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

11 June 2013

Doorstop Interview

Joint doorstop interview with the
Prime Minister

Brisbane

SUBJECTS: National Plan for School Improvement; More resources for Queensland schools; Australian Labor Party leadership; Federal election; Asylum seekers; Batman preselection

PM:

It's great here to be here at St Joseph's. I'm joined by the Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan and by Yvette D'Ath, we are in her federal electorate of Petrie and it is great to join her here today.

I want to say a very big thank you to our school principal Gary for making us so welcome today.

We have seen a lot of parents, a lot of teachers and a lot of kids; very much enjoyed our visit to this great school.

And we have come to this school today because Queensland's future is being made in this school and the 1,700 schools across the state.

Our nation's future is being made in the 9,500 schools across the country.

We can only be a strong, prosperous nation in the future if we get our schooling right for our children.

If we invest in them and make sure that they get a world-class education.

I want to make sure that every child reaches his or her full potential and that means I want to make sure every child goes to a great school.

We have been working over the five years of government to improve the standards of Australian education.

I am really conscious that we are slipping behind the standards of the world. I don't want our nation to be left behind. I do not want our kids to be left behind.

That is why we have had a major school improvement agenda.

It has included My School, to make sure everybody's got more information about our schools than we ever had before.

National curriculum that is world class. Better school buildings and more school equipment. And then we've worked in National Partnership schools to absolutely prove that if you bring some new money into the school and combine it with some new ways of working that you lift the results of the students.

Now what that can mean is that that new money is used to employ an extra teacher who focuses on literacy and numeracy, making sure the kids who are at the back of the class who might get left behind actually come up to standard.

It can mean employing specialist teachers, a school librarian, a language teacher, so that our kids can get a world-class education.

It can mean buying more books and equipment, the learning tools that can help our children stay in front; really practical things that make a difference to the quality of education in every school.

Now we have proved in these National Partnership schools that we can lift standards and now this is the critical window for taking that learning from those schools and spreading it right round the nation.

This is the time to make sure that for generations to come we get school funding and school improvement right for all of our students, for all of our schools.

Here in Queensland Premier Newman has been playing politics rather than putting the kids of Queensland first.

I'm here today with Wayne and with Yvette to say to Premier Newman that the time for playing politics is gone; it's time to put the kids of Queensland first.

We want to invest in total $3.8 billion more in the schools in Queensland.

In today's Courier Mail you can see the kind of difference that that can make to each government school.

The figures in the Courier Mail are figures that we have supplied. They are the best figures that we can generate when the Queensland Government isn't cooperating with us at all.

What I'd want to see is Premier Newman stop playing Tony Abbott's politics and put the kids of Queensland first, and that means signing up for $3.8 billion of extra resources and our plan for school improvement so we can lift standards in Queensland schools.

It would be a tragedy for Queensland if Queenslanders could look across the border and see schools in New South Wales that were better resourced and getting better results because Premier Newman had put the politics first.

This week I and the Labor team will be out in schools making the case.

We need to get states and territories around the country to sign on to our plan for school improvement by 30 June this year.

There aren't many days left but this is the work that our nation needs done for its future.

So to premiers around the nation, Premier O'Farrell has signed on, the Chief Minister in the ACT has signed on, but to other premiers and to the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory: don't let these days go by without signing on to improve your schools and to better fund them.

Now, as we go about talking about improving Australian education I'm well aware that there's plenty of rumour-mongering and plenty of speculation.

A breath spent on that speculation or rumour-mongering is a breath that isn't spent on putting the case for improving our schools for our kids.

So this week will be about putting the case for improving our schools for our kids.

I'll turn now to Wayne Swan for some comments.

DPM:

Thanks very much, Prime Minister.

I think as we have moved around this school this morning, looked into the eyes of the children, spoken to the parents, you can see that they all understand the most fundamental difference that we can make to the life of a family, or indeed to the life of a nation, is to invest in the quality of our education.

I think the Australian people understand that and they understand why investing in education is the most fundamental thing we can do to ensure prosperity for the future.

