TUESDAY, 25 JULY 2017
THE HON MARK BUTLER MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: Thanks you for coming out this morning. I particularly want to thank my friend and colleague the Deputy Leader of Labor and the Education spokesperson at the Federal level, Tanya Plibersek, for being here in South Australia and doing a number of events to hear from principals, from teachers, and from parents about the importance of education policy here and particularly the impact of funding cuts that were put through the Parliament several weeks ago. Tanya and the State Education Minister, Susan Close, and I have just held a breakfast that I regularly hold with principals from the electorate of Port Adelaide. Principals who lead schools in the Government sector, the Catholic sector and the independent sector, and we've heard directly from them just what the impact of those funding cuts would be. So I want to thank Tanya again for coming out early this morning and I'll hand over to Tanya now.
THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well thanks very much Mark. It's been a great pleasure to meet with your principals this morning and of course to also be with Susan Close. We've had a number of functions over the last two days together and she's made excellent points as the South Australian Education Minister about the difference that these two years of funding cuts alone will make in South Australian schools. So in the next two years alone, South Australia will lose $210 million across all three education sectors - public schools, Catholic schools and independent schools. And that's going to make a huge difference. We heard from your principals today, Mark, about the difference that the early years of needs-based funding is already making in their schools. Principals talking to us about the sort of extra support they are able to offer to every child, making sure that every child gets the best education in maths, in literacy, in science, in coding; that every child with special needs gets the support they need, so children are able to get support like speech pathology, occupational therapy; children with more extensive disabilities are able to get the support they need to learn in the classroom. All of those extra interventions are the very beginning of what needs-based funding can offer. Over coming years we would have seen huge extra resources flowing into our schools, and what that enabled us to do, in South Australia and around the country, is make sure that we were getting better results. With extra funding, we would see better results. We wanted to make sure that more children were graduating high school; that we were reducing the difference in outcomes for indigenous and non-indigenous children; that Australia returned to the top five countries internationally in our basics - maths, literacy, science and so on; we wanted to make sure that initial teacher training, the education that our teachers are getting in university before they start teaching was top quality, and that teachers were able to continue their professional development throughout their teaching careers. We wanted to give principals more say over how extra funding was spent. Principals and school communities are in the best position to make decisions about how extra resources can best be allocated to really deliver for every child in that school. The trouble with the Liberals' announcement a couple of weeks ago is that not only do we see $17 billion cut from schools across Australia, but the ambition for our schools, the reform agenda, is also gone. So with the Liberals in Canberra, despite all their promises, what you see is less funding and less reform. The Liberals have delivered less money and less reform in our schools. But they've only been able to do that because the Xenophon Team has enabled them to do it. Without the votes of the Xenophon Team in the Senate, South Australian education funding would have been protected. Because of the Liberal cuts, with the support of the Xenophon Team, South Australia will lose $210 million over the next two years alone, and with that loss of funding is the loss of the reforms that would have enabled every child in every school to get a great education. Now of course all of this has happened at the same time as we're seeing massive new spending from the Federal Government on a big business tax cut and a tax cut for millionaires. So the Government will spend over the next decade $65 billion giving big business a tax cut that will mostly benefit overseas shareholders. We'll see billions of dollars being spent on giving people earning more than $180,000 a year a tax cut. So if you're earning one million dollars a year you'll get a $16,400 a year tax cut this year. So we've got a Government that's prepared to spend money but it's spending it on big business tax cuts and millionaires’ tax breaks, not on our school children. The best investment we could be making in our future prosperity is making sure that every child in every school gets a great education.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of the revelations on Four Corners last night about the Murray Darling Basin Plan. Do you think there needs to be an independent inquiry?
PLIBERSEK: Well of course Labor would support any investigation. These allegations are very serious and it is important that the New South Wales Government and the Federal Government answer the allegations that have been made. I’m sure Mark, as a South Australian, will want to say a few words about this, and I know our spokesperson Tony Burke, will have a few words to say about this later as well.
BUTLER: Thank you Tanya. One of the outstanding achievements really of the last decade was the development of the Murray Darling Basin Plan. For South Australians this was unfinished business that went back literally decades. Some $13 billion of taxpayer funds were put into the Plan and I think all Australians who watched the Four Corners show last night would be shocked by the allegations that emerged from it. Not just about the conduct of some of the private individuals involved in that but particularly by some of the allegations around the New South Wales Government’s conduct. Tony Burke, and also the South Australian Minister Ian Hunter, will have more to say about this over the next couple of hours but there are some very serious allegations here for the New South Wales Government to answer.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it shows though that the plan was broken, if what is being alleged is true and what’s happening further upstream?
BUTLER: These are very damaging allegations and I think particularly the suggestion that the New South Wales Government might be considering withdrawing from the plan needs to be ruled out by the New South Wales Premier immediately. As I said, and as Tanya said, Tony Burke and Ian Hunter will have more to say about this in the near future. But this plan is incredibly important for the sustainability of the river system and for the food and fibre production and the communities that live along the river that must maintain the integrity of this plan, and last night’s allegations are quite shocking and must be discounted immediately by the New South Wales Premier.
JOURNALIST: How do you think residents of the lower lakes particularly will be feeling this morning, hearing what has been happening further upstream?
BUTLER: They will want to hear some explanations, particularly from the New South Wales Government but also some firm resolve from Barnaby Joyce and the Federal Government that the integrity of the plan for all communities, from the top of the river system right down to the lower lakes, will be maintained in place. I think that is what the Federal Government and particularly the New South Wales Premier need to do in short measure. Thanks everyone.