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Transcript 16057

Interview with the Acting Prime Minister, the Hon Julia Gillard, ABC Radio National Breakfast

Photo of Rudd, Kevin

Rudd, Kevin

Period of Service: 03/12/2007 to 24/06/2010

More information about Rudd, Kevin on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 11/08/2008

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 16057

FRAN KELLY: Well, up to 20 per cent of Australians aged between 15 and 24, that's about half a million people, are apparently neither in full-time work nor full-time education.

And in a speech later today to the annual conference of the Australian Council for Educational Research, Education Minister Julia Gillard will promise to do more to help these young Australians who aren't making this transition from school to work.

But with the PM, Kevin Rudd, out of the country, there's also a lot of issues to talk to the Acting Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, about.

Julia Gillard, welcome.

JULIA GILLARD: Good morning, Fran.

FRAN KELLY: Now let's talk Olympics first, day three of the Games. What will you be watching?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, I'm afraid my program today doesn't mean I'll be watching too much. I'm going to Bond University, Griffith University, delivering the Australian Council for Educational Research speech, and a few other meetings and commitments. But I will be in and out of the car and listening to the radio and hoping to hear that Libby Trickett's won the 100m butterfly - that would be great news. And, of course, later tonight we've got Stephanie Rice back in the pool for the women's 200m individual medley, so plenty of Olympic news to listen to during the day.

FRAN KELLY: Yes, plenty of hopes raised. Now, just on that - the whole hopes of winning gold medals - China's already showing its dominance on the medal tally. If Australia doesn't reach the stated target of more than 15 golds, does that matter? Would you be worried about that?

JULIA GILLARD: I think let's just do our best at the games and do the medal tally at the end. Obviously, our athletes are there and already putting in great performances, so I think the task at the moment is to be cheering them on.

FRAN KELLY: Okay. Well, no gold medal for Labor in the Northern Territory election that's for sure. In fact, many Territorians didn't even bother to vote. Why did Labor poll badly?

JULIA GILLARD: I think we've got to remind ourselves that this result is actually exactly what Paul Henderson, the Labor Chief Minister, was telling everybody to expect. He consistently said that it was a tough contest for Labor...

FRAN KELLY: I don't think he thought it was this tough! I think the former chief minster was saying last week they would romp it home.

JULIA GILLARD: Well Paul Henderson said consistently it was going to be a tough fight and it was going to come down to a handful of votes in a handful of seats.

FRAN KELLY: What about one vote, one seat?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, one vote, one seat, maybe. Obviously we're going to wait for the result to be finalised during the course of this week. But I do think perhaps some of the needier expectations were above and beyond what Paul Henderson was saying ... should be expected. He always said it was going to be close and it is being very close indeed.

Now the Northern Territory is obviously an election system where there's a fair bit of volatility built in because they're such small electorates. Nevertheless, when elections come and go, there's always a lesson for politicians in them, and I think the lesson from this election, as Kevin Rudd has said, and it's a lesson for all politicians - is that you've always got to be in touch with the electorate and you can't take anything for granted.

FRAN KELLY: Is there a lesson about going early and if there is ... you know, the Western Australian Premier, Alan Carpenter, is set to do that too, he's going on September 6. I mean, do voters expect their governments to go the full term?

JULIA GILLARD: I think each election contest is fought on its own issues. I don't think that we can construe from the Northern Territory some grand lessons for Western Australia - those elections are going to be fought on different issues, on things that matter to the population of those two places.

Obviously, generally, the public says to politicians that they want them to serve their term and get the job done. But circumstances can bring early elections on and that's what happened in Western Australia.

FRAN KELLY: Okay, can we move to the issue of student unionism? A report from your Department, I think, tells us what we've long suspected, that the introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism by the Howard Government hit the tertiary sector pretty hard - the funding cuts that amount to about $160 million. Now I know you're a former national president of the Australian Union of Students. Is it time to reintroduce compulsory student unionism?

JULIA GILLARD: We committed before the election that we would not reintroduce compulsory student unionism.

FRAN KELLY: Why don't you believe in it?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, we said we'd find a way of working with universities and student organisations to make sure that students could get services and that students could engage in proper advocacy to universities and beyond on issues that affect the student population. I mean the fact that we've got declining student services, including sporting and welfare services, is yet another part of the Howard Government's legacy in higher education.

FRAN KELLY: Well, the question is: What are you going to do about it? ‘Cause the universities are trying to plug those gaps failing and it's costing them. Are you going to give them more help?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, look, this is a dreadful and sorry tale - I agree with that, and we're trying to rebuild our universities all round.

Step number one - we made $500 million available through the Better Universities Renewal Fund and that money can be used to rebuild student amenities.

Step number two - my ministerial colleague, Kate Ellis, is in a process of consultation with universities and student organisations about what to do on student unionism and the paper you refer to is part of that process.