That's why it's so puzzling to me that the Premier, Mr Newman, and Mr Abbott want to see 1,700 schools in Queensland worse off than schools in New South Wales.

Why should a family with a child in Bracken Ridge receive less resources for their education than a family with a child in Blacktown in New South Wales.

Mr O'Farrell understands the importance of education in the life of a nation, in the life of a state, and in the life of a family.

But this is not understood by Mr Abbott and Mr Newman.

Today Mr Abbott has spoken about painful decisions.

Well of course one of those painful decisions is his decision to cut to the bone resources going to education.

Mr Hockey this morning has said that the Coalition is not going to be upfront about the rest of their agenda and of course this is where Mr Abbott and Mr Newman have so much in common.

Mr Newman went to the last election refusing to say what he would be doing across a range of areas, and then after the election he had a commission of audit which cut to the bone right across the state of Queensland.

That is what Mr Abbott's commission of cuts would be about if he were elected.

So there is a fundamental difference here between Labor on the one hand and the Liberal and National parties on the other.

We understand the importance of investing in schools, in education, in the quality of teaching, in providing additional resources for schools.

That challenge and that importance is not understood by Mr Abbott or Mr Newman and that's why we do look forward to having this discussion with the Australian people in the months ahead.

YVETTE D'ATH:

I'd just like to welcome the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to the electorate of Petrie.

We talk about 1,700 schools across the state who are potentially missing out on a stronger future and better education because of the decisions that Campbell Newman's making.

Here in the electorate of Petrie we're talking about 37 schools. Right here at St Joseph's at Bracken Ridge they're one of those 37 who will miss out.

So I welcome the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister being here fighting with me to get the best education, the best funding for our kids' future, and I call on Campbell Newman to step up and to invest in our kids' future and stop putting politics ahead of our kids.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, that 30 June deadline is not in the legislation, why are you so insistent about it?

PM:

Let me be very clear about this.

We have always said 30 June because I want schools to be able to properly plan for the next school year and in order to properly plan for school year 2014 they need to know by 30 June what resources they will have available for them in 2014.

Now I've seen these calls, 'why 30 June' – the Premier of Victoria has just engaged in this call.

At the same time they say 'oh, there's no certainty' and then they complain about the 30 June. Well you can't do both.

I want to make sure that schools know exactly what is happening for them in 2014 and then the years that follow.

I want to get that done by 30 June.

Here in Queensland there have been more than 50 times where federal officials have worked with state officials in order to explain our reform agenda and new funding plan; more than 50 times.

The modelling tool that we have used to generate the figures that you can see today through the Courier Mail is a modelling tool that the Queensland Government has.

So there is no excuse except the playing of politics for not getting this done.

JOURNALIST:

If they indicated that they would sign up in a show of good faith, would you extend the deadline?

PM:

If they indicate they will sign up then we will sign on the dotted line and then we will work together on implementation.

That is what we are doing in New South Wales.

You sign the agreement and then you keep working together to implement the new funding and implement the new plan and of course if Queensland signed on we would be doing that work in partnership with Queensland.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think the longer it goes the less likely it is they will sign?

PM:

I think actually the pressure is building on premiers like Premier Newman to sign up.

I think initially immediately post COAG, perhaps even immediately post Barry O'Farrell signing up, Premier Newman and others could say I still need some time to look at it.

But weeks have past now and the information that was good enough for Premier O'Farrell to sign up to is the information we're asking Premier Newman to sign up to.

So if a Liberal premier in New South Wales said, 'I've got enough detail, I know it's better for my schools, where's the dotted line, let me sign it,' why can't Premier Newman say that?

Well the explanation I think is a pretty clear one.

We know that the Leader of the Opposition and his team have been going in very hard to put the politics first rather than kids in Queensland or around the country and the Treasurer has just explained to you why they want to put the politics first.

Their view is schools should be $16.2 billion worse off in terms of federal funding than our plan.

So it is a pretty stark choice for the future.

Their plan, our plan, in federal funding it is a $16.2 billion gap. For Queensland schools it's a $4.2 billion gap.

They are the painful decisions that Mr Abbott is talking about.

