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

21 June 2013

Doorstop interview

Brisbane

SUBJECTS: Gillard Government's Plans for Better Schools; Asylum Seekers; Northern Queensland

TREASURER:

It's great to be here at Padua. It's great to be here with Mr Out, the principal. This is a terrific local school. It does a great job; dedicated teachers, great students, tremendous facilities and one of the pleasures of being out and about talking about the national school improvement program is coming back to great schools like this because the whole point of the school improvement program is to lift the quality of our education.

Our schools do a great job but we've got a very big challenge in front of us as a nation. We've got to lift the quality of our education which means fixing the funding model, which is what the Gonski recommendations are all about. Improving our schools by providing more resources, more teachers, more specialist resources in our schools, better teacher training - all of those things to lift the quality of our education for the future because if we want to win the economic race in the Asian Century, we've got to win the education race.

So we've got to do better across all of our schools and we've got to make sure that no student in any of our schools is left behind, which is why the funding offer that the Commonwealth Government is making to the States is so important. Here in Queensland an additional $3.8 billion over six years for our schools - for our government schools, our Catholic schools and our independent schools. What I'm releasing today is the details of that funding offer by sector. Increased resources, substantially increased resources, for every sector – government and non-government and that's the importance of being here today at Padua.

This is a school which has provided, over the years, a great education for many people. And you can see as you move around the school today, additional facilities going in as well to lift the standards, to lift the quality of the facilities, to lift the quality of the teaching. That's why we need the increased funding.

So the 30th of June is the deadline. It's time for Mr Newman to make up his mind. At the moment he's dragging his feet and dancing to the tune of Mr Abbott and not signing up to this agreement. If it's good enough for the Premier of New South Wales, if it's good enough for the Premier of South Australia, it should be good enough for the Premier of Queensland to get on board this fundamental program of school improvement to lift the quality of education to improve our country, to lift the quality of life and our prosperity into the future.

JOURNALIST:

So this is more detail and not more money?

TREASURER:

It is more detail, more detail about where the funding increases are going; additional money for Catholic and independent schools as well as government schools.

JOURNALIST:

So you haven't had to try to sweeten the deal to get Queensland to come on board, in addition to the additional funding?

TREASURER:

Look, this is a very fine offer. If you listen to what the Premier of New South Wales said, and what his Education Minister said, it was an offer too good to refuse. But unfortunately here in Queensland Mr Newman and Mr Abbott are putting politics ahead of the interests of the education of our kids. That's a pretty sad reflection on their approach. Nine days to go until the 30th of June. Nine days for Mr Newman to get on board.

JOURNALIST:

Non-state schools like this, is the new campaign ground in Queensland for Gonski, given Mr Newman's ban in state schools?

TREASURER:

Well, I like visiting schools. The whole time I've been a Member of Parliament I've been out and about visiting local schools, whether it's parish schools, whether it's independent schools or government schools. I mean, we saw Mr Newman's Benny Hill routine a week or two ago – in and out the front gate playing a silly game to divert attention from the fact that he's playing politics and not accepting a very generous funding offer which will lift the quality of education in our schools. It's time for Mr Newman to put those games away, to get on board, to sign up to this important agreement which will lift the quality of education in our schools.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think this extra detail is likely to convince the Queensland Government?

TREASURER:

I'm not sure what's driving the Queensland Government but what I would appeal to them to do is to put the State's interests first and the interests of Mr Abbott and the Liberal Party last.

JOURNALIST:

What is the extra detail exactly?

TREASURER:

The extra detail is the additional money going to government and independent schools, an additional $500 million over six years.

JOURNALIST:

Is the Government working on a package of reforms that includes Indonesia and Malaysia, a new package of asylum seeker changes?

TREASURER:

What the Government is doing is putting in place the recommendations that were made to us by the Houston Review and of course we were blocked in that endeavour by Mr Abbott and the Liberal Party in the Parliament. The sad consequence of that has been more boats and more deaths at sea. We'll never stop working on making sure we are doing everything we possibly can to stop people from getting on leaky boats and getting on boats at the instigation of people smugglers and to make sure that we put an end to that evil trade. So the Government will be doing everything within its power, and continue to do everything in its power, to achieve that goal.

JOURNALIST:

The Prime Minister, is she trying to strengthen ties with Indonesia particularly?

TREASURER:

The Prime Minister has a regular visit to Indonesia coming up and of course this will be part of a wide-ranging discussion.

JOURNALIST:

You were warned from day one that sending families to Manus Island in PNG was risky. Is this acknowledgment now that the removal of families from Manus, that the Government was wrong to send them there in the first place?

TREASURER:

No, not at all. It's part and parcel of a broad package of measures that were recommended to the Government by the Houston committee.

JOURNALIST:

But these concerns weren't new about sending families, particularly children, to Manus Island.

TREASURER:

Well, we received a recommendation from the independent committee. We followed through on that recommendation and we'll continue to do that across the board.

JOURNALIST:

But you've now had to take them away.

TREASURER:

Well, that's your assertion.

JOURNALIST:

If Caucus changes leader will you go to the backbench?

TREASURER:

Well, here we go again. More speculation about speculation about speculation from fictional reports which appear in newspapers on a daily basis. The fact is that when you pick up the papers and read the stories in the morning what you find is a lot of rubbish. So I would urge people not to take any notice of the rubbish that is being printed on the front pages of newspapers now on a daily basis.

JOURNALIST:

What about this talk of Labor's number two Senate candidates now being at risk?

TREASURER:

I haven't heard that talk.

JOURNALIST:

You don't think that it's a danger given the polling numbers?

TREASURER:

No this is just another example of speculation about speculation about speculation.

JOURNALIST:

Can I also ask you does Labor have a plan for Northern Australia, policy release or anything like that imminent from the party?

TREASURER:

Funny you should mention that because when I leave here I'm going to Gladstone and as a senior Government Minister I spend a lot of time particularly in North Queensland and Far North Queensland. And unlike previous governments, particularly previous Liberal governments, we've invested an enormous amount of money in Northern Australia in infrastructure, in facilities, in roads, in energy projects. Not too long ago I was up in Townsville talking about the power needs of North Queensland and what we could do there to put in place baseload power.

So this Government is very much focused on Northern Australia. I see today from the newspapers that we've got some thought-bubbles from Mr Abbott, a series of proposals which are not funded, there's no detail. What we're doing is getting on with the job of strengthening our country and in particular investing in infrastructure across our northern cities, running a whole range of support to that region. We're very proud of the job that we've done in Northern Australia.

JOURNALIST:

Thank you.

TREASURER:

Thank you.