Interview on Channel 9 with Karl Stefanovic
Delivering real Gonski needs-based schools funding; Support for students with a disability

Karl Stefanovic: The Turnbull Government has chalked up a big win with its $24 billion school funding package passing through Federal Parliament in the early hours of this morning. 

We’re joined now by Education Minister Simon Birmingham in Canberra. Simon, good morning to you. You must feel pretty good this morning.

Simon Birmingham: Good morning. Well it’s good news for schools right around the country who are going to see around a $2300 per student increase on average, but that going of course fastest into the schools who need it most, into the schools who got the worst deals in the past. Particularly those in the public sector who on average are going to see growth of around 6.4 per cent per student per annum, but getting up to 10 percent and above in some cases.

Karl Stefanovic: How are you going to assess those most in need?

Simon Birmingham: So we’re using the Gonski needs-based formula. So six years ago, David Gonski handed down his report, which of course was compromised and corrupted by the previous Labor Government’s implementation. The Turnbull Government has picked it, is applying it in a fair dinkum way consistently across the country, and that means extra support for students with disability, for Indigenous students, for people and students from low socio-educational advantage, putting the extra resources into the schools who need it most.

Karl Stefanovic: It took you a while to get it over the line.

Simon Birmingham: Look, sadly Bill Shorten and the Labor party played politics with it at every single step of the way; still voting against it last night, even though it represented $23.5 billion of extra investment into our schools over the next decade.

Karl Stefanovic: Were you playing politics yesterday? It’s what you do, isn’t it?

Simon Birmingham: Well we were working damn hard to get this legislation passed …

Karl Stefanovic: [Talks over] Playing politics.

Simon Birmingham: Well, we’ve got to work with the Parliament that the people elected and that is about getting in place a fair funding model. And I’m very pleased that we secured the numbers through the Parliament, notwithstanding the obstinacy of the Labor party.

Karl Stefanovic: Okay. Pauline Hanson says students with disabilities should be segregated from mainstream classrooms. It’s a really simple question for you this morning: is that offensive or not?

Simon Birmingham: Well that would be offensive if that was an accurate quote. That’s not exactly what Pauline said, but I disagree entirely with the statement. Students with disabilities should be included in schooling wherever possible, and the reforms we’ve put through provide more support for students with disabilities, provide differentiated loadings for the first time ever, allowing teachers and schools to be able to report what level of assistance a student needs and providing greater assistance to those students with disabilities…

Karl Stefanovic: [Interrupts] What do you mean that’s not what she said? I mean, it’s pretty clear what she said and what she intended by her comments yesterday. Pretty obvious. And why didn’t you say anything about it yesterday? 

Simon Birmingham: Well, Karl, I did talk about inclusion and kids with disabilities in schools yesterday.

Karl Stefanovic: You didn’t criticize her in any way, shape, or form.

Simon Birmingham: I made clear what our policy is, and where …

Karl Stefanovic: [Talks over] But why didn’t you criticize her? She was out of step by a country mile.

Simon Birmingham: I’ve been very clear I don’t agree with the way Pauline put her remarks, and there are elements of that that are of concern but what matters more – actions speak far louder than words – and the actions we took last night were to put in place a far better funding arrangement to support the inclusion of students with disabilities, to make sure schools have got the resources available to include those kids however is best for the entire school community and the students in question.

Karl Stefanovic: You didn’t even mention her name yesterday. You couldn’t even bring yourself to mention the name.

Simon Birmingham: Karl, I addressed these issues very clearly yesterday and we were very explicit about what it is …

Karl Stefanovic: [Interrupts] You didn’t mention her name because you were playing politics.

Simon Birmingham: Karl, we weren’t playing politics, we were trying to get in place more support for all Australian school students including those students with disabilities, including students with autism. There’s great news in terms of these reforms, including for some particular autism-specific schools that families have chosen to invest in, to send their students to, but also for all other schools who will have the type of resourcing enabling then to deliver the resources that kids need, including students with autism.

Karl Stefanovic: I doubt there wouldn’t be an Australian out there who wouldn’t be in favour of more money for our schools. Thank you for your time today, I appreciate it.

Simon Birmingham: Thanks very much, mate.