He just needs to be really clear that he means that school by school, including schools in Queensland, not having the resources for the person who teaches literacy, who helps the kids who are struggling.

Not having the resources for the extension work for the really gifted kids.

Not having the resources for the new equipment which we want to teach kids with today.

Not having the resources for the extra investment in school libraries.

These are the real differences between our plan for the future and the plan on the other side of politics.

JOURNALIST:

How confident are you that you will lead the Labor Party to the next election?

PM:

Completely.

JOURNALIST:

Are there no circumstances under which that will not occur, none whatsoever?

PM:

I am the best person to lead the Labor Party. Government is about getting things done. It's about getting done the big things you need to achieve for your nation's future.

None bigger than making sure our children get a world quality education. That's what's driving me; getting those big things done.

Now I understand that these are difficult times but people elect governments to do the big things our nation needs for the future and they re-elect governments if they are achieving and getting those big things done, and that's what my focus is on.

JOURNALIST:

Paul Howes has now said that there's whispers going on, how will you get things done with this background chatter?

PM:

Well I did indicate that there's been plenty of speculation and rumour-mongering, and if people are wasting their time on that, that time that would be better used out there in the community putting the case for Australia's kids and Australia's schools.

JOURNALIST:

Have you spoken to Bill Shorten about your leadership?

PM:

No I have not. Mr Shorten has indicated publicly that he is supporting me as I get about this important work for the nation.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, are there any circumstances under which you will not lead Labor to the next election? Any at all?

PM:

No there are not. So to make sure we haven't confused anybody with too many double negatives there, I will certainly be leading Labor at the next election and I will be taking to that election the clearest possible choice between a government that is investing in our nation's future.

That has seen this nation through tough economic times and continued to invest for the future, versus the Leader of the Opposition's plan for painful decisions and big cuts.

JOURNALIST:

How big do you think the battle is in Queensland?

PM:

That is a question you really need to talk to Premier Newman about. But I would say to the parents who are listening today and to the teachers who are listening today: have a look at the information school by school on the Courier Mail website.

Now that is giving you a flavour of what is at risk for every school in terms of new funding, what their school would be missing out on if Mr Newman doesn't sign up to our agreement and our plan for improvement.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, how would you feel if the only voice in the House of Reps you had in Queensland was Kevin Rudd?

PM:

The election will be held on 14 September. And maybe it's a bit old school – as we're standing in a school – maybe it's a bit old school and it's certainly not subscribed to by the Opposition, but I actually think Australians get to decide elections.

I think they get to decide that in their millions when they go and vote.

And I know the Leader of the Opposition is sitting there with his pre-packaged victory speech and is now of the view that Australians don't matter and they don't count, and their votes are irrelevant and he'll just be giving that victory speech. I've got a different view.

I think Australians do matter. I think their votes do count and I think they will decide who represents them on the 14 September.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible]

PM:

There's speculation, some of it is media speculating about media and journalists reporting the words of journalists.

Yes, there is rumour-mongering and speculation; it's wasted breath.

JOURNALIST:

Are you 100 per cent confident that Mr Rudd has no remaining aspirations to take on the leadership before September?

PM:

Well I would refer you to Mr Rudd's words.

JOURNALIST:

The northern command not retrieving the bodies of the asylum seekers – why aren't they doing that?

PM:

That is a very tough decision but it is an operational decision.

As border command has made clear, they always put the highest priority on saving lives and I think we would all understand why that's got to come first in any tasking or any work that border command does.

We have seen yet another dreadful tragedy, considerable loss of life. I think it breaks everybody's heart to see that loss of life, which is why we send the message very clearly; do not risk your life, do not risk your children's lives, do not get on a boat.

JOURNALIST:

What about the comments today where the Tamil community said if they were Australians we would be out there retrieving the bodies.

PM:

We would always put the highest priority on saving lives.

JOURNALIST:

Does David Feeney have your support in his preselection for the seat of Batman?

PM:

Yes, he does. David Feeney has my support. He is a very talented man. He will be a continuing good contributor to Federal Labor.

He is Martin Ferguson's preferred successor in the seat of Batman and on that basis he has my support.

