TREASURER:

It is entirely a matter for them. But I urge them to think again. I urge them to come to the table and meet with the very genuine people in the room today and talk to them about the future of this community. A school in many ways is the heart of a community, it is not just what happens in the building with the teachers. Everybody is using these facilities. The locals who are here that have lived here for forty years who were speaking out this morning, the footy teams that use the oval. This is a fantastic public space as well as great educational institution. They are just so short-sighted, the approach of the Newman Government.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

Well look I hope he is. I hope he sits down and has a chat to all the people that were in the room today and engage in genuine consultation with this local community.  We have got another example over in Banyo.  They are trying to flog off half of the school oval at Banyo, which is also a growing school which has a bright future, and I attended a meeting over there two weeks ago of 150 or so people. Another dumb decision really, just so short-sighted. They treat the state like a corporation, when what they should be doing is understanding that we live in a community, and strong communities need good educational facilities, good quality of life in neighbourhoods. And that is something that they don't seem to get.

JOURNALIST:

Are you saying no school should close or amalgamate?

TREASURER:

What I am saying here is that there isn't a case for that here.  They haven't made it. What would be the case here when you have got 25 acres of land, in a suburb which is essentially now almost an inner suburb, which is located right in the middle of dramatically expanding population, where young families are moving in. What is the case? A case was made and failed years ago to close Wooloowin School just over there and Kedron Primary just over there. That case didn't get through, they remained open, and now they are all full and packed. All of the schools in these particular inner suburbs in our city have bright futures because they have growing populations. More people want to live in suburbs like this and have great quality of life. And flogging off a school in the middle of this area is just dumb.

JOURNALIST:

Are there enough students here currently, is that sustainable?

TREASURER:

Look that is a discussion they need to have with the local community and they are not been having that. What I do know, and what everyone is telling me, is that the quality of education here, particularly when it comes to special education, I don't think that is contested. And what I do know is that the catchment area for this school is growing. All of these suburbs go through peaks, that is not contested. What has happened here, and I have lived in this area for the last 30 years, enrolments go up then the population gets older, then a few families move into these suburbs. These suburbs are exactly at the phase where new families are coming in in their thousands. If you go up to the primary school up the road you will find it is doing pretty well and it is a feeder for a high school just like this.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer just on another topic, the Government has announced more assistance for Ford workers. The reality is that they are not going to be able to stay in Geelong past 2016, many of them will have to move out…

TREAUSRER:

Well look, can I just deal with that because there is a variety of programs that have been announced for Geelong. A diversification program has already been announced and funding for that. Because I believe it is a great area for industry and other new industries and I think over time we will see many advantages in Geelong and it is a vibrant, innovative community. So a package for that, a diversification package that was put in place to see what could be done in terms of new industries moving in and workers taking advantage of that. And part of that was some additional training resources. Today the Prime Minister has announced further resources for retraining of workers who may or may not remain locally. All of those approaches have to be on the table when you have an event like we have had sadly with Ford. 

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

Look we are absolutely committed to building the area up. We are also committed to giving people choice. And we are going to do everything we can to attract new industries to the area which brings new jobs, and also to give people the choice as to whether they retrain or not and where that takes them is entirely a matter for them. But they need to have choice, and we are absolutely focusing on that.

JOURNALIST:

What are your thoughts on Ged Kearney pulling out of Batman?

TREASURER:

Well that is entirely a matter for Ged. I don't comment on ALP pre-selections. I don't think there has been any nominations, or there might have been one. Someone indicated they were running. I know there has been a discussion but I am not commenting on that.

JOURNALIST:

The State Government says that the carbon price is one of the main drivers behind yesterday's power price rise…

TREASURER:

They are really desperate people aren't they? I mean they went to the last election promising a rebate, they have announced a price hike for the average family of $300 and they junked the promised rebate which was a $120. They have jacked up prices contrary to everything they said before the election and the responsibility for that lies with the State Government. It doesn't matter that they run away from press conferences as they did yesterday and go and hide in a coward's castle. This decision is one that they are responsible for and they ought to have admitted it and fronted up and explained their position and they weren't even game to do that yesterday. So now they are running around drag all sorts of red herrings through it to escape the fallout from this decision which hits families and increases the cost of living to the tune of $300.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

What I am saying is that those matters have always been there and those matters were dealt within the federal compensation package. Here the big decisions, go and read the determination. Have a look at the determination. The determination is very clear these are all State Government electricity matters bar a seven per cent element for the carbon price.  Overwhelmingly, the State Government's responsibility and it doesn't matter how they squirm, how they hide, they better front up and accept responsibility for the fact that they junked their commitment to a rebate which Queenslanders expected and didn't get.

JOURNALIST:

Tim Nicholls has been forced to move back his surplus, do you have any sympathy for him?

TREASURER:

Well Tim Nicholls wasn't up front with what was happening with his revenues. And he should have been. He should have been upfront as long ago as the end of last year when it would have been readily apparent to Mr Nicholls that his revenues were down substantially. He didn't do that. He didn't front up then either.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER: 

Well I understand why Mr Turnbull would oppose the NBN because he has a fraudband policy that doesn't actually deliver the sort of speeds that the NBN will. This is a really big and important project for Australia which is going to lift our productivity and bring great benefits for households and businesses right across the country. This is a new construction project. Asbestos has been a problem as long as I have been on earth, and over time we have had the community do more and more to deal with the ugly consequences that come from it. And of course the Labor Party understands how dangerous this is in the workplace which is why we did what we did during the James Hardie case to try to get justice for all the workers that were affected by that.  And we will bring the same standards to dealing with the discovery of it in these circumstances as we have in the past.  Always, always putting the safety of our workers first.

Thank you.