TRANSCRIPT – AM AGENDA WITH KIERAN GILBERT
Andrew Leigh MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister
Member for Fraser
21 May 2013
TOPICS: Equal marriage, school funding
Kieran Gilbert: This is AM Agenda, thanks for your company. Joining me now from Melbourne, the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business, Scott Ryan, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Andrew Leigh here in the Canberra studio. You heard what Senator Brandis had to say, Andrew Leigh, about Kevin Rudd; that this is all about him, not about same-sex marriage. What do you say to that?
Andrew Leigh: Well Kieran, it’s pretty clear that views on this issue have shifted and shifted pretty markedly. We’ve seen just over recent months same-sex marriage become law in New Zealand and Britain because Conservative leaders allowed their Party room to vote the way they wanted to. If Mr Abbott will do that in Australia, we’ll bring the vote back to the floor…[inaudible]
Kieran Gilbert: But specifically on Kevin Rudd, that this is more about him than it is the issue?
Andrew Leigh: Ah look, Kevin is a backbencher. He’s entitled to his views and he articulated them well.
Kieran Gilbert: Senator Ryan, on the prospect of any change, what Andrew Leigh points out there is accurate; there’s got to be a change within the Coalition formally to allow a conscience vote if there’s going to be any legislative move.
Scott Ryan: Well, I’m not going to be lectured on a conscience vote from a member of the Labor Party. I mean, it’s a special occasion when a member of the Labor Party gets to display their own conscience. It’s something every Liberal Party member has always been able to do. We had a discussion on this issue in the Party room recently, and you know, any future decisions are a matter for a future Party room. But our view is clear. We support the Marriage Act as it currently stands.
Kieran Gilbert: And Kevin Rudd incidentally holds a press conference at 9:30 this morning in Brisbane we’ll have that news conference for you live when it happens. On the issue of school funding, Senator Ryan, it really comes down to the projected growth rate in the indexed funding for state schools. Tell me, it’s all very complex but the Federal Government is pointing to the numbers provided to the Department and Treasury, surely we’ve got to rely on that?
Scott Ryan: Well, no we don’t actually because we’ve learned we can’t rely on numbers in Labor Treasurer’s budgets just over the last few years. What is clear is that they have cut over $300 million from education, they’ve cut just under $3 billion dollars from higher education and they’re saying that in 2018/19 they’ll put some of it back. Now, that is up to three elections away. We can’t trust Julia Gillard’s budget, and Wayne Swan from week to week on the budget as we learned in the weeks leading up to it. You can’t take money off people in the next four years and promise to give it back them in years five and six, three elections away, and be taken seriously.
Kieran Gilbert: Andrew Leigh, the point that Christopher Pyne made as well yesterday, was that you look at the last decade and the growth in school funding, stayed school funding, was six per cent, now, if that’s the record over the last ten years, why is there now this assumption that it will be half that figure?
Andrew Leigh: Because Kieran, state governments have changed. We now have more conservative premiers and they have a cuts agenda. They’re making big cuts to their school funding. And the way our formula works is that the Commonwealth funding is indexed to what the states spend. I don’t think that’s a particularly sensible formula which is why we put in place the Gonski reforms. It’s why we want to fix this system. But the fact is, when states and territories cut their spending, Commonwealth spending automatically comes down, and so the projections going out are not this six per cent growth, they’re now well down to four projected to fall lower still. And so this cuts agenda that is implemented at the state and territory level automatically feeds in to cut commonwealth funding unless you change the system, as we’re suggesting you should do.
Kieran Gilbert: Senator Ryan, do you feel comfortable with the suggestion that Barry O’Farrell has been conned? A senior Liberal, one of the most senior Liberals in the country and you’ve got your colleagues saying that he’s been conned, he’s been duped?
Scott Ryan: Well I think what’s clear is that Labor are trying to con the entire country. You know, a week after the Budget now we know that they’ve halved the indexation rate, it’s been reduced from the papers they released only six months ago, and all in an attempt to make the proposed increase outside the budget period in 2018 and 19 look bigger. Now, the Coalition’s got a track record in school funding. We funded growth in state schools. We funded growth in parental choice and gave that funding to independent and non-government schools.
Kieran Gilbert: Well I suppose, Andrew, that’s the point that Scott Ryan, Senator Ryan pointed to there, that why’s it halved in the space of what, six months since October when the mid-year Budget update was delivered?
Andrew Leigh: Significant cut backs by state and territory governments is the simple answer to that Kieran. If you want…
Kieran Gilbert: But are you now saying that it’s going to be the case for the next six years? It just seems to be a big, big assumption.
Andrew Leigh: Look, Scott is running here with sort of hyperventilating hyperbole which assumes there is some grand conspiracy occurring in Treasury. The Treasury officials who put together these projections are the same capable Treasury officials who worked for the Howard Government. They are putting their best estimates of what’s going to happen to funding, unless we fix this broken model, unless we put back in what will amount to about a million dollars per school.
Kieran Gilbert: And Senator Ryan, if the states do sign up, that does make your position a lot more difficult. Obviously it’s just one state at the moment. But if Victoria, Queensland, WA, if they eventually do sign up before the June deadline, it changes, well, it’s a game changer, isn’t it?
Scott Ryan: We’ve said that we’ll support a national school funding model if it’s a national school funding model. And you know, you remember back in the days of the Howard Government, David Kent went to a great deal of trouble to make sure non-government schools, particularly the Catholic system, signed up to the National School Funding Model the Howard Government introduced. We’re not going to have a hodge-podge of mechanisms across the country. But Andrew Leigh there, makes what Peter Garrett did earlier, just another series of Labor excuses. You know, they’ve been caught out halving the indexation rate and of course now they’ve got to find someone to blame so they blame the state governments. These are not numbers that Australian parents can trust and they’re not numbers that we believe those who run our schools, government and non-government should trust.
Kieran Gilbert: We’ve only got a minute left on the program. I want to look quickly at analysis in the Financial Review on the polls, the Nielson Poll, which suggests the Coalition could likely have control of the Senate after the election as well. Does, that would be a concerning prospect for you Andrew Leigh?
Andrew Leigh: Kieran, you know I pay no attention to polls and there’s good science behind that. But, Australians will have a clear choice come September. They’ll have a choice between the nation-building reforms of Labor; DisabilityCare, important schools reforms which you’ll see big increases in funding for every school, and Tony Abbott’s agenda which is savage cuts including 20,000 public servants, cutting out income support – he’s said he’s going to do that, cutting back on superannuation, reducing, probably never increasing superannuation…
Kieran Gilbert: Scott Ryan, 20 seconds, your final thoughts on that?
Scott Ryan: Look, polls don’t change what the Coalition’s going to do between now and September 14. We’ve got a plan to improve Australia. We know we’ve got to convince people and earn their trust so you know, the only thing Andrew and I might agree on is that the polls aren’t actually going to change what we actually do for the next 116 odd days.
Kieran Gilbert: Gentlemen, thanks for your time…
Andrew Leigh: There’s many things we agree on Scott!
Kieran Gilbert: I’m sure there are. We’ll get to those on another date and morning. Thanks for those gents. That’s all from AM Agenda, the latest Sky News is next.
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