Doorstop interview, Canberra 
Delivering real Gonski needs-based schools funding; Politicians’ pay; Parliamentary winter break

Simon Birmingham: Well it was a late night but it was a great win for Australian school kids and schools around the country, where we’re going to see now needs-based funding apply across Australia in a consistent way, delivered by the Turnbull Government. 

The result of this is that schools will receive on average around $2300 more per student over the next few years. And this is an incredibly important reform, because it provides that extra funding and support according to the Gonski needs-based principles; endorsed by David Gonski and members of his panel, endorsed indeed by members and former national president of the Australian Education Union, showing very clearly that we’ve put in place something that is fair, consistent, transparent, needs-based, delivering the support the Australian kids who need it most, ensuring that we have fairer funding delivered faster to those who need it. And in demonstration of that, is that funding growth on average is around five per cent per student per annum, but into our public schools across the country it’s 6.4 per cent per student per annum. And indeed for some of them, it gets up around the 10 per cent mark, demonstrating that we’re responding to the unique need of each school system and of each school.

Journalist: Minister, you managed to get 10 votes in the Senate last night but considering that Labor, the Unions, the Catholic sector have vowed to fight this proposal right the way through into the next election, how concerned are you that you won’t win the public battle here?

Simon Birmingham: So the hypocrisy of Bill Shorten; he’s spent years saying we should give a Gonski. And now that we’ve legislated Gonski, he says he’s going to fight Gonski all the way to the next election. I mean seriously, is the Labor party really turning their back on needs-based funding? Are they really going to upend the Gonski formula that David Gonski has endorsed? It’s time to put the politics aside, get on board, make this work, ensure that we actually have the fair, transparent, consistent needs-based funding that Australian kids deserve. And I’m thrilled the Parliament has backed it, the cross-benchers all sensed to back, and they listened to David Gonski, his panel, and others, and they’ve put in place with the Turnbull Government something that is an enduring legacy for Australian schools in terms of additional support distributed fairly, according to need – regardless of state borders, regardless of the non-government sector – of different boundaries between schools.

Journalist: How worried are you, though, about the ongoing campaign from the Catholic sector, and what impact their advertising and robo-calls might have on parents who have children in Catholic schools?

Simon Birmingham: Well I hope that we will see now that Catholic school systems, parents – hard working parents who invest their funds to send their children to school – the teachers, principals in the Catholic education systems, will all see that there’s actually extra money flowing into those Catholic education authorities. Additional funding for Catholic education, as there is for all school systems across the country, which means there’s nothing to fear about the changes. In fact, there’s everything to celebrate, because Catholic education authorities will also have the resources to be able to do more to help their kids in the future. And of course we will continue to work with them as closely as we can to refine the model. There will be a review of the SES – the Socio-Economic Score – that they’ve criticised, and that will enable them to make sure that any enhancements to that can be made and that we can all get on with supporting fair, needs-based funding.

Journalist: Do you think all MPs and Senators are deserving of a two per cent pay rise from next month?

Simon Birmingham: Well, MPs salaries are determined by an independent tribunal. That same tribunal froze MPs salaries last year, it’s determined a two per cent increase this year. That’s compared with 3.3 per cent handed down by the Fair Work Commission for the minimum wage, quite rightly, recently. And so we will just abide by the independent tribunal, as we should.

Journalist: What are you going to do for the winter break?

Simon Birmingham: After only a few hours sleep last night I’m looking forward to getting home to my kids and watching the footy with them tonight, and probably falling asleep on the couch. Thanks guys.