Doorstop interview, Canberra
University of Wollongong’s Molecular Horizons project; Future schools funding arrangements; Restoring the rule of law to the building and construction industry; National Firearms Agreement

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: …the world over the years, it will change lives, it will save lives and it will happen in Wollongong, in Australia, ensuring that we actually have some of the best and brightest scientists attracted to work in the University of Wollongong, as we are seeing right across the country. And it’s another vote of confidence in the Turnbull Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda and the type of additional investment that we’ve been putting into research block grants and the type of investment we are giving to universities to back them and all of the nation’s research infrastructure and facilities to do their best to deliver for Australia opportunities that can be at the forefront of developments right around the world and I give my wholehearted congratulations to the University of Wollongong and thanks for the investment that they’re undertaking.

JOURNALIST: Minister, the New South Wales Government has found an extra, nearly $220 million in education funding for next year. Why can’t the Federal Government also find extra funding for Gonski if it’s such a priority as you say?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The Turnbull Government is providing an extra $4.1 billion for school education around Australia over the next four years. School funding by the Turnbull Government will grow from $16 billion this year to more than $20 billion in 2020. And it will grow in terms of funding delivered to New South Wales, for New South Wales Government schools, each and every year into the future. There is nothing but growing funding for schools in Australia from the Turnbull Government and that is exactly what we’re delivering. 

JOURNALIST: The [inaudible] state Education Minister says you are being selective in using past figures as an indication of Gonski’s success, which is misleading. Why shouldn’t schools with specific needs be receiving more money?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: We are providing schools with higher needs with greater funding and we will keep providing schools with higher needs with greater funding. That is a commitment we’ve made, that our record funding will be distributed according to need. We need a little less chest beating and a little less scaremongering from some politicians around the country and a bit more cooperation when it comes to how it is we can most effectively get the best bang for our buck from our record school funding. 

JOURNALIST: Why not commit to funding the final two years of the Gonski reforms?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: We have demonstrated that there are a range of inconsistencies in the 27 different school funding deals across the country that Bill Shorten negotiated when he was Education Minister. You don’t have to take my word for it. You can have a look at what Ken Boston, one of the authors of the Gonki report said, who said that Bill Shorten engaged in a corruption of Gonski in the way in which it was developed and delivered. So what we are going to do is ensure the record growing funding by the Turnbull Government – $16 billion this year, growing to more than $20 billion in 2020 is distributed fairly and according to need, equitably across the States and Territories of Australia, and used to drive real reform in our nation’s schools to lift performance of Australian students. 

JOURNALIST: Senator, how disappointed are you this week the Government, it was all meant to be about union thuggery and trying to get your ABCC legislation, well not passed but at least debated, but it has morphed into a debate about gun control?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Every week there are many different issues on the horizon, but the Government will get the legislation through the House of Representatives that deals with union corruption this week and the challenge then falls on the shoulders of Bill Shorten and others as to whether they will support us to tackle union corruption or whether they are beholden to corrupt unions and union officials doing dodgy things around the country, into the future. 

JOURNALIST: Are you disappointed that there is division in the party over the Adler?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I don’t see any division. All I see is a Government that is focussed on getting its agenda done, and a Government that is committed to upholding the best gun control laws in the world.

JOURNALIST: But the Nationals, three Nationals have gone on the record calling for it to be reclassified. 

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: These are matters that will rightly be discussed by the States and Territories, as part of the national agreement around firearms. That’s the process and policy that was put in place by the Howard Government, world leading gun laws, and that’s exactly what the Turnbull Government will stand by, and we really want to see, really want to see and celebrate that Australia has some of the best gun laws in the world and they will not be changed by the Turnbull Government. We are upholding absolutely the great strides that were made by the Howard Government in putting these measures in place, and they will in no way, in no way be changed by the Turnbull Government. 

JOURNALIST: Just on education, Mike Baird has noted that there is a school in Hurstville that has recorded a huge improvement in NAPLAN scores after hiring extra teachers to specifically target numeracy and literacy. You’ve said in the past it’s not how much you spend on schools but how you spend it. Is that example not proof that more money does lead to results?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: That’s an example that, if accurate, demonstrates that wise investment can absolutely improve outcomes and that’s why we have record investments that are growing into the future and nobody, nobody should engage in any type of scare tactics to suggest that Australian schools are going to be worse off, or lose money, into the future because our commitment is to ensure that our record, growing funding is distributed fairly and according to need and that the most needy schools receive equitable support from the Federal Government right across Australia and schools that are receiving additional funding, right now, doing good things with it, who have high needs, will absolutely continue to receive support into the future and should be able to continue to do those things and more. 

Thanks everybody.