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Transcript 17543

Transcript of interview with Waleed Aly, ABC Melbourne

Photo of Gillard, Julia

Gillard, Julia

Period of Service: 24/06/2010 to 27/06/2013

More information about Gillard, Julia on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 15/09/2010

Release Type: Education

Transcript ID: 17543

HOST: Someone who's in a situation that I don't think is as precarious but it nonetheless intriguing and I think unprecedented in her political careers is the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and she's been good enough to join me this morning. That you very much for being there.

PM: Good morning.

HOST: I want to start with a comment that Heather Ridout made on this program yesterday, who's talking about the way in which the announcement of the new ministry has happened and then the subsequent amendments to that announcement very early on. This is what she had to say:

[CLIP] RIDOUT: I think from a business perspective, you know, if I was in management and I did that I could get my knuckles rapped pretty fast and I think it's sloppy and it shouldn't happen.

HOST: Julia Gillard, she's not someone who's been overly critical, I would have thought, of the Labor Government in the past term, but that's fairly stinging criticism?

PM: Look, my perspective here is I'm a substance not slogans sort of person. I'm the sort of person who on Christmas Day wants to rip the packaging off and see what the present is. Other people like to look at the wrapping paper and comment on that, so I wanted to get right down to the substance.

Now, obviously, there were some comments about ministerial titles, some further decisions I had to make. The day on which all of that had to be clarified was yesterday, and of course it was.

The principal point of debate was about tertiary education, about universities, and of course not one thing moved a millimetre between the two big departments that work for universities, the Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations, and of course Kim Carr's department, which focuses on industry, innovation, science and research. Nothing moved between those two departments, so I thought that would all be fairly obvious to people. Unfortunately people were a bit-

HOST: -But it's an expression of an underlying philosophy, though, isn't it?

PM: Well, no, unfortunately people were a bit confused so I was happy to clarify that by putting tertiary education in the title.

HOST: I take the clarification, but it's not just a question of clarification, is it? I mean, there is an underlying philosophy that's implicit when you announce a ministry, and you left out tertiary education initially and have now said 'well, it really came under skills', but that's a kind of narrow, almost anaemic view of the role of education isn't it? I mean, tertiary education isn't the same thing as skills and that's part of the point.

PM: Oh, look, I actually think a lot of this is a sterile debate and a false divide. I believe as people go through their journey into education - whether it's in pre-school, school, vocational education and training, in our universities - people are developing skills and capacities which will stand them in good stead in the workplace and of course we want them to do that, and we also want them to develop a love of learning and interest in the world; an ability to absorb and process information; to use their critical thinking and capacities; to be a rounded citizen.

I think we want that at every level of education, and so I just don't think that there's some false divide here that sort of says 'well, if you're doing an apprenticeship that's just about functional skills and not learning to be a member of a team, or learning how to absorb knowledge, or getting capacities that will stand you in good stead in other occupations in your life' and somehow if you're at university you're not learning a skill.

I went to university. I studied law. I studied arts, majoring in economics. I got skills I used in a workplace, I used as a lawyer. I think I got more than that, and I've used the extra bits in my life as well, so let's not get too hung up on false divides here.

You are right that ministries do reflect philosophies, and what you should see from my ministry and the way that I have reorganised it is a key focus on regional Australia, on making sure that right across this country Government is working with citizens and local communities; a key focus on a sustainable Australia and tackling the challenges of climate change; and of course a continuing focus on a strong economy that offers people the benefits of work and leading reform in our education system at every level.

HOST: The artificial divide that you talk about, though, is one of your making isn't it? I mean if you'd, for example, had an education portfolio that was unified with an education minister that was singular, then there would be no divide. Now there is - we've got a Schools Education Minister, we've got a Tertiary Education Minister, we've got a Jobs and Skills Minister. These are a kind of, now, it's a fragmented view of the way that education works, and so can you really be seen to be complaining about a divide in the way that people think about education when really it's a function of the way you've structured the ministry?

PM: I think this gets to the misunderstanding that in part fuelled the reporting and perhaps some of the confusion that was in the education sector. In the last period of Government, when I was the Minister for Education, when I was Deputy Prime Minister, my portfolio extended to undergraduate education in universities, and Kim Carr, in his portfolio, had post-graduate education and research. That has been the divide for the last three years. Now, that divide hasn't moved one millimetre.

What I have done is I've specifically upped the focus on school education by having a dedicated minister in that area, Peter Garrett, and that is because we've got such a huge reform agenda.

HOST: What exactly is that reform agenda, I've got to say, because I'm not exactly sure what happened to the education revolution in the last campaign.

PM: Well, how long have you got? You've got be on my favourite topic and I'll talk till midday if you like-

HOST: -Well, I wouldn't mind a couple of points that are immediately substantive, if that's OK.

PM: Well, absolutely. What happened with education reform and the education revolution? Well, over the last three years we've rolled out a new philosophy of focussing on every school; of being transparent about school achievement through MySchool; using that transparency to drive new funding arrangements, particularly new funding for disadvantaged schools and schools that are struggling in literacy and numeracy.

We have focussed on the quality of teaching. That means that we've already implemented ways of bringing our best and brightest graduates into teaching; getting them to go to the classrooms that need them the most; and we've already implemented ways of paying our best teachers to go to disadvantaged schools to make the biggest difference to kids' lives who need that difference the most.

Of course, all of that has come with a revolution in school capital, with our Trades Training Centres, with computers in schools, with Building the Education Revolution.

In the campaign I've built on that. I outlined comprehensive education policies to keep building to make schools principals more autonomous. Already, in the last term of government, we as a Federal Government had taken more steps to give school principals more autonomy that had ever been taken before in the history of this nation. We intend to build on that with new resources to help principals manage their schools more autonomously.

