Doorstop interview, Adelaide
Delivering real, Gonski needs-based funding for schools; Domestic violence

Simon Birmingham:                  This week, the Australian Senate will have the opportunity to fix schools funding in a way that delivers needs-based funding consistently across the country, once and for all. To actually ensure that we implement what David Gonski and his panel had in mind six years ago when they delivered the Gonski Report, that we fix the inequities, the distortions, the inconsistencies and we have a national needs-based funding approach for the future. And this is a really historic and important opportunity that I hope and trust every member of the Australian Senate will see a benefit of and seize the opportunity to get this done. 

The Turnbull Government is investing $18.6 billion to give record support to Australian school children and applying it in a way that ensures those who need the greatest support, get the greatest support. Around 4,500 of the neediest Australian schools receive funding growth of more than five per cent per student per annum under our reforms. We’re getting the funding into the schools who need it most, but every school system and sector will see strong funding growth as a result of the reforms we’re putting in place. There’s a great message there for all Australian parents, that people will see a fair funding model, more money in the schools that need it most but funding growth across the different school systems in Australia. 

Now, it’s a tragedy that Bill Shorten, the Labor Party, some sectors, continue to play games of fear and scare with this rather than getting on board with needs-based school funding. In the end, David Gonski, many of the members of the Gonski Panel, the Mitchell Institute, the Grattan Institute, a range of impartial stakeholders have endorsed what the Turnbull Government has put forward, and I urge the Labor Party, the unions, sectors to get on board and support this and I’m very pleased that all of the other non-government Senate parties are engaging in constructive discussions and deliberations. But this is an opportunity we ought to seize, it’s one the Turnbull Government is determined to work constructively through the Senate and I hope and trust that the Senate will ensure that we do finish this week with needs-based school funding in place consistently across Australia.

Journalist:                                 How confident are you you can get your legislation through this week?

Simon Birmingham:                  I’m really hopeful that we will see positive work done with the crossbench Senators, or even with the Labor Party if they come to their senses in terms of getting in place a model that treats everybody fairly according to their own individual need and distributes an extra $18.6 billion across schools right around Australia with the best extra funding, the greatest growth to the schools who need it most. 

Journalist:                                 Minister, Tim Lester here. How- do you accept the number that Fairfax has given, that Catholic schools over 10 years would be $4.6 billion better off under the existing system and if you accept it, can’t you at least understand why they’ve been so vocal?

Simon Birmingham:                  There’s $18.6 billion in extra funding and $3.4 billion of growth going into Catholic school systems under the Turnbull Government’s reform. It’s very clear for parents and teachers in Catholic school systems around Australia that there’s $3.4 billion of growth that they’ll see, around three and a half per cent per student per annum growth at a minimum across the states in terms of Catholic school systems. Look, I would urge everybody to recognise this is a fair model, it treats the states equally and consistently according to their need, it treats the different non-government school systems fairly and equally according to need and it delivers $3.4 billion extra into Catholic schools out of an $18.6 billion injection into schools across Australia. 

Journalist:                                 So I take it those numbers are right, Minister? $4.6 billion more under the existing system?

Simon Birmingham:                  Well I’m not sure where Fairfax Media have got all of their information from  but I am confident in the Turnbull Government’s numbers which show $3.4 billion extra for Catholic schools as part of an $18.6 billion injection targeted at the neediest Australian schools. 

Journalist:                                 The Greens say they are going to take their time to consider this, how much time do they have and is it important and if so, why, that this gets done this week?

Simon Birmingham:                  We want to give certainty to schools right around Australia about their funding profile next year and for the next decade and beyond and that’s why we hope to see this matter dealt with week. I’ve been really encouraged by the constructive engagement from the Greens, from crossbench Senators. The only people checking themselves out of being constructive in this debate are the Labor Party, Bill Shorten, some of the unions and really they should come to their senses and recognise that we’ve got more money under this proposal targeted to the schools who need it most, particularly government schools, while giving a fair deal for everybody including Catholic education.

Journalist:                                 Senator, one more question from me if I might? What sort of response have you got to your reforms from other crossbenchers, or from the crossbench not the Greens or Labor, and do you hold out any reasonable hope that you might pass these even if the Greens do delay?

Simon Birmingham:                  We’ve had a really constructive series of discussions with crossbench Senators as well as with the Greens and I can see two clear possible pathways. I ultimately hope that every Senator sees the benefit in national, needs-based school funding, an extra $18.6 billion into schools and that everyone votes to support that because frankly it makes sense, it’s what David Gonski and his panel recommended six years ago, it’s what’s been endorsed by David Gonski and his panel and it should be passed by the Senate this week. 

Journalist:                                 I’m certainly good here if everyone else is.

Journalist:                                 Senator, while I’ve got you, would you mind making a brief comment- we’ve seen some new data out today about the increase in domestic violence murders in our country. I guess, what’s your response and are you happy with what the Government’s doing?

Simon Birmingham:                  Domestic violence and tackling it is of course a grave and serious issue, and one that goes far beyond any political divide. We unify in terms of across the parties in a bipartisan way to work to make sure across states and the Commonwealth we put in place policies that have been endorsed over recent years by COAG in terms of new measures, new investment to tackle a range of different laws to look at how technology interplays with domestic violence situations and to ensure we have the best possible regime in place to protect those and to prevent domestic violence in the future and we will of course continue to work with states, territories and all the relevant stakeholders to leave no stone unturned in protecting Australians.

Journalist:                                 Thank you.

Simon Birmingham:                  Thanks everybody.