FRAN KELLY: Okay.

JULIA GILLARD: Step three - we've got the Bradley Review of higher education, led by Denise Bradley, which we want to lay down a blueprint for higher education for the next decade and beyond. This is a sector that took a pummelling from the Howard Government and was victim to, most particularly, its extreme Work Choices agenda and a lot needs to be done to rebuild it.

FRAN KELLY: A lot needs to be done across the board in education, I think. According to a speech you're going to give today, you're calling for more transparency in the performance of our high schools. Now your state counterparts have been resisting that very loudly for a very long time. What is it that you want? Do you want just a league table of results? Is that what you're looking for?

JULIA GILLARD: Absolutely not and we've made that clear. What we've committed before the election, and what we want, is rich-performance information about schools. The essence of league tables is you take one little thing and whack it in a list and say that's all you need to know about your local school - we're certainly not in that card.

What we want to know is very comprehensive information about who is in each school, because that would tell you something about educational need. We want comprehensive information about attainment at school because then you could look at schools that were in comparable positions, and if one was doing a lot better than another, you could ask yourself why and you could find a way of spreading the best practice from one school to another. And, of course, we want schools to be able to speak on their own behalf to say how they define their particular mission and what it is that they are focusing on.

Now, why do we want all of this information? Well, one, because I think people, particularly parents have got a right to know. Two, because if we're going to do things like make a real difference for educational disadvantage, then we need to know where that disadvantage lies and we need to know the best methods of addressing it.

FRAN KELLY: And it seems that we need to know that quite urgently because another thing that we're talking about today is the high school dropout rate, and apparently, Australia ranks 23 out of 35 OECD countries for finishing Year 12 or Certificate III qualifications. We've got half a million young Australians falling between the gap of schooling and the workforce. What can we do about that? What's the answer?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, I'd have to agree, Fran, these are pretty startling and worrying statistics, and that half a million is added to each year by another 45 000 to 50 000 young people, who come out of school and lose their way and don't make a successful transition to the next stage of education or into the world of work. We need an education revolution, we promised that.

FRAN KELLY: Sure did.

JULIA GILLARD: We certainly did and we're delivering it. And amongst the things we need to do, we need to be lifting retention to Year 12 or equivalent. We need to be doing that by investing in trades training and alternative pathways for young people. We're doing that with our $2.5 billion Trades Training Program. We also need to make sure that the curriculum is meeting students' needs - that's what the national curriculum process is about.

And we need to be helping people with information and support as they make those transitions - that's what our Job Mentoring Scheme is about and our Job Ready Certificate - to help those young people who are going to move from the world of school to the world of work to make that transition successfully.

Now, none of this is going to be easy. We're in intensive discussions with our state and territory colleagues because if we're going to achieve this, it's got to be achieved cooperatively. But if we are to have a long-term productivity and prosperity in this country, the sort of prosperous future that we want, then we need to make sure that young people are staying in education and coming out with skills. We can't afford to have young people just lose their way into some twilight world between school and work and never properly make the transition.

FRAN KELLY: Now, Minister, none of this comes cheap, presumably either no improvements in education. There's a report this morning in The Daily Telegraph that some cash-starved schools are turning to private sponsorship for funding of things like libraries. Is that a good idea? I mean, can you ... do you approve of the day we might see, I don't know, the Microsoft Learning Centre or the Coca-Cola Library?

JULIA GILLARD: Well I certainly approve of business partnerships with schools and I've seen some of them that have worked phenomenally well.

FRAN KELLY: Sure, we're talking about plugging a gap here.

JULIA GILLARD: Yeah, they're not about those programs at their best ... aren't about a simplistic, putting a plaque on a wall of a building. Rather, they're about a really strong relationship, where people from the business come and act as mentors in the schools and there are work experience opportunities in the business and the like, so I'm all for that.

Obviously, we want to make sure that we are investing better in our schools. We've made some big commitments there and we're delivering on them. I've spoken about the $2.5 billion going into trades training. We've already had the first round of that, the first round of schools successfully getting the first $90 million, and we're in the Second Round now. We've got our big investments in computers in schools, the $1.2 billion Digital Education Revolution. And we're working now with state and territory colleagues, and with the Independent and Catholic systems, on the new schools funding agreement.

FRAN KELLY: Okay.

JULIA GILLARD: And also on some better ways of assisting disadvantaged schools and some better ways of improving teacher quality.

FRAN KELLY: Alright, Julia Gillard, thank you very much for joining us on Breakfast.

JULIA GILLARD: Thanks Fran.

FRAN KELLY: Julia Gillard is Acting Prime Minister, while Kevin Rudd is out of the country in Korea - on his way to Singapore on the way home from the Games.

Transcript 16057