JOURNALIST:

The AMA has backed calls for an investigation into the military's use of special bomb-jamming devices over cancer concerns. Do you support that as well?

PM:

I would have to refer that to the Minister for Defence.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, the polls have been quite dire particularly in Queensland. How confident are you to holding on to Lilley at the next election with Ms Gillard as leader?

DPM:

There are opinion polls every day and they don't matter a bit. What we do is we do the right thing by Australia by putting in place the very big policy reforms for the future.

We're here talking about one of those this morning, in education.

As I move around my electorate, and I was out and about the electorate on the weekend talking to parents; I went to a school fete down in Virginia.

They're not raising opinion polls with me. What I'll do is what I have always done, which is work locally. I have never taken the outcome in Lilley for granted since the whole time I have represented the seat.

It's in fact been a marginal seat, and in every election I have had to earn the support of the people of Lilley and I'll go out and do that again.

When it comes to all of this fevered speculation about opinion polls, it doesn't matter a row of beans.

The way in which these matters are treated in the media is cavalier, it's generally inaccurate and it should be discounted for what it is.

And when I walk around talking to parents like the ones here today, they're not raising opinion polling with me, they're much more focussed on the future education of their kids, getting up every day, going to work, getting the kids off to school, coming home, cooking tea and getting up the next day and doing it again.

And I think it's disrespectful of all of those people to be constantly analysing the outcome of an election result before it has actually happened.

We all have an obligation to be out there talking to the Australian people about the things that matter to them.

And they actually don't want us talking about opinion polls all the time. They'd rather see us talking about the things that really matter to them in their daily lives.

So between now and September there will be opinion poll after opinion poll after opinion poll after opinion poll. And I think most people are completely and utterly disinterested in those polls.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible] they're the ones spending a lot of time and money on it, are you worried that major political parties spend all this time and money on polling?

DPM:

I've been in politics a little while and it seems to me that anything that is being done by political parties in this area is now dwarfed by an avalanche of polls.

You get up every day and there's a new poll conducted by someone somewhere with some dubious methodology interpreted by someone who has never seen the sample or understands even the questions that were asked. And they are reported as if they're accurate.

What I am saying to you is there will be a lot more of those between now and September, the approach I take is a respectful one to the Australian people and particularly to my electors in my electorate.

And they want us to go out and have a fair dinkum discussion with them about what their needs and wants are for the future, and that's the way I treat them.

JOURNALIST:

What do you say to your party colleagues who may be engaging in leadership speculation?

DPM:

The one thing I don't do is speculate on the speculation. So I am not going to do that because I've just outlined to you all the reasons we shouldn't do that.

I think it's disrespectful to the people that will vote in September, I believe it's not what the Australian people want us to be doing.

I think the Australian people want us to concentrate on the things that matter to them.

Now, in this fevered media environment I understand why we see a lot of the coverage and the commentary, and it will go on. What I'm saying to you is that from my perspective, and particularly from the Government's perspective, we will stay absolutely focussed on the things that matter to the Australian people and there is nothing that matters more to a family than the education of their child, what sort of resources they will get at school.

They go to work, earn an income to bring up their kids to make sure their kids get a better life than them.

And what they're really focussed on is how they achieve that on a day-to-day basis.

And in the middle of all of that, opinion polls for those people don't loom large. I do understand why they loom large for the political class, for the commentariat, for the media and everybody else.

But for our part, what we will stay focussed on is the things that actually matter to the Australian people.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible] think your own side of politics to stop talking about the speculation?

PM:

As the Treasurer has just said, the focus here and what we will be doing this week, what I will will be doing this week, what the team is doing this week, is doing exactly what we have done today. Come to a school, talk about education, talk about the future, talk about these children and how they can achieve their full potential.

There is nothing more important for the long-term future of our country than what's happening in Australian schools; it's one of the reasons I love coming to them.

You always see fantastic kids, it's an energising experience, they're full of bean, full of energy and you can feel the future being made. You can actually feel it being made in Australia's classrooms and we, the adults of this country, get to decide how good a future that is for our kids.

Well I am for making it the best possible future. That is what this week is about. That's what being here today is about.

Thank you very much.