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Transcript 40925

Radio interview with Tom Elliott, 3AW

Photo of Turnbull, Malcolm

Turnbull, Malcolm

Period of Service: 15/09/2015 to 24/08/2018

More information about Turnbull, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 02/05/2017

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 40925

Subject(s): School funding; Higher education funding; US visit.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Mr Turnbull, good afternoon.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good afternoon.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Gonski 2.0 - just six years ago in 2011 we had Gonski, I guess 1.0, from then Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Why do we need another report like this?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well what David Gonski was looking at in 2011 was the funding arrangements for schools. And David’s big idea, which we are implementing and which Julia Gillard did not, is that school funding should be needs based and it should be consistent across Australia.

TOM ELLIOTT:

I agree, yeah-

PRIME MINISTER:

And that’s what we are delivering.

The question that he did not answer, that he wasn’t asked to answer but he flagged it in his report, in chapter six in fact, was that the next piece of work is that once you’ve got the funding right and you’ve got the resourcing right, how do you ensure that you improve your educational outcomes? In other words, how do you get the biggest educational bang, the biggest outcome, the best schools, the best teachers, the best results for your kids and your grandkids - how do you do that with the resources that you’ve brought to bear.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Okay, so you bring the resources to bear, however many billions it might cost. Is it a question of measuring how that money is spent or is it a question of actually what to do with the money?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it is both. I mean, basically, the review that David will do with his colleagues will focus on the effective use of funding to improve student outcomes and our national performance, because when you look at the way we have been travelling - by reference to the other countries - we have been going backwards in terms of our comparative performance and that is the big challenge.

So what we need to do is to be getting - we’ve been spending more on schools, Tom, and you know, we have had significant declines over recent years since 2000 in reading and indeed in mathematical literacy and in numeracy, and so, this is an unsatisfactory state of affairs. We’re spending more but we’re not getting better outcomes.

So yes, we have go to make sure that funding is consistent across the country. Yes, we have got to make sure that it’s needs based. And we’re putting another $18 billion into schools over the next decade but what we’ve got to do is also make sure that our children and grandchildren get the great schools, the great teachers and the great results that that money warrants.

TOM ELLIOTT:

I’ve read some comments by the Education Minister Simon Birmingham which suggest that for some schools which are currently overfunded they might actually have their funding cut in order to get the funding right. Does that breach a promise not to cut any schools funding?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Birmo has been making this point for some time. In fact, the number of schools likely to be affected is 24. So it’s a very – out of more than 9,000 schools in Australia - it is a very small number.

But you see - what you had was in effect a mish mash of 27 different agreements. What the Labor Party did in government was they ran around and they did all sorts of special deals here there and everywhere. Very complex, very conflicted. You had a situation where a student in one location, in one state with the same needs would get very different levels of Commonwealth funding than the same student with the same needs in another state or another system.

So what we’re aiming to do here is – and look I think Australians understand that if you’re going to be having Commonwealth funding going into schools it should be consistent and it should be fair, and it should be needs based. And that’s what we are delivering.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Okay. Do you fund the schools directly or do you hand the money over to the respective state governments and let them do it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it is by reference to needs of the schools and the, and of course it goes to those state education departments but you can look up at My School and you’ll be able to see, people will be able to see very transparently how much federal funding is going to their school.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Okay. Now can I just cast your mind to university funding?

PRIME MINISTER:

Sure.

TOM ELLIOTT:

There has been another big announcement about that in the last 24 hours. So we are going to firstly increase the cost of degrees by different amounts. Secondly we’re going to lower the threshold at which the repayment of HECS kicks in from around $55,000 to $42,000. The National Union of Students has said that you are declaring war on them, what do you feel about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, that is a pretty - what do we say - a ebullient response. I mean the reality is this, that the National Union of Students know and we all know that if you have a university degree your earning capacity is vastly increased. I mean it is a hugely enriching experience in every respect. And so it’s been accepted for a very long time that students should pay a proportion of their university fees.

Now what we are doing here and this is all about sustainability and equity, Tom. It’s got to be a sustainable system, it’s got to be fair and so basically on average Commonwealth supported students will pay, will go from paying 42 per cent of their degree cost on average to 46 per cent. So yes, that is more, there is no doubt about that.

Once fully implemented it would result in an increase in the total student fees of between $2,000 and $3,600 for a four-year course.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Okay-

PRIME MINISTER:

So I’m not pretending that it isn’t a significant amount of money, but equally compared to the benefits, compared to the very generous terms upon which the FEE Help Loan is available it is, you know it is a very good deal. It remains an extremely generous deal by world standards and of course it makes the system sustainable.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Very quickly, there is $52 billion of outstanding HECS debt, a lot of which will never be collected. Does that not suggest that perhaps too many people, or some of the wrong sorts of people are going to university? Like they’re going but they’re not getting decent jobs afterwards?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, no I wouldn’t say that. I think it’s important, however, that’s why it’s important to bring the threshold for repayment down so that once someone is earning $42,000 - then they’ve got a university loan, they’ve got an obligation then to contribute 1 per cent towards it. I think it’s important for people to get into the practice and habit of repaying the loan. It is a loan it’s not a grant and obviously the taxpayer is entitled to have it repaid.

But you’ve got to understand that the - and I think that this is a very important point - that the bulk of the cost of a university course is paid for by the taxpayer.

TOM ELLIOTT:

That’s true, over 50 per cent-

PRIME MINISTER:

The loan only relates to the portion that the student is asked to pay, and that is less than half.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Very quickly, I know you’re leaving for the United States tomorrow to visit President Trump for another time. Will you be discussing North Korea with him?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah – I have no, absolutely we will be discussing all of those regional security issues and North Korea is clearly one of the most pressing issues in our region.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Are you looking forward to the visit?

PRIME MINISTER:

Absolutely it is going to be a great event, a very historic event Tom because it is commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. And, you know, that is the first time Australian and American Naval Forces went into action together and that was when we succeeded in turning back a Japanese invasion force headed for Port Moresby. Had it succeeded in taking in Port Moresby, as it undoubtedly would have, were it not for the action of those task groups, Australian and US Navy Task Groups then of course the whole of Eastern Australia would’ve been exposed, we would have been cut off from the United States, we would’ve been at the whim of the invaders.

So it was a really critical turning point in the War.

And that’s why I was up in Townsville yesterday at a service there, actually with one of the veterans of the – 93 years of age, veterans of the USS Lexington which is the big aircraft carrier, the American Aircraft Carrier that was sunk in that battle.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Prime Minister I do appreciate your time.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks.

[ENDS]

Transcript 40925