Interview on Channel 7 Sunrise with David Koch
Delivering real Gonski needs-based schools funding; Support for students with a disability; Politicians’ salaries

David Koch:                 And the Gonski 2.0 reforms passed the Senate late last night after a marathon debate, finished about 2am this morning. A jubilant Education Minister Simon Birmingham joins me now. Minister, in the end it cost you an extra $5 billion to win over the Senate. Was it money well spent?

Simon Birmingham:     Well Kochie it is, because it delivers fairer funding arrangement for Australian school kids faster, and that’s what’s really important. It will put around $2300 per student on average into schools across the country, but delivers the fastest growth to the public schools who need it most and to the public schools who got the most unfair deals in the past.

David Koch:                Look, yesterday, Pauline Hanson came out and said she wanted segregation in the classrooms with autistic kids. You guys, obviously reluctant to comment yesterday, in case you didn’t get her vote last night. Now it’s through, what do you think of her comments?

Simon Birmingham:     Well look, I don’t agree with the way Pauline put her comments at all, but I do accept that there is a need for additional support for schools and teachers in classrooms to be able support all students with disabilities, including the number of students with autism. And what Pauline did last night to her credit and a number of other minor parties with the Turnbull Government’s leadership was back fairer funding arrangements for students with disability and that will make a difference in classrooms and in schools to ensure that students with disabilities attract the type of funding necessary for them to be included in the school environment and for them to get the support and attention they need.

David Koch:                See that’s what we were saying yesterday. Whenever Pauline says anything, it’s like using a sledgehammer, but- and we all react against her because we all want inclusion in our schools. But a lot of teachers emailed us and said Pauline’s right, because we don’t have the funding. We don’t have the teachers’ aides to be able to integrate kids with disabilities into the classroom, we want more funding. So Gonski 2.0 will give them that?

Simon Birmingham:     Gonski 2.0 will give them that. It will give them additional funding overall, more particularly for students with disabilities – especially students of high needs who need extra help – and yes I’ve visited schools around the country who proudly show me the new spaces they’ve built in the last couple of years to help work with students with autism in particular, so that they have learning environments that they can go into when they need a quieter time, when they need some different assistance. And it’s that type of extra help while still living and working in the school environment, in their day to day classroom, that really- this will enable.

David Koch:                You’ve got a double celebration today. You got your bill through last night and you get a pay rise; extra $7000 a year as a result of the two per cent pay rise to politicians. It’s been given by an independent review. But how do you convince the public you deserve it?

Simon Birmingham:     Well, Kochie, it is an independent process and it was a two per cent pay rise this year, after a pay-freeze that the independent process determined last year. And of course just recently, the minimum pay rise for minimum wage was handed down at 3.3 per cent. So I think you can see the processes working to keep politicians salaries well and truly in check, in air of low wages growth that there was a freeze, there’s a lower than the minimum wage as people would think it should be.

David Koch:                Are we getting value for money, because it’s our taxpayers’ money and I find it hard to believe that the boss of the Prime Minister’s Department gets 800 grand which is way more than the actual Prime Minister himself.

Simon Birmingham:     Well public service salaries, again, is set through an independent process. Historically, that’s probably always been the case and we’re here in public service. We get well remunerated, but I don’t think anybody in politics is here for the money. We’re here to try to make a difference, and on school funding, delivering extra funds to our neediest schools. I’m pretty proud that the Turnbull Government made a difference last night.

David Koch:                Enjoy your winter break, thanks for joining us.

Simon Birmingham:     Thanks Kochie.