Interview on Channel 9 Today Perth News with Tracy Vo
Delivering real Gonski needs-based schools funding; Same-sex marriage

Tracy Vo: WA schools are set to be one of the big winners following the passage of Gonski 2.0. Joining me now is the Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham. Good morning to you, Minister.

Simon Birmingham: Good morning, Tracy.

Tracy Vo: WA schools receive $1.6 billion in funding, what will actually be spent on this money?

Simon Birmingham: So this is about making sure WA gets its fair share. One of the craziest things about the previous deals that were done was it penalised states like Western Australia for investing more in their schools. Our approach is that we should give a fair approach to every state and territory and that means putting an extra $1.6 billion into Western Australian schools over the next decade. They’ll see funding growth around $2600 per student on average across the state and that’s really going to allow WA schools to focus on putting in additional help for those kids who need it most.

Tracy Vo: You’re visiting a couple of schools today. Which ones are those?

Simon Birmingham: Yes indeed. So we’re visiting Wesley College and I forget the name of the other one off hand, but …

Tracy Vo: It’s Woodvale …

Simon Birmingham: Woodvale, Woodvale High, that’s right.

Tracy Vo: Exactly what will this money be spent on – are there specifics in this plan?

Simon Birmingham: So what we want to do is really focus on how we achieve educational excellence. Boost literacy, numeracy skills, ensure that we actually have the highest competences in our school leavers. And we’re going to undertake some work. We’ve got David Gonski doing the second body of work, not about funding any more, but at how it is we provide teachers and principals with the real evidence based initiatives they can use in schools to lift the performance of kids.

Tracy Vo: The Catholic education system says they’ll be worse off. They say they’ll have to likely hike their fees under this arrangement. What do you say to that?

Simon Birmingham: Well again in Western Australia Catholic education is going to see a growth rate faster than Catholic education elsewhere in the country, again reflecting of the fact that they got a raw deal in the west when Gillard government stitched all these things up. What we’re putting in place is fair, consistent needs based funding as David Gonski initially recommended, applied consistently right across the nation and that means that for government schools in WA, they’ll get a faster growth rate than government schools across the rest of the country. Catholic education in WA will get a faster growth rate than Catholic ed on average across the rest of the country.

Tracy Vo: I have to ask you about non-educational matters today, Minister. Obviously those comments by Christopher Pyne on gay marriage. Do you think he should be towing the line, party line?

Simon Birmingham: Well I think Christopher’s been very clear publicly in that the Government stands by its plebiscite policy and that is exactly what we should be doing. Getting on with doing what we promised the Australian people which is that we want to give them a say in relation to same sex marriage and if the Labor Party actually let us implement that policy through the Senate, this issue could be done, dusted, resolved.

Tracy Vo: Just quickly though, we heard comments from Tony Abbott last night. It seems- yesterday I should say. It seems he’s still quite bitter about what happened to him. He’s accused of Christopher Pyne of disloyalty. These comments surely, they’re not good for the Coalition. It might highlight some division within the party.

Simon Birmingham: Look I’d much rather we were talking about school funding entirely and our record investment in WA schools, our focus …

Tracy Vo: [Interrupts] Do you think this is damaging though what Tony Abbott is doing and even Peta Credlin’s coming out and saying some nasty comments about the Coalition.

Simon Birmingham: I think it’s always unhelpful when you’re seen to be talking about internal matters, rather than actually what the Australian people care about. 

Now last week we delivered the biggest reform to schools funding in the nation’s history in terms of the Federal Government’s involvement. We’ve done something the Labor Party squibbed in applying needs based funding to the country. That’s where our focus should be; explaining what that means in terms of investment and resources and outcomes in Australian schools.

Tracy Vo: Alright, Minister Simon Birmingham, thanks for your time on Today, Perth News. I know you have a busy day. You’re only here for a day, so good luck with your tour of WA.

Simon Birmingham: Pleasure, thanks so much.