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

16 June 2013

Doorstop Interview

Brisbane

SUBJECTS: Welcoming the Babies Event; National Plan for School Improvement; Polls; Synthetic Drugs

TREASURER:

What a great day and what a superb event. We have got literally dozens of babies and plenty of parents, grandparents, family friends, and community organisations that provide support to families with young children. This is the 14th time that we've put on Welcoming the Babies and each year it just gets better and better. It reminds me about the purpose of public life. The purpose of public life is to make sure that every child in our country gets the best possible start in life because with strong families, we have strong communities and we have a strong country. So today we're here celebrating the birth of a child, something very special to the family, but something special to the whole community.

The whole community has a stake in ensuring that our young people grow up with the best education. That's what the Government is focused on: ensuring through the school improvement program, all Australian kids get the best start in life and nobody is left behind. Because we know that's the most important thing we can do for an individual and their family but we also know it is the most fundamental investment we can make in the future of economic prosperity for our country. A smarter Australia is a stronger Australia and getting a smarter Australia depends upon putting in place fundamental reform of our funding model for schools so we can get resources to where they're needed to ensure every child gets the best start in life. Which is why it is such a pity that we have seen that the Premier of Queensland is working with Mr Abbott to stop this improvement in our schools.

We saw the Benny Hill routine from the Premier of Queensland a couple of days ago, walking into a school, walking out, and walking back in. That really obscures a fundamental and important point here: the Commonwealth is offering extra resources to Queensland schools to the tune of $3.8 billion which will provide additional teachers, additional expertise in the classroom, to lift the educational standards of Queensland's families and kids, that's what it's all about. It's not about the political games that Mr Abbott and Mr Newman are playing with education.

The Gillard Government is going to stay very focused on making sure we get this plan implemented. We've already got the support of Premier of New South Wales. We've seen the South Australian Government come on board. We need all State Governments on board so we can lock in this fundamental reform for the future. Over to you.

JOURNALIST:

How can you stay focused on anything though with all this leadership speculation?

TREASURER:

The Government is absolutely focused on getting this plan in place. The Prime Minister is focused on this plan. She has been working on this plan for years and years and she's determined to get it implemented and implemented it will be.

JOURNALIST:

Are you disappointed that Cheeseman and Murphy have been advocating for a return to Rudd in the papers?

TREASURER:

I noticed today there's a whole lot of commentary around about opinion polls. You know, opinion polls used to come every month, then they came every fortnight, then they came every week and now they come every day and all of the commentary that comes with it. I don't take any notice of any of that because I'm focused, and the Government is focused, on making sure we get this plan in place because that's what Australia needs.

And I tell you what; as I wander around over there talking to the families here today, they are not talking about opinion polls or the sort of commentary that comes with them, they're actually talking about the future of their kids and that's what they want us to talk about.

JOURNALIST:

Those backbenchers won't be getting any solace today with the polls saying that Rudd will get the ALP (inaudible).

TREASURER:

As I said before, we're getting opinion polls now on a daily basis. I'm sure by the time we get to the election we'll be getting them on an hourly basis. What we're focused on here is putting in place a range of reforms that go to the very core of our future prosperity, quality of life, and whether we're a fair society and that is what the Government is focused on. I made this point right through last week.

A focus on opinion polls is not where the Australian people want politicians to be. What they want politicians to do is to stay focused on the education of their kids, stay focused on making sure that our economy is strong. We've got a low unemployment rate; we've got an economy that's 14 per cent larger than it was in 2007; we've got a AAA credit rating. They're the sort of things that matter to the job security of Australians and education matters to the future of their kids and that's what I'm going to stay focused on.

JOURNALIST:

News Limited campaign (inaudible) opinion polls?

TREASURER:

News Limited, anybody else, they're conducting polls day in and day out. Some of them have got some rigour, most of them haven't. A whole lot of bodgie results floating around and they then get repeated in the media and the cycle goes on. I think public is heartily sick of the commentary. They're heartily sick of the publication and what they want their politicians to do is to stay focused, to stay focused on the things that matter and that is what I am focused on.

JOURNALIST:

So the only poll that matters is on election day, is it?

TREASURER:

You can go on with any sort of commentary you like but it doesn't add to the quality of the debate, those sorts of trite comments. The fact is that people are not interested in opinion polls. They are not interested in commentators commenting on the commentators commenting on the politicians commenting on the opinion polls.

JOURNALIST:

(Inaudible) is saying that your seat could be saved under Kevin Rudd. Surely you would take notice of that?

TREASURER:

This whole discussion is so disrespectful of voters, really disrespectful of voters. People calling an election outcome months out from the election based on a poll which may or may not have some rigour. I mean it's just ridiculous. The public think it is ridiculous. I think it's ridiculous and I'm not going to waste my time in commenting on them. I'll be continuing to say this as we go through every hour, of every day, of every week, of every month, as we go through to the next election.

JOURNALIST:

Peter Garrett says he won't accept a Ministerial position under Rudd if he becomes leader. Would you?

TREASURER:

As I said, I'm not going on to comment about hypotheticals. I made my position clear on these matters some time ago. I have no intention of going on and doing any further comment on a hypothetical.

JOURNALIST:

Just on the synthetic drug ban, Mr Swan. It's only an interim one at 120 days. Do you know the reason for that?

TREASURER:

Well we're getting cracking on that and it's important to get the interim ban in place. David Bradbury, my Ministerial colleague, will be making further comment on that later today because it's a pretty important issue and I know a lot of parents are vitally interested in this issue. The Government has taken action in the interim and you will hear more from David Bradbury later today.

JOURNALIST:

What's your advice to Caucus when it meets this week?

TREASURER:

My advice to the Australian people, my advice to anybody is the Government is absolutely focused in putting in place the big reforms that matter to the future quality of life and economic prosperity of the people behind me here today. All of my political life that's what I have been focused on. Our purpose in public life is to lift our living standards and to ensure that we spread opportunity around our country so every child gets the best start in life and nobody, nobody gets left behind. That's why the Government is so focused on getting the school improvement program done and that's what we're going to do.

JOURNALIST:

On an education-related matter, the Victorian Premier has referred to a Gonski 'lottery'. You've paid more to Western Australia, more to South Australia. How much can you afford? Queensland and Victoria –

TREASURER:

My advice to the Victorian Premier is: get on board and don't get left behind. The fact is that we have come to arrangements with a number of states. There is rigour in the policy that we're implementing and we're happy to have a continuing discussion with the Premier of Victoria. Get on board because that's what the public want us to do.

JOURNALIST:

How much can you afford though?

TREASURER:

I'm not having a negotiation at a press conference.

JOURNALIST:

(Inaudible) in terms of the Gonski funding. This June 30 deadline, is that going to end up costing you more money because the states can hold you to ransom?

TREASURER:

What we will do is the right thing by Australia within the policy framework that we have outlined. We've been operating within that policy framework as we've gone into the negotiations with the states. We will continue to operate in that way and to get more states on board.

It's really important: you see, the difference that can be made by investment in primary and secondary education is one for the long-term. If you don't get these things done, you won't see the consequences of not getting it done for a decade or so. At the moment the consequences of a broken funding model are leading to the fact that educational outcomes in Australia are falling behind the dynamic region in which we live.

The urgency about getting this done, this long term reform, that means we put in place long-term plans so that if a decade's time some politician will be standing here saying we have lifted the educational standards of all Australians and we're not falling behind the rest of the world. These things take time. The Government has been working on this for years and years. It's coming to its conclusion and it's about time people like Premier Newman got on board and didn't put the political interests of Tony Abbott ahead of the interests of the kids of this state.

Thank you.