PRIME MINISTER: Well, so many bright young kids here at McCarthy. I am delighted to be here at the invitation of Fiona Scott the Member for Lindsay and the Principal of McCarthy Patricia Baker, with my colleague the Education Minister Simon Birmingham to talk about the extension of our Pathways to Technology programme, P-TECH.
Now this is a very innovative programme and it is one that is a key part of our national economic plan for jobs and growth. Because what we know is that in order to succeed in the 21st century, we need to ensure that Australia and Australians are more innovative, more technologically sophisticated and particularly that our young Australians, our children, these students here and thousands of others like them, are studying STEM subjects, are becoming more familiar with computer programming and all of those skills that are the digital literacy of the 21st century.
Now the P-TECH programme that is currently operating at a school in Geelong and Ballarat – and Simon will talk further about that – is one that brings together with a school, a leading employer or employers in the relevant area of technology and STEM subjects generally. So in Ballarat for example it’s IBM. Right here the partner is PwC and I want to acknowledge Joe Carozzi the Managing Partner of PwC because that’s a big accounting, audit, consulting firm that obviously has lots of opportunities for smart young people who have got good quantitative skills.
So what PwC will do is provide mentoring here, one-on-one mentoring here at the school, take some classes, bring the kids into PwC for visits, so that they can see the relevance of the work they are doing. They can see how the maths, the science that they’re studying here, maybe pass one classroom with some kids doing an exam that’s probably a little bit taxing at times and they say ‘what am I doing this for?’ Well, they are doing it in order to prepare themselves for a great job in the future. This partnership is absolutely critical to that.
So we’re committing additional funding, $4.6 million to roll this out to another 12 schools. Very important trial that we are undertaking here and one that if it continues to succeed, can become bigger and bigger. There’s 100 schools doing it in the United States, which is where the model came from. So this is the first of the 12 and I’d invite Simon to tell us some more about the importance of P-TECH and how it fits in to our commitment to ensuring that our children have the skills for the 21st century economy.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well thanks Prime Minister. When I speak with parents right around Australia, what they tell me is they want a great education for their children and to know that there will be a job for them when they finish their education. P-TECH complements absolutely our economic plan, our innovation plan and our student achievement plan. Because what we are doing is we are helping schools to partner with significant local employers. Employers who have roles to offer in some of the fastest growing job opportunities in the world, particularly in the Australian economy. We are committed as a Government to having the best needs-based education model in Australia. We are going to grow funding in our schools as the Prime Minister and I announced in the budget from around $16 billion this year to more than $20 billion by 2020. We will ensure that funding is distributed according to need. We are investing already in a whole range of different STEM initiatives to lift the outcomes and engagement of students in science and technology. The plan we have released already will ensure there are minimum levels of numeracy that need to be attained, that there are more year 12 students studying maths and science and that we have early intervention for students who need it.
Importantly we want to foster a culture of change within Australian schools. The P-TECH programme is able to do that, by encouraging schools and providing a platform for them to partner with big and little local businesses that actually have the job opportunities for their children. We already have underway two successful pilots; one in Geelong at Newcomb Secondary School where they are partnering with a consortia of local businesses across technology, health services, local industries that are rich in the STEM subjects. Those students at Year 9 level are engaging right across the school to better understand the job opportunities that exist locally and then through each year thereafter to participate in roles with those businesses. Federation College in Ballarat doing like-wise with IBM as a large employer. We have interest of course from many others across food processing industries, defence industries, engineering sectors. All of them, roles and businesses that are central to growth in the Australian economy and to providing job opportunities for students. This extension of the pilot will enable us to expand it to an additional 12 sites across Australia, to prove up the concept of P-TECH as to how it can apply and to ensure that it can then be rolled out across schools right around the country, government and non-government at minimal cost to those schools. Because what we are really leveraging is the willingness and the support of employers to work with schools to help ensure children are trained and skilled in a way that gets them in to a job and gives them the experience they need to succeed when they enter the workplace.
JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull can you guarantee that you would not strike a deal with independents to form Government if there’s a hung Parliament? And if that’s the case would you be willing to go back to the polls?
