Interview on Channel 7 Sunrise with Samantha Armytage
NAPLAN results; same sex marriage

Samantha Armytage: Alright this year’s NAPLAN results are out this morning, and the Government admits they are a mixed bag. Australian students are improving in most areas, but not all. There were slight improvements in reading and numeracy, but test scores for writing dropped by half a per cent. The report is raising fresh questions about the millions of dollars being spent on Gonski.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham joins us now from Bunbury in WA. Minister, thank you for your time, good morning. How concerning is it that writing is going backwards for our students?

Simon Birmingham: Well it is a real concern. These are definitely a mixed bag of results. We’re seeing improvements in terms of reading skills, numeracy skills and particularly strongest in some of the earliest years in primary school. So that’s encouraging and that’s positive for the future. But it is a worry that our writing skills in our school children appear to be going backwards, and that there’s a trend there in the NAPLAN scores that is of particular concern. That’s why we have to, not just focus on delivering the needs-based funding in Australian schools the Turnbull Government’s doing, but also making sure we get maximum bang for our buck in terms of the investment around teacher quality, appropriate classroom practice, best possible curriculum – the types of things that can really lift student performance.

Samantha Armytage: Minister, how flexible are your Gonski reforms? Can you tailor them when these NAPLAN results come out?

Simon Birmingham: So there’s really two things there. There’s the Gonski needs-based funding model, and that’s about ensuring every school gets the resources it needs to support every child to succeed. But then there’s how you use that money. Now we’ve already done a number of things in terms of improving the training of teachers at universities for the future, guaranteeing their minimum literacy and numeracy skills, getting more specialist teachers into schools – particularly primary schools – in the future. So they’re all positive steps. The next wave of reforms is really working with the states and territories about other evidence-based programs and practices, in terms of one-on-one classroom teaching time, additional support that this record level of investment can be used towards to really help teachers, principals and hardworking schools to get their student performance up in the future.

Samantha Armytage: Okay. Now you’re in WA with the rest of your Cabinet this week. A push to force a conscience vote on same sex marriage is underway right now in Canberra. Do you support the existing plan for a plebiscite?

Simon Birmingham: Well I think that the Government’s policy has long been clear and it would be optimal if we could find the best possible way to give the Australian people a say in relation to this matter. That’s the policy we took to the last election, still the Government’s policy, and …

Samantha Armytage: [Talks over] If it’s clear, why are there four publicly revolting? It sounds like more behind the scenes going against this.

Simon Birmingham: Look, people are entitled to have their own views and particularly in the Liberal Party. We don’t toss people out for having a difference of opinion, unlike the Labor Party. But what’s important is the Government’s firstly focused on national security, the types of threats we’ve seen in the last week or so, in particular in our skies, as well as growing the economy. This issue, we’ve got a clear pathway forward. If the Labor Party just let us give the Australian people a say, people could have their vote, the issue could be dealt with this year, and I suspect we’d have marriage equality by the end of the year.

Samantha Armytage: Okay. Alright, Simon Birmingham, thanks for your time this morning.