Simon Birmingham: … in many ways for Australia’s future then getting our embrace of maths and sciences as part of our education system right and to set people up for the future, a future in which young Australians are best equipped to fill the jobs of the future and to create the jobs of the future, we know that around 70 per cent of the fastest growing job areas require STEM skills, particularly skills in maths and sciences. Now, I really want to congratulate today the Australian Academy of Science for releasing their decadal plan which includes amongst other things, calls for universities to make the study of intermediate mathematics compulsory to access certain key university courses.
Question: Minister, the Safe Schools Review, what did it recommend and will you be adopting those changes?
Simon Birmingham: Well, I’ll happily be releasing the report from Professor Bill Louden in the not too distant future. I’m carefully considering Professor Louden’s findings as well as the other community feedback that I can hear about this program. I want to restate, as I’ve said, time and time again, the objectives of ensuring that we have safe inclusive environments in schools and for children and support for those who might be dealing with questions or issues of their sexuality are sound objectives that we strongly support.
It is equally important that parents and the whole community have confidence that any program is rolled out is age appropriate, educationally sound and free of political agendas and that is exactly what I will be making sure we achieve when we announce our response to this report.
Question: Minister, what do you make of the charge that the review was rushed and wasn’t wide enough in terms of the terms of reference?
Simon Birmingham: Well, the terms of reference were for Professor Louden to look in its entirety at all of the current resources available as part of the Safe Schools Coalition, that’s exactly what he did, that’s entirely appropriate.
Question: What’s your response to some of your colleagues collecting a- distributing a petition calling for the program to be- to stop funding the program pending a full parliamentary inquiry?
Simon Birmingham: Well, I’d urge everybody, commentators and others just to hold their fire, wait and actually see the Government’s response. We want to make sure that we get this right, that we do give everybody confidence that the resources and application of this program are age appropriate, educationally sound and effectively delivering the support that our children need to work in and succeeding in tolerant and inclusive schools.
Question: But Minister, you’ve read the report, is it your view that there needs to be a broader inquiry or that it- funding needs to be suspended?
Simon Birmingham: My view is that we will hand down a strong government response that can give everybody certainty that we have resources in place to support safe, tolerant schools that are appropriate for use in those school environments.
Question: Minister, this was introduced without too much fuss a couple of years ago by Senator Scott Ryan, it’s been around for a couple of years. Why do you think there’s all this fuss about it now?
Simon Birmingham: Well, let’s correct that a little, this was a program funded, a contract led by the previous government, signed I think in fact by Senator Wong but I stand to be corrected there. So, it was a Labor Government initiative. There are concerns and I understand why people have concerns about the content of some of the resources that were only made available over the last few months. So, there is a reason as to why some of the criticisms come about now in relation to the release of those resources around this time and their potential use for the first time ever, in this school year and that’s why we’re taking and have taken a close look at those resources in particular.
Professor Bill Louden, Emeritus Professor of Education from the University of Western Australia, is eminently qualified and has done an outstanding job. I’m looking very carefully at the content of each resource, assessing it against the national curriculum, considering whether it is age appropriate and those are the findings that I’m now working through.
Question: [Indistinct] parliamentary inquiry into this, a broad range parliamentary inquiry, would you support that?
Simon Birmingham: As I said before, I am confident the Government’s response will be strong and will give people confidence in how the resources are used and I’d urge everybody to hold fire in terms of thinking about what else might be necessary until they’ve seen that government response and to give certainty that we are going to support students who need that support. I’d also make sure that the parents have the confidence and the appropriateness of the resources [indistinct].
Question: So, the program will survive, just some of those resources excised?
Simon Birmingham: I’m not pre-judging anything in that relade – in that regard. What I am determining as I go through Professor Louden’s findings and other criticism in terms of areas of this program is to make sure that we can give people confidence that there are resources in schools that support those schools to provide tolerant, inclusive environments, to provide support to students who need it in dealing with issues of sexuality and that is what we will hand down, thanks guys …
Question: Given the Australian Government process that’s already entrained, that you’re going to respond shortly, is Tony Abbott one of those people who should hold fire before passing judgment?
Simon Birmingham: Well, I’m not going to pass a comment on any individual colleagues. In the end it’s a message I guess that applies equally to everybody. Thanks guys.