Joint doorstop, Canberra
Topics: Review into rural, regional and remote education; Barnaby Joyce; Michaelia Cash

Jim Molan: Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s great to be here on this magnificent Canberra day in front of the Parliament House. We’re very lucky today to have with us, not just the Deputy Prime Minister, but a very impressive collection of ministers here today. Our reason for coming here today is to discuss and announce the Government’s reaction to an independent review of rural, regional and remote education, something which will give us opportunities and outcomes going into the future.

Deputy Prime Minister, we’ve just spoken to a group of Franklin Public School kids, 50 or so, the people who will benefit from this going into the future. But the benefit will also happen now and run into the future. Deputy Prime Minister, would you like to talk?

Michael McCormack: Yeah, look, thank you Senator, and what you’ve just described is exactly how it is. What you’ve just described is exactly how it is. Those kids from Franklin Public School at Tumut will one day benefit from the changes that we’re making in our regional education outcomes today. And one of the most well attended meetings I’ve ever been to in the Parliament was to discuss independent Youth Allowance and outcomes for regional kids. Regional kids that Liberals and Nationals represent, we represent them well. It’s taken this review that we commissioned to bring about change. We’ve looked at all the recommendations the Government has agreed with what the review has produced, and we’re getting behind those regional kids for better outcomes for them, their futures and their families so that they too can be on an equitable level with their city cousins. This is a fantastic outcome.

And I really commend the minister, Simon Birmingham, for his advocacy as well. He’s listened to the Liberal and Nationals, he’s listened more importantly to those regional families who turned up at forums, who sent us e-mails, who rang up and they said they want a better outcome for their kids. So, I’ll hand over to Simon, he can outline what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. But it is a change for the better and it is a change for good.

Simon Birmingham: Well, thanks, DPM. The kids from Franklin Public School are just a handful of the 400,000 young children studying across regional, rural and remote Australia. And they’re children who deserve exactly the same opportunities as children from anywhere else in Australia in terms of their educational outcomes. The National Party and the Liberal Party recognise that. That’s why we’re here together as a government, pursuing better opportunities for children across regional, remote and rural Australia. And we’re determined to make sure we get those outcomes. I want to thank Emeritus Professor John Halsey for his work in producing the landmark report in relation to regional, rural and remote education. And thank the thousands of Australians who participated in the very extensive consultations that were undertaken.

This response by the Government takes some firm concrete steps, it will create an extra 500 places- pathway places into Australian universities. It will put another 500 places with the regional study hubs that the Turnbull Government is delivering across parts of Australia that have never before had access to a university education in their local community. And I’m thrilled that today we are inviting expressions of interest for the delivery of those regional study hubs around Australia, with those extra places that are available.

But it’s not just about what we can do as a federal government. This report calls about for a number of steps that need to be taken by state and territory education officials. That’s why we’ve already had Professor Halsey brief the states and territories, and we’re committed to working with them on a new landmark agreement in terms of education reform that will work off of the basis of this report, as well as the Gonski Report, and the work of the chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel.

But it’s also not just about education portfolios. That’s why we’ve taken a whole of government approach to this. And I’m delighted that in our response we also have further concrete reforms we’re taking led by Dan Tehan, who was one of the chief instigators across the rural and regional Libs and the National Party members in getting this report initiated in the first place, and now as Minister for Social Services in acting on some of its recommendations. Dan.

Dan Tehan: Thanks, Simon. And to make change in this area, we do need cooperation between the education portfolio and the social services portfolio. When I became a member of parliament, it became very apparent to me that there is a discrepancy, a clear discrepancy between country kids accessing tertiary education, and their city cousins. And what we’ve sought to do is to try and deal with this, and this package, we begin that process. Two-thousand-three-hundred extra kids from country areas will now have the opportunity to go to tertiary institutions as a result of these changes. It’s a package of over $50 million. What we will see is the income threshold lifted from 150 to 160,000 for those students trying to access independent Youth Allowance. And for those families who might have two or three kids also trying to get to a tertiary institution, they will get an extra $10,000 per child. Over $50 million delivering 2300 more opportunities for country kids to get a tertiary education. This is ground breaking stuff; we’ve put our money where our mouth is. And I wholly commend this report and the Government’s action that has been taken to make sure that we implement its recommendations.

Karen Andrews: Vocational education and a pathway from real skills to real careers is particularly important for rural and regional Australia. That’s why the Government has committed $1.5 billion to the Skilling Australians Fund to target pre-apprentices, apprentices and higher apprenticeships throughout Australia but particularly in rural and regional Australia.

We’ve also announced an additional $60 million for the Industry Specialist Mentoring program that will target those apprentices that are most at risk of not completing, so those in their first two years of an apprenticeship. And we will be making sure that the needs of rural and regional Australia are addressed. We know that we already have some significant skills shortages. We need more cooks, we need more chefs, we need more diesel mechanics in rural and regional Australia. So, the Turnbull Government is focused on making sure that we are addressing the needs of those rural communities.