PRIME MINISTER: Can I just say to you that we are totally focused on winning this election and continuing to govern, delivering our national economic plan. The only party that is likely to do a deal with independents and in particular do a deal with the Greens is of course the Labor Party. The Greens are their political brethren. The Greens and the Labor Party are there on the left of the spectrum. You can see Labor getting closer to the Greens all the time in the course of this election, moving further and further to the left in order to protect electorates, seats like Mr Albanese’s and Tanya Plibersek’s and so forth. The forgetful Mr Feeney, he’s got to protect his seat from the Greens, that’s one thing he is not going to forget to do that. So Labor moves to the left and we’ve seen it before. You don’t have to – this is not a theoretical thing. Labor will find its friends on the left. If they were to fall over the line in this election they would end up governing with the Greens just as Julia Gillard did.
JOURNALIST: What if the Governor General did ask you though to have those conversations with Independents, other parties, if there was a hung Parliament?
PRIME MINISTER: Look can I just say to you this is a theoretical possibility. The Independents, you’re basically talking about the Greens here. The Greens are a left-wing political party somewhat to the left of the Labor Party. Although the Labor Party keeps on moving closer to them, so the difference is diminishing. But if there is any government put together on that basis, we know from experience – again we don’t have to theorize – it will be done between Labor and the Greens. You’ll end up with a Labor-Green government with all of the chaos that ensues. I mean consider this, consider this contrast. You saw last night, I set out the key elements of my Government’s national economic plan and why it’s important, we need a strong economy. We need a strong economy to pay for all of the great things that we do. The education services, the programs like this, our hospitals and defence. Right across the board. So we need a strong economy, we have a plan for that. It’s quite clear that Mr Shorten does not. He has nothing to say on that subject, just a series of complaints interspersed with a few personal attacks and his trademark zingers. That’s the best he can offer.
Now on the other hand, what you have with the Greens, is a party that is drawing Labor to it, magnetically drawing Labor to the left. You know what will happen if Labor, after the election, if Labor were to win, Mr Bowen has told us. He said that there will be a hundred day period during which Labor puts together a mini-budget. So we’ve seen Mr Shorten do a backflip on an absolutely irrevocable promise to restore the Schoolkids Bonus. We’ve seen him do that backflip. If they were to win the election we would have 100 days of complete chaos when we would not know what was going to be their economic policy as they formulated a mini-budget, no doubt with even higher taxes than the ones they are proposing, and do so of course with their coalition partners or their likely coalition partners in the Greens.
So the choice is very clear. My Government has a plain, straightforward, clear economic plan for jobs and growth. We’ve set it out. It’s all fully costed, it’s all in the budget, it’s right there. Everyone knows what it contains. Everyone knows it will deliver stronger economic growth and more jobs. What do we have from Labor? Who knows? Who knows? It’s a backflip from one day to the next.
JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull why not flatly rule it out? Why not flatly?
PRIME MINISTER: What, rule out doing a coalition with the Greens? Of course! There is no way!
JOURNALIST: No Mr Turnbull, the question –
PRIME MINISTER: Yes what is the question?
JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull why not just flatly rule out your Government doing any deals with any Greens or independents? Why not say that to us, because unless I misheard you, you did not say that in your first couple of answers.
PRIME MINISTER: Well I’ve made it very clear. I’ve made it very clear before and I’m surprised that you would imagine it was possible that we would be doing deals with the Greens or independents.
JOURNALIST: Well I listened to Julie Bishop Mr Turnbull.
PRIME MINISTER: Julie Bishop was talking about how we would respond, how the Coalition would respond were we to lose the election, to legislation in the Senate. Of course that – she said – is judged on its merits, as it always is. Indeed there is nothing new in that.
The simple fact of the matter is we will govern in our own right. We expect to win this election because we believe the Australian people will back our national economic plan for jobs and growth. What Labor is seeking to do is to distract you all from the very clear reality that Labor is a party of the left. You saw the policies that they are laying out now, this is the most left-wing, anti-business agenda that’s been laid out by a Labor Party leader for many, many years. What Mr Shorten is doing is attacking business. He is complaining about the support we’re giving to business. He seems to think that the Australian economy will just continue to grow, notwithstanding everything he proposes is designed and calculated to slow that growth, if not turn it back.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister last night’s debate has been widely described as dull. The ratings were poor. The polls so far in the campaign have been largely stagnant. Are you concerned that voters just aren’t excited about this election campaign?
PRIME MINISTER: Well we’re excited about the prospect of forming, re-forming our Government, becoming re-elected on the 2nd of July and being able to implement our national economic plan. So we’re excited about that. But as for the television business even when I worked in television and did your line of work I wasn’t a programmer so I’ll leave that to the experts.
