Interview on Sky News Live AM Agenda with Kieran Gilbert
Treasury analysis on Labor’s dividend imputation policy; Income tax relief; Gonski review; Newspoll




Kieran Gilbert: Now, as I mentioned earlier, Labor claiming that the report- and a spokesperson pointed out to me that the report had been authored by a former Coalition staff member. I put that to the Education Minister, Simon Birmingham.


Simon Birmingham:    How desperate are the Labor Party to seek to now impugn the independence of the Commonwealth Treasury. In the end, Treasury analysis is Treasury analysis, regardless of who writes it and this analysis shows another 10 billion reasons why Australians can’t afford Bill Shorten. They can’t afford to take the risk that he would blow out the budget, blow out the deficit, whilst also levying billions of dollars of additional taxes on retirees, on household income earners, on housing, on electricity. This is a big risk and a big choice that will be framed at the next election, and indeed in these looming by-elections, between a big taxing Labor Party, but a Labor Party that can’t even get those tax policies right, and so, in doing so seriously not only risk household budgets or business budgets or economic growth or jobs growth, but also the national budget.           


Kieran Gilbert: So, you see them as trying to impugn the Treasury, I guess, in terms of releasing this information about the staffer, the former staffer, now a Treasury official?


Simon Birmingham:    Well, that’s what it sounds like. There are plenty of people who’ve worked for Labor governments, scattered across the public service, and I don’t hear the Labor Party ever questioning the advice that comes from the public service where there might be former Labor officials involved. Frankly, if it’s Treasury advice, it’s Treasury advice. What it clearly shows is Australians cannot trust Bill Shorten with the Budget.


Kieran Gilbert: But what more were Labor meant to do in terms of, you know, their costing? They got the PBO – independent Parliamentary Budget Office – to do their costing. So if they’re out by 10 billion, that’s the Parliamentary Budget Office number that they were given.


Simon Birmingham:    But the Labor Party…


Kieran Gilbert:             To do?

Simon Birmingham:    But the Labor Party never released all of the details. They say all of these things as being costed by the PBO. But then of course they never released the details to show what assumptions were made, how it is the Labour Party have gone about developing these policies. That’s because it’s all done in secret by the Labor Party because they don’t want people to talk about the details of their $200 billion plus tax grab policies. Of course, the Labor Party don’t want people focusing on exactly how it is they’re slugging retirees or pensioners with more tax. Of course they don’t want people focusing on how their housing tax will actually ultimately hurt those homeowners across the country. But that is ultimately what needs to be focused on ahead of the next election because there is an enormous risk for many, many Australians out of the high taxing, high spending, high deficit, policies that Labor would bring.


Kieran Gilbert: Finally- well we’ve got a couple of issues I want to touch on – the education issue and also the Newspoll. First, to the Education Council, you’re going to meet with your state counterparts on Friday. Are you confident you’re getting support for the latest Gonski review reforms?


Simon Birmingham:    I’ve been very encouraged by the response from state and territory ministers. This is about how we ensure that the record and growing levels of investment in Australian schools, that the Turnbull Government is making, are used as effectively as possible. And what we want to ensure is that we build off of the work states and territories are already doing, the reforms the Coalition government in Canberra’s already delivered around areas such as teacher training and preparation, and off of that we leverage it to ensure that every student is achieving the maximum level of ability, of knowledge, of skills by being extended as much as they possibly can each year in terms of focusing on that student growth and deploying the types of tools, resources and steps in the curriculum that can enable…


Kieran Gilbert: Is there enough evidence for all the recommendations in this particular report? The Centre for Independent Studies, in the immediate aftermath of the report, were critical. They’ve again urged state premiers- state education ministers to think twice about supporting them because of the lack of evidence underpinning these recommendations.


Simon Birmingham:    These recommendations have been strongly welcomed by the likes of Professor Geoff Masters, from the Australian Centre for Educational Research, and from Professor John Hattie, from the University of Melbourne. They are recommendations that clearly look at how we can leverage some of the changes that are already happening in some of our best performing schools and make sure those opportunities are available across all Australian schools in terms of that focus on the growth of each student to get the maximum possible level of knowledge and skill from those opportunities.


Kieran Gilbert: Is it basically – just to recap on the key recommendation – it’s to custom fit education more individually, isn’t it, to monitor the progress of each child as they grow?


Simon Birmingham:    To a degree, that’s right. To look at the steps in terms of learning, if you think about learning to read or write, what are the basic steps that are required for a student to progress through and to successfully develop writing skills, reading skills, literacy skills. How do you put that into the curriculum so that teachers are able to see very clearly the student is progressing through that? How do you provide every school, every teacher with the right nationally evidence-based assessment resources to be able to benchmark that progress of students, so that ultimately by the time of year three, student shave sound literacy skills upon which then the development and the flourishing of knowledge in richer subjects can be built.


Kieran Gilbert:             And on the Newspoll, still behind on a two-party basis, yet his approval rating is at the highest level since the last election. Is there a disconnect between the two?


Simon Birmingham:    Kieran, look, people will analyse the polls and that’s a job for the commentators. My sense on the ground is that increasingly, people see in Malcolm Turnbull a leader focused on the things that matter to them: job creation at record levels, helping households with their bills such as our child care reforms coming into effect in two weeks’ time exactly now. Of course, getting taxes down, lower income taxes, competitive company taxes, versus Bill Shorten which is a real risk that Australia cannot afford in terms of $200 billion plus of higher taxes that will threaten wages growth, jobs growth across the country…


Kieran Gilbert:             Well, we’ll have a very real test very soon at the end of July in terms of politicians saying there’s only one poll that counts. There’s actually a couple of polls that count in the next year or so.


Simon Birmingham:    There will be those by-elections. We are working hard in those by-elections. Of course, by-elections are notorious…


Kieran Gilbert:             Do you think the mood has shifted within the electorate?


Simon Birmingham:    Look, I sense across the electorate that people really are sceptical and doubtful about Bill Shorten, whether they can trust him, whether the nation can afford him, whether they personally can afford him. Yet in contrast, they see in Malcolm Turnbull a steady, calm and capable pair of hands focused on the things that matter to them. Job creation for them, for their children, for their grandchildren, ensuring that costs in households are kept as low as possible, and that taxes are kept as low as possible too.


Kieran Gilbert:             Minister, thanks so much. Appreciate it.


Simon Birmingham:    Thank you.


Kieran Gilbert: The Education Minister speaking to me earlier this morning.