SKY AM AGENDA WITH KIERAN GILBERT
MONDAY, 28 NOVEMBER 2016
SUBJECT/S: Education funding; Senator Brandis’ shonky deals; Ipsos poll
KIERAN GILBERT: Joining me now the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. This Grattan Report, I want to start with your thoughts on that. It seems to me to be a no-brainer – that you can have the same funding envelope, achieve the aims that the Gonski reforms intended without all of the additional costs simply by reining in some of the over-funding of just three per cent of schools?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Kieran, Pete Goss has done a lot of careful work on this report – it's certainly something that Labor will be engaging with. I had the privilege of seeing a draft copy of the report last week and I think it’s a thoughtful contribution. Obviously we'll work through it methodically. We need to make sure that the schools that need the resources get them, and that was what a good part of the last election was fought over. Labor's plan for funding schools where they needed it versus the Coalition's plan for a $50,000,000,000 corporate tax giveaway.
GILBERT: But the government's also taking it seriously as we heard from Minister Birmingham there. If you've got some schools with 280 per cent of the funding required per student, surely there needs a re-think in that regard?
LEIGH: That was what the Gonski report was all about. It was about providing needs-based funding, based on ensuring that every school had the resources it needed.
GILBERT: But then with Julia Gillard's further guarantee that no school would lose a cent? That's ridiculous in the current climate, particularly if you've got schools with rifle ranges getting the same percentage as other schools. Surely this needs a re-think doesn't it?
LEIGH: You can always come up with extreme examples but if you look at Australian politics, the party that has always stood for needs-based funding for schools is the Labor Party.
GILBERT: So you support this Peter Goss analysis through Grattan?
LEIGH: We're working through it very carefully. The other thing I like about it Kieran, is the emphasis on teacher quality. Experts right across the political spectrum agree on the importance of teacher quality and this report puts that front and centre with some interesting ideas about how to ensure we get superstar teachers into the most disadvantaged schools and keep them there.
GILBERT: Now, Labor is going to be targeting the Attorney-General in both the House of Representatives and the Senate over the deal that was done between the Commonwealth and WA about the Bell Group – the former empire of Alan Bond – it's been a long-running case. But you believe – according to the Shadow Attorney-General – that Senator Brandis has been guilty of corrupt conduct if the reports in this case are right?
LEIGH: Senator Brandis appears to have attempted to bring the Commonwealth down in the ranking of debt recipients for the Bell Group collapse. The Tax Office – a Commonwealth agency – should have been top of the list, and it appears he was in negotiations with the Western Australian government to say, "It's alright, we'll move ourselves down, so effectively you can have $300 million." Normally if the Commonwealth wanted to give $300 million to Western Australia – that's $15 for very Australian – then they'd actually have to go through proper process. But this appears to been an attempt to completely subvert proper process. It was in the context of the GST negotiations, the Commonwealth Government was under a lot of pressure, Mathias Cormann had made promises and they seemed to have looked at this backdoor way of transferring money.
GILBERT: But the reports this morning suggest that it was actually Joe Hockey, the former Treasurer, who made the commitment in the first place, not the Attorney-General.
LEIGH: We need to find out all of the details about who attempted to make this deal and who was in on the game? Whether this was going through the proper processes of government before finally Justin Gleeson said, 'You can't possibly do this.' And let's remember the position that Justin Gleeson took was the position the High Court took by a vote of seven to nothing. Justin Gleeson was completely in the right, and it appears that the government only backed off this shonky deal at the very last minute.
GILBERT: Finally, I want to ask you about this Fairfax survey today which suggests a record number of voters backing the independents and minor parties. I know you don't go into the detail of poles and obviously two years out there's only so much weight you can give them, but in terms of the rise in the support for independents and minor parties like Hanson and so on – how much is that an issue for both major parties?
LEIGH: You go to a really important question, Kieran. It is one keeps me away at night because it’s not just in this poll. We've seen the trend over recent years in Australia, we've seen it in most of the major advanced economies. People moving away from the major parties. So as a major party representative I feel it's incumbent upon me to do a better job in advocating good policy, making sure that we're out there in the regions. One of the reasons Bill Shorten did those 30-plus town hall meetings was to put the focus on jobs and to engage in communities that feel they've been left behind in Australia. That's really the only way to turn this around.
GILBERT: Mr Leigh, appreciate your time as always. Thank-you very much for that.
LEIGH: Thanks Kieran.
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