Prime Minister - Transcript - Joint Doorstop, Sydney

 

E&OE…

PRIME MINISTER:

Wasn’t that inspiring, all those brilliant young Australians; so innovative and bright, adventurous. Their dreams are going to make us a greater city. They are a great inspiration.

You know, focusing on innovation, focusing on education, scholarships – these are a part of the foundation for our future. That is why our Government is totally committed to continuing to support innovation and education right across the board.

Every year, funding to schools has increased. Every single year.

Federal funding to schools, both public, state schools and private schools, has grown rapidly and at a much faster rate than funding from state governments.

We are also committed to great outcomes to teacher quality because we all know from our own experience, it is recognised that the big factor, the big factor, in a great education is a great teacher.

Simon Birmingham has been focused on that in his work as the Education Minister.

Can I say, however, though, that underlying all of this is the need for a strong economy.

We have to have, as I said in the room, we have to have a strong economy, strong economic growth to pay for all those great things, to ensure that we have great jobs in the future, to ensure that we have the great revenues that enable us to deliver great schools and great hospitals.

That's why everything we’re doing is focused on driving economic growth. Every single policy is about driving economic growth from innovation to competition to trade to infrastructure; right across the board.

Mr Shorten, on the other hand, is very good about promising to spend money. He's inherited Julia Gillard's utterly unfunded promises. Julia Gillard's promises with a new coat of paint, as Paul Kelly wrote this morning.

So here is a numeracy test for Mr Shorten: How are you going to pay for the $51 billion of unfunded promises? Is it higher taxes or more debt or perhaps both?

MINISTER BIRMINGHAM:

Thanks, Prime Minister.

This is an inspiring example here of Westpac, who is a good corporate citizen, investing in young Australians, providing opportunities for our best and brightest to collaborate with business, to work (inaudible) to have the best of opportunities from which they can contribute to the type of innovation and advancement we need in Australia for the future.

But we do indeed see elsewhere in Australia a lot less positivity because Bill Shorten is running around Australia at present in an irresponsible scare campaign through which he is claiming that there will be reductions to funding to schools in future years. This is just not true. It is completely false.

School funding under the Turnbull Government, under the Abbott Government, went up every single year by record amounts. School funding is at a record level in terms of the Federal Government's support and we are committed, as demonstrated in our Budget, in our Budget papers, to grow school funding each and every year into the future.

We will stand by that commitment to make sure that funding grows to give our states the capacity to do what they need to do in delivering sound school education.

We won't lose our focus on the things that can really improve the quality of education. Areas like teacher quality reform, parental engagement and effective curriculum, targeted support to lift interest in STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics - and in literacy and numeracy.

But we won't stand for the type of scaremongering that Bill Shorten is engaging in because it is critical that parents have the confidence in knowing the funds will be there to grow at a responsible and affordable rate.

That is the real difference and challenge going into this election campaign.

Not a question of whether or not school funding will grow in the future but a question of who has a credible school funding plan that is affordable and deliverable and paid for, which is what our school funding projections are, unlike Mr Shorten's.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, your colleague Michelle Landry described your Government as ‘wishy washy’, you as indecisive. What have you said to her today?

PRIME MINISTER:

I haven't spoken to her but if I did, I would encourage her to be more up-beat, that's for sure.

JOURNALIST:

I mean it’s fairly harsh criticism that you are indecisive and that the Government's current problems are personally your responsibility. Will you be talking to her?

PRIME MINISTER:

I know Michelle Landry well. She is a great local Member. We have a robust Party room. She is entitled to her view. But she is no doubt, like everyone else, very keen to see what's in the Budget. But like everyone else, we will wait until the 3rd of May.

JOURNALIST:

Bill Shorten is promising $37 billion to schools over a decade funded by tobacco excise. Is that unrealistic?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the real question for Bill Shorten is he has over $50 billion of promises that are, have no funding attached to them, at all. He has inherited a swag of unfunded promises from Julia Gillard which he has remained committed to and for which he has not yet told us whether there will be higher taxes or more borrowings. That's the only way they can be paid for. So that is the numeracy test for Bill Shorten; how does he make his promises, his funding promises, add up?

MINISTER BIRMINGHAM:

It should be understood in relation to the funding of Bill Shorten's schools promises the South Australian Labor Premier has called into question credibility of the funding, the Grattan Institute has said that the funding mechanisms will increase the structural deficit. Now we should not shy away from the reality that Australia as a nation with a deficit problem at the federal level, that we need to be responsible in all of our spending promises and Bill Shorten by increasing the structural deficit in terms his schools funding policy will only of course lead to less jobs, less opportunities for young Australians in the future because we will have a poorer economy as a result.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister has the Government asked the officials working on the submarine’s evaluation process to expedite their work to make announcements before the election?

PRIME MINISTER:

The work on the submarine - the answer to your question is that the work on the competitive evaluation process is proceeding in accordance with the timetable and it is extremely thorough I can assure you. So when the Government makes the decision, it will be a very fully-informed decision.

JOURNALIST:

Would it be inappropriate to make announcements on this type of sensitive project while in care-taker mode?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the care-taker conventions are well understood.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister you made some tough comments about the banks today. Some have called for a Royal Commission. Do you have any support for that if the banks don’t lift their game on some of these conduct issues that you raised?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don't want to add to the point. The very frank remarks I made in my speech. These are, there are big cultural issues, there is no doubt about that. This is a time for the leaders of banks to step up and show real leadership of the kind I described in my speech a moment ago.

JOURNALIST:

On higher education, how big a problem do you see the burgeoning HELP loan debt and are you looking to take action on this in the Budget?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well let me just say to you firstly you have to wait for the Budget. But Minister do you want to add to that?

MINISTER BIRMINGHAM:

I think what’s important to understand in terms of the HELP debt is that there are measures the Gillard Government put in place that have blown out the level of debt, the irresponsible and recklessly-arranged VET fee help program has contributed dramatically to the type of debt we are dealing with in terms of student loans, but also significant growth in the university sector and the expansion of that. Now as I indicated before as the Prime Minister said in his opening remarks, the nation has fiscal challenges that we must be honest about. We must address how it is we pay for things in the future. There is no point believing that just by racking up ever-increasing debts today, that somehow Australians down the track will miraculously be able to pay for them. We need to make sure, in higher education, as in schools right across the government, our promises and our policies are affordable. That's what we will do. That will be outlined clearly in the Budget and during the election campaign and Mr Shorten faces exactly the same challenge.

JOURNALIST:

This year on Anzac Day, for the first time in its history, the march will not go along George Street past the cenotaph, it’s been diverted to Elizabeth Street because of the light rail project, does it sadden you? Have you thought about anything to do with that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it's a State Government matter obviously but it is, but I'm very excited about the light rail. I think it's going to be a great addition to Sydney's transport mix. So it will be sad but it will sad for a year and then the marches will return but if the consequence is that we get the trams restored to Sydney and a great light rail service, I think that will be a great addition to the city. I really welcome the light rail project. Thank you very much.