JOURNALIST: If you are re-elected Mr Turnbull will you commit to holding a gay marriage plebiscite by the end of the year and what would the question say?
PRIME MINISTER: Can I say to you we’ll hold it as soon as possible after the election.
JOURNALIST: But not by the end of the year?
PRIME MINISTER: Well given that the election is on the 2nd July we do have ample time between then and the end of the year. So I would expect it to be held this calendar year. But it will be held as soon as practical as obviously legislation has got to pass through the Parliament. So all I can do is give you my commitment to hold a plebiscite as soon as we can and it will be a very straightforward question. We will be asking the Australian people whether they support the definition of marriage being extended to include couples of the same sex.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister there are reports out of Kurdish forces that a 45 year old former Australian soldier Jamie Bright has died fighting for the YPG against Islamic State. Have you any confirmation of that and do you still support laws that given the prevalence of Islamic State could see someone like that arrested when they return to Australia.
PRIME MINISTER: Firstly I can't comment on the individual case that you have raised. In terms of our laws which prohibit Australians from fighting in foreign wars like that they are absolutely critical. Australians must understand that if they go and fight in conflicts like that, they are breaking Australian law. And if they come back within Australia's jurisdiction they will be held to account for that.
JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull, on the reef, there are reports that a third of the reef now has died due to mass bleaching or something approaching that. What can the Coalition do to prevent further bleaching? Has the commitment that either party have made sufficient to solve the problem and can more money simply be thrown at the problem when climate change presents such a serious threat to the reef?
PRIME MINISTER: Yep right well thank you very much. The reef and the health of the reef is a great passion of mine and my Government. When I was Minister for the Environment in the Howard Government, of course I was responsible for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. Let me say to you that we have increased funding for the protection of the reef in the last budget, and you have seen that – substantial additional funds. I would also note that $200 million of the emissions reduction fund that Greg Hunt administers, $200 million of that has been spent on buying carbon offsets from farmers in the catchments that lead into the reef. So they have been reducing greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time reducing the flow of nutrients into the reef. This is a big issue and it's important we continue to invest in ensuring that land management practices do not see more nutrients going into the reef. It's a very big agenda.
Let me tell you about progress because this is important. When the Labor Government was in power the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO put the reef on the watch list and it was being considered as to whether it would be listed as endangered. There was a very, very thorough review and, as you know, the decision of the World Heritage Committee last year was not to put the Great Barrier Reef on the endangered list and the Chairman of the World Heritage Committee, Maria Böhmer, the German Chairman of the Committee, said that our management, that is to say Australia’s management of the Great Barrier Reef was a world class exemplar of coral reef management. So there is no question that we are doing a good job.
Now going to coral bleaching caused by global warming, plainly as I said last night in the debate that requires a global solution. The great breakthrough was the decision or the agreement in Paris. What we now have is all of the major economies in the world committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. We have made a very substantial commitment. I expect those commitments will in future meetings be increased and whatever they are increased to, we will, together with other nations move up and deliver on our commitment. Moving to a world where greenhouse gas emissions are reduced – ideally to a point where greenhouse gas emissions are net zero – that is to say, there will obviously always be greenhouse gas emissions but they will be able to be absorbed into the landscape in other ways – if we can achieve that then we will put a brake on global warming. That is certainly the commitment of the global community and it is certainly the commitment of my Government.
We have made very substantial commitments in Paris don't imagine that we haven't. Our commitments of greenhouse gas emission reduction on a per capita basis, which is obviously the most relevant way of comparing them, is at 52 per cent between 2005 and 2030 and that's the second-highest in the OECD. So we are absolutely pulling our weight. We are delivering and we will continue to commit to reduction targets as agreed to by the global community.
JOURNALIST: Given we are in this electorate here this morning why is your local Member standing about five metres away rather than in front of the microphones?
PRIME MINISTER: Because we are doing an education announcement and you should come with us on our street walk shortly and we will be with Fiona meeting many of your fellow residents of this electorate.
JOURNALIST: Has she been sidelined this morning because of what happened at the last press conference?
PRIME MINISTER: This is the way we are making this announcement here with myself and the Minister. Because we are dealing with questions, regrettably none of you have shown any interest at all in the announcement we have made here. None of you have shown any interest at all in this school.
JOURNALIST: You’ve called time on this press conference Prime Minister so that’s a bit rich.
JOURNALIST: What about the four seats in Western Sydney?
PRIME MINISTER: None of you have asked any questions about it. I would be delighted – what about this? Why don't we have two questions on P-TECH and technology in schools? Can you think of one? Anyone have one?
JOURNALIST: Is it true that $234 million has been cut from the electorate of Lindsay?
PRIME MINISTER: No. The commitment of spending here and the commitment to this electorate is very substantial, particularly in terms of infrastructure.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Dan I’m guessing that your question is based on the Labor Party’s scare campaign about school funding. And of course, what we have in this election is a reality which Labor refuses to accept that whoever wins this election, funding for Australian schools will go up. Now under us, we have budgeted growth, as I said in my comments, for funding from $16 billion this year to more than $20 billion by 2020. That’s real growth but it’s affordable growth. That’s fully funded growth from the Coalition. It’s ahead of inflation, its ahead of enrolment, so it will ensure that schools can keep doing more but Labor should stop the scare campaign and the fear mongering of running around Australia, making false claims like that and ought to be honest enough to say that whoever wins, funding for Australian schools goes up. The only difference is we are confident that we can pay for our funding. We know that a growing economy will ensure we can keep delivering that in the future. Programs like P-TECH will give job opportunities for students in the future whereas frankly how on earth can anybody believe that a Labor Party without an economic plan will be able to deliver on the largesse they are promising in ten years’ time, as they say.
JOURNALIST: Question on P-TECH?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes.
JOURNALIST: How much money do you extract from PwC as part of this partnership and do you think some of that funding can make up the education funding shortfall that your Government is promising?
PRIME MINISTER: Well for a start I’ll just refer you to what Simon said about the question about shortfall. We are spending more money on school education every year. The Federal Government’s spending on school education on a per student basis has been growing very rapidly and indeed vastly outstripping the growth in spending per students by state governments in public schools – state schools I am talking about – by state governments and territory governments. Simon do you want to say some more about P-TECH?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: P-TECH's real aim is to establish a functional partnership and relationship between schools and workplace and businesses and the local community. PwC is committed to expanding their footprint of employment in Western Sydney. They have got a strong and passionate commitment here and they want to of course work with local schools, in particular this school, to create opportunities for students to see the range of career opportunities that are available to them. We are not asking businesses to directly tip money into schools. We are asking businesses to give time and effort and the resources of their human capital in those businesses to working with schools and school students. That's what the nature of this program is. Our expectation is that out of the pilots we are establishing, we should be able to have a model that can be replicated right across the country, in many different schools and settings where businesses and schools can forge these relationships, give students the practical understanding of what type of careers are available in a company like PwC, not just accountants, but data analysts, technologists, a whole range of different opportunities that are STEM rich. That’s why the range and package of reforms we’ve got to make sure as we have in this term of Office, to get the national curriculum focused on the basics but particularly to introduce coding to support code clubs like we have here in this school, and now to expand that to that type of relationship between industry and school – is critical to making sure that students don’t just get a great education, but have the best possible job opportunities at the end of it.
PRIME MINISTER: They see the relevance in terms of what they are studying for future job opportunities, that is absolutely critical. This is the, this type of mentoring that PwC will offer here and of course other companies offer in the other P-TECH schools and many others will do as we roll this out. These will change individual student’s lives, there will be, there will be kids that are not particularly inspired by their studies, you know, they’re smart kids, they’re hard working kids but it doesn’t seem terribly relevant to them at age 15 as to why they are studying that. And then they meet someone, a young person from PwC who talks about their story, what they study, and suddenly a light goes on, and that 15 year old boy or girl is inspired. That’s of course what charismatic teachers do too.
You see all of this is a critical element in our economic plan. I talk about jobs and growth and I’m sure that some of you feel I talk about it too often, but it is absolutely vital. It makes changes – life changing, transformation to young people here in this school and right across the country. They see suddenly ‘yes that’s why I’m struggling away at this mathematical problem,’ ‘that’s why I’m battling away at physics,’ ‘that’s why I’ve got to work hard’, because there’s a great job for me. There’s a really interesting career for me, ahead, if I keep doing it, and the young person who may only be five or six or seven years older than them, in their early 20s at PwC is able to say to them well look I was doing exactly what you were doing and I didn’t think it made a lot of sense, and look where I am now. And so changing lives, creating jobs, stronger growth, that’s the key. That’s our national economic plan. Australia is a great land of opportunity, under my Government, under our plan, the opportunities will only get brighter.
Thank you very much.