We are going to build on what was has already been achieved with rewards for high-performing teachers to make sure that they are a standing feature of our education system. We are going to have a reward pool for most improved schools. This obviously links to the agenda already in play with MySchool and the new transparency.

So, we leave the last term of government - for the first time ever in this nation's history - able to understand what difference schools are making for kids and what standards they're achieving. We will now use that new transparency to drive rewards for teachers, to drive rewards for most improved schools, to drive further autonomy for school principals.

It's a huge transformation of how we think about education.

Before all of those reforms, what did the Federal Government do? Well, the track record of the Howard Government, of which Mr Abbott was a senior member, was to play politics between school systems and school sectors. I ended all of that as Education Minister, and Peter Garrett will continue reforms that focus on schools and work to deliver on the promise of a great quality education for every child in every school.

HOST: There's a lot that we could pick up but I do want to move on the broadband question, because that's clearly going to-

PM: -Well, I just want to say, when people 'Where is the education revolution?' - it's happening and it is the biggest transformation in school education. It is huge. It's got implications for parents with kids in schools. It's got implications for our nation's future. I'm passionate about it and this Government will be passionate about it.

HOST: Sure, and then we'll see how that's delivered and we'll scrutinise that as the time comes up. Just on the broadband question-

PM: -Well, as long as that scrutiny applauds the successes as well, and one thing to applaud in Melbourne is that we do, through Teach for Australia, have high-performing graduates, people who had remarkable academic careers, who are today teaching in disadvantaged schools that you are broadcasting to today, so let's celebrate the successes, too.

HOST: I'd like to talk about the broadband thing, because that's going to a clear focus of the next Parliament. You're currently spruiking, it seems, the rollout of broadband in Tasmania, arguing that it's come in at 10 per cent under budget. What you seem less keen to tell us, though, is only 50 per cent of homes and businesses have been connected on that costing, so that actually means that you're considerably over budget. Isn't that deceptive, firstly, and secondly isn't that exactly the kind of mismanagement that the Opposition is talking about?

PM: Well, what you've done there is pick up all of Malcolm Turnbull's spruiking from this morning. They're the assertions of the Opposition. Now, I don't think we should pick up the assertions of the Opposition and not indicate that that's the source of the question.

The National Broadband Network is rolling out exactly as we planned it, and I understand that an Opposition that showed in the election campaign it just didn't get what broadband could mean for our economy and communities is now trying to trash what's happening because their only strategy is a negative strategy. They don't have a positive policy. Well, I don't think we should allow that to occur.

I've seen the National Broadband Network in Tasmania. I've seen the people it's making a difference to: the older Australians with health complaints that can now, without leaving their home, have their heart rate monitored and other vital signs; have a face-to-face consultation with their doctor through the National Broadband Network without ever walking outside their house, something that will make a huge difference-

HOST: -But can you answer the allegation on the costings, the fact that, well, the allegation at the very least, that this is considerably over budget?

PM: Simply wrong - full stop. Simply wrong, and I refer you to, of course, all of the figures we published in the Budget; all of the figures we reproduced during the election campaign; all of the figures that have been made transparent by the National Broadband Network Company, NBN Co. I'd refer you to the fact that already today I myself on the radio have heard telecommunications experts saying that Mr Turnbull's assertions are nonsense.

Now, what I would say is I understand Mr Turnbull came into this Parliament with quite a lot of commercial expertise. I think the best use of that commercial expertise for Mr Turnbull would be working through why the Opposition had an $11 billion black hole in its costings, and until the Opposition can give a credible account of why that happened I'm not sure anybody should believe their assertions about figures.

HOST: I'll be speaking to Malcolm Turnbull in just a few moments, so these are themes I might pick up with him.

PM: Well, $11 billion black hole is something fairly big to explain.

HOST: I'm speaking to Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister of Australia. Just before I let you go, here's something that Tony Abbott said this morning, speaking to Lyndal Curtis on AM.

[CLIP] ABBOTT: I think that's ah, what we should be doing, and as I said I think with someone like Malcolm in charge of communications policy, in charge of exposing the waste and extravagance inherent in the Government's broadband plans, that becomes a very real prospect.

HOST: He's talking there about the prospect of winning over the independents to his side, which might mean a change of government mid-stream without an election. How do you respond to that prospect and how confident can we be that this fragile minority government is going to survive with that kind of manoeuvring happening in the Opposition?

PM: Well, let's get a little bit serious. Let's deal with some of the facts.

Tony Abbott does not have a broadband policy - full stop. Tony Abbott does not have a broadband policy and critical to the decision making of the independents was the power of broadband to transform regional communities.

What Tony Abbott did during the election campaign is he had some of his spokespeople, some of whom I think have now been demoted, some of his spokespeople tumble out a hastily cobbled together few sheets of paper while he was in another city - he was too embarrassed to be there for the launch - and then when he was asked he couldn't explain even the most basic fundamentals. So, as of today, Tony Abbott does not have a broadband policy.

Now, I would think that for Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull, really, what they need to be judged on is their ability to propose positive policies. Anybody can get on the radio and spew out criticisms - easily done, and of course the Opposition will be doing that - but what really is the test here is what would you do differently? How would you do it better? And, of course, Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull can't answer that. They didn't have a policy during the election campaign.

The broadband this country needs is fibre and we are delivering it.

HOST: I do have to move on. It's a good segue for my interview of Malcolm Turnbull in just a moment. Julia Gillard, Prime Minister, thank you very much for joining me.

PM: Thank you

Transcript 17543