Doorstop interview, Canberra
Topics: Australian Reading Hour, higher education funding growth to support universities and students

Simon Birmingham: It’s never too late to learn. Australians of all ages can learn, can benefit from reading, and tomorrow Australian Reading Hour is an opportunity to send a message to all Australians, young and old: pick up a book, read to yourself, read to your children, read with each other, enjoy the fact that you learn and develop and come to understand many new things as a result of reading. And our country is just so much richer as a result of wonderful authors and wonderful books, but of course the engagement of people in taking that time to pick up a book and have a read.

Mem Fox: Well, tomorrow is Australian Reading Hour. We have to fight for time to read in our busy lives, but did you know – this is amazing – when you read, you have 68 per cent less stress in your life? Because of course, when you read you are not actually able to be stressed. You just can’t be. You can be tense, because if you’re reading a fine novel you can be tense, but you actually relax. Reading is divine. People keep saying [indistinct]. It’s a joy, it’s a thousand experiences in a lifetime. Reading is [indistinct] and the Australian Reading Hour has been consented, as it were, to remind us of the fact that reading is good.

Matt Stanton: Tomorrow I will be reading with my children, and I would encourage you to do the same and to let them choose the book. Let their imaginations explode and follow wherever it leads them. We know how beneficial reading is for children, and so they need to have that model, they need to do that with somebody, and so let that be you and read with your child tomorrow.

Journalist: Minister, you’ll be here in Canberra tomorrow, obviously, but have you got a Skype date with your kids to read to them? That’s something possible to do, something like that?

Simon Birmingham: We try to speak every single night before they go to bed, and a little deal I’ve been doing with the kids this year is to try to read a poem to each other down the phone. So that’s something that I’ve just picked up. Yes, I’m not sure whether contemporary Australian poetry might be a bit much for five and six-year-old girls, but we’ve found some cracking things, and of course, it’s as easy in that instance as- a Google search can turn up incredible poetry, but the wonders particularly when you’re there in person is being able to cuddle up on a couch with a story, escape everything else, and immerse yourself in the wonders of reading. But indeed, as Mem said, the ability to put everything else aside and just be at one with each other, with your children, reading, developing, understanding, and learning.

Journalist: And you mentioned life-long learning. How confident are you that the Government will be able to continue supporting life-long learning through universities with this package?

Simon Birmingham: Well, our commitment to support universities is resolute, and under our reforms universities will see revenue grow on average by 23 per cent over the next four years, enabling them to continue to be outstanding institutions.

Journalist: We’ve had Nick Xenophon and Derryn Hinch both saying today that they and their teams can’t support it – the package – in its current form, and Cory Bernardi saying if you give too much away to them, he might not be able to support it. How confident are you you’ll be able to get a deal and soon?

Simon Birmingham: Well, the Australian Senate’s always a balancing act, but we’ve pragmatically dealt with them successfully as a Government since last year’s election and I’m confident we will be able to continue to do so, and hopefully they’ll get a result in relation to higher education.

Journalist: Thank you.

Simon Birmingham: Thank you.