John McVeigh: Well, as Minister for Regional Development, and along with so many of my colleagues in the Liberal and National parties, someone who represents part of regional Australia in this parliament, I’m thrilled, we’re thrilled with this announcement, this focus on regional, remote and rural education. As my colleagues have mentioned, this is so important for the brains of the future. Regional Australia represents about 30 per cent of our country’s GDP. We have about 30 per cent of the country’s workforce. So, regional Australia is where the future is, and this announcement really will fuel that powerhouse by fuelling the brains of the future. So, I’m thrilled with the focus on vocational education, on tertiary education, and of course, that support in Youth Allowance means that for rural families, regional families, regional students have got a significant future. Regional kids deserve the same opportunities as kids in the cities. And this will mean, amongst other things, we’re going to be keeping families together for longer in regional Australia. Great announcement and I congratulate the ministers for all of this work.

Simon Birmingham: Any questions on regional education?

Excellent, you’re all warmly welcoming and enthusiastic about the actions the Government’s taken, as you should be. I am sure we can take one or two others before we get back inside.

Question: Vikki Campion appears to say on the promo for her interview on Sunday night that she was pressured by the Government to have an abortion. How do you think that’s going to go down with half of your voter base?

Michael McCormack: Well I haven’t seen the promo and I’m just concentrating on selling the Budget. It is a very good Budget. The thing that people are talking to me about in rural and regional Australia as I go out and about the countryside are the same things that John McVeigh, as the Regional Development Minister, is hearing, and they are about jobs for them, jobs for their futures and today’s announcement with the independent Youth Allowance is just something that we are- one more thing that we’re doing to invest in rural and regional and remote communities. And that’s the sort of thing that people are talking to me about.

Question: [Indistinct]

Michael McCormack: Well that’s the sort of thing- I was out and about on the weekend in my electorate and that’s the sort of thing that people were talking to me. Nobody raised, nobody raised the issues that you’re raising.

Question: How concerning is the allegation in the promo that she’s made that someone pressured her to abort the baby?

Michael McCormack: Well I’ve not seen those allegations. I’ve not heard those allegations and, you know, that’s all news to me.

Question: Deputy Prime Minister, we know now that Barnaby Joyce showed a medical certificate when he took leave. Do you have any more detail on his ailment at all?

Michael McCormack: No I don’t. He’s got a doctor’s certificate and as always with doctor certificates, that’s a matter between the individual and the patient and the doctor, and the doctor has signed the certificate. The certificate has been submitted. I’ve not seen the certificate but I know that Barnaby is taking time away from his duties. His electorate office will remain open and constituent inquiries can be directed there.

Question: Do you know how he’s going?

Michael McCormack: I spoke to Barnaby yesterday and wished him well and told him I was only a phone call away if he needed me.

Question: Did you speak to him about his request for leave and the fact that he was going to take this much time away from the parliament?

Michael McCormack: I wished him well. I said, hope you’re feeling better. Hope when you return to work that everything’s fine and I wished him well and said, if you need me I’m only a phone call away. We are a family within the National Party, just like we are in the Liberal Party, and of course we have care and concern for our colleagues and that’s why the phone call was made.

Question: Do you think Michaelia Cash should go to the Senate and answer questions that the senators want answered?

Michael McCormack: Well I think if anybody has got questions to answer about things it should be Bill Shorten and certainly some of the shady and secret deals that he did with John Setka, with the union movement – they’re the things that need to be answered. They’re the things that if anybody has to come into parliament and answer for, it’s the Labor Party and its leader Bill Shorten.

Question: Where is Michaelia Cash?

Michael McCormack: I have no idea. I’m in the House of Representatives and I’m here talking about a great announcement for the young people of rural, regional and remote Australia. I’m a long way from the Senate at the moment and as soon as this interview is over I’ll be going back into the House of Representatives to continue fighting for better outcomes for rural and regional Australians, as I always do.

Question: Education Minister, can I ask you a question – obviously the same question which went to the Deputy Prime Minister – how do you think this revelation, this accusation, will be received by female voters in particular? That Vikki Campion was pressured by members of the Government to have an abortion?

Simon Birmingham: I also haven’t seen the promo that you speak of and this is the first that I’ve heard of it. But I am confident that what Australians expect of each and every one of us is that we focus on their families and the future for their children, and that’s what we’re doing.

Question: It would seem ironic though, considering the accusation. You say you’re focusing on families and someone’s telling her not to have a family.

Simon Birmingham: Just today, the Turnbull Government has highlighted our reforms in relation to child care that will happen on 2 July, our additional support for rural students to get the best education possible and reforms to the Family Court system to help families undergoing difficult times. We’re focused on getting the best possible outcomes for all Australian families and nothing will distract us from doing so. Thanks everybody.