Interview on ABC Radio Tasmania

 

PRIME MINISTER:

I’ve had a good chat with Peter Rathjen, the Vice-Chancellor this morning actually and he is obviously very excited about it. The aim is to – his focus and our focus is on improving affordability of qualifications, making them more flexible, making them more relevant and regionally relevant. These programs, many of which will be associate degrees, so two year degrees, are designed to be linked to employment so that people are going to do them as part of their work with an employer. There is a lot of industry engagement. I really think Tasmania is leading the way here, it is very, very innovative and bringing the campuses into the centre of Launceston and Burnie is going to make them much more visible, it’s obviously going to revive those cities or revitalise those cities I should say and we’re really delighted to be supporting it.

LEON COMPTON:

The delivery of this money is obviously contingent on your re-election. Is it contingent on your party passing tertiary education reform through the Senate? Are there any conditions attached?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no there are no conditions associated with passing any specific educational reforms. This is an absolutely unequivocal commitment. As you know, Minister Birmingham, Simon Birmingham is consulting on the way in which higher education will be reformed in the future but the critical thing from the point of view of UTAS is, this is a very bankable commitment.

Really it underlines Leon, the choice that we face in this election. You know, this is a choice between a stable government, a stable Coalition Government with an economic plan for Tasmania, which is already delivering for Tasmania. You’ve seen what the Free Trade Agreement with China alone has done for jobs in Tasmania and opportunities here. You know we are investing in economic infrastructure here right across the state, not just in the north. Of course on the other hand, a vote for Labor or the Greens or independents could deliver a chaotic alliance, a minority government, a chaotic alliance and back to the bad old days of Julia Gillard and the Greens and the independents. So it is a very clear choice.

LEON COMPTON:

Prime Minister can we then move onto then the issue that is seen the need for these pre-tertiary degrees at the University of Tasmania and that is some of the challenges and potentially failures of our secondary education system. We’ve talked before about the fact that Tasmania lags horribly in achievement there, getting people through to Year 12. Labor are promising more money than you for schools, for secondary and primary schools. If that is the issue people vote on then shouldn’t they choose your opponent?

PRIME MINISTER:

No Leon because if you don’t have strong economic opportunities, if you don’t have strong economic growth then your child or your grandchild is not going to have the job to go to. You see part of the problem – let me just put some numbers around this for a start – over the next four years we are going to spend $74 billion on schools, Labor is proposing to spend $78. So yes there is a difference but when you look at it proportionally, it is not as great as you would imagine from the rhetoric.

We are determined to get better outcomes from the dollars we spend because we have to live within our means. We have to move to a balanced budget and we are able to do that. Labor is not.

What we will be doing is focusing on supporting high quality teachers ensuring that teachers, the best teachers stay in the classrooms. We’ll also be assessing kids when they go into school at five – this is very important – so we can see who is doing well relative to others and more importantly who is not. So if you can catch those kids that are behind at the earlier stage, then they can get the support they need, but the most important thing is we’ve got the jobs.

LEON COMPTON:

Prