Interview on Channel 9 TODAY with Karl Stefanovic
Topics: Tony Abbott; English language testing standards for international students

Karl Stefanovic: Welcome back to the program. Well, all foreign students will be forced to pass tough new English language exams before they can study in Australian universities.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham is making an announcement this morning, and it’s a very good morning to you live from Hobart. Morning, Minister.

Simon Birmingham: Good morning, Karl.

Karl Stefanovic: Before we get to that, former Liberal leader John Hewson has slammed Malcolm Turnbull this morning for refusing to muscle up to Tony Abbott. Does he have a point?

Simon Birmingham: Well what matters is what you do in politics, and Malcolm Turnbull has delivered company tax cuts to small and medium sized Australian businesses.

Karl Stefanovic: Oh come on, Simon. On message on message …

Simon Birmingham: Well Karl, in relation, the topic there of that story is about energy policy and we’ve made decisions about increasing generation through Snowy Hydro, about helping consumers with forcing retailers to send more information out to them, about fixing the way networks distribute energy and undertake their pricing. And yes, in terms of emissions-related activities, we will ensure that the Abbott Government’s emission standards that were set in place under Tony Abbott are met by 2030 with appropriate policies.

Karl Stefanovic: Is he lurking with intent, Tony Abbott?

Simon Birmingham: What Tony Abbott is doing is a matter for Tony Abbott. It’s not distracting the rest of the Government.

Karl Stefanovic: Are you worried?

Simon Birmingham: No.

Karl Stefanovic: Not at all?

Simon Birmingham: No, not at all.

Karl Stefanovic: Are you sure?

Simon Birmingham: I’m very sure, Karl. I’m very confident that we are getting on with all the important things people care about. I bet your viewers care more about their electricity bills than they do Tony Abbott.

Karl Stefanovic: They care about stable government.

Simon Birmingham: And they’ve got stable government, stable government that is focused on dealing with their electricity prices, the security and reliability of energy, dealing with creating jobs, which is what our company tax cuts are all about, dealing with creating the right type of circumstances for wages growth in the future.

Karl Stefanovic: Okay, just before we sign off on that topic, what would you say to Tony Abbott?

Simon Birmingham: Sorry, what would I say to Tony Abbott? I’d say to any member of the Government to be a team player.

Karl Stefanovic: There you go. There’s the message.

Simon Birmingham: Be a team player, work with everybody else.

Karl Stefanovic: Okay, let’s move on, and foreign students passing English. Now, why does that matter?

Simon Birmingham: It matters because it goes to the heart of the quality of the experience not just for those international students, but for Australian students at our universities and vocational providers too. We have all heard the different stories at times of the group work scenarios in universities where the Australian student is having to give a helping hand along to an international student whose English language skills just aren’t quite good enough to participate. Well, for all of those parties involved, as well as the teachers and lecturers, it’s only fair if they have English language skills to succeed.

Karl Stefanovic: Okay. So you’re going to make the announcement that you’re going to what in relation to that?

Simon Birmingham: So, many of these students undertake English language courses in preparation for university or further study, but there’s not a current requirement for assessment of them at the end of those courses. We’re putting in place an assessment requirement so that those providers can be held to account, to make sure kids are getting up to – or older students are getting up to – the standard of English language that’s required for them to succeed, so that we can get better results. In the end, international students coming to this country underpin around 130,000 jobs across Australia. It’s our third largest export earner nowadays. We have to make sure that it is of high quality, that it is of credibility, and that we deliver the best possible education to everybody.

Karl Stefanovic: Do you have any say whatsoever over universities in terms of their curriculum?

Simon Birmingham: We have a regulator who oversights universities and has the capacity to make sure that students are meeting the standards that are set down, and by toughening those standards, by making them clearer around the meeting of English language provision, we can better hold English language providers to account in the future.

Karl Stefanovic: Always good to talk to you, Simon. Thanks for your time this morning. Appreciate it.

Simon Birmingham: Thanks Karl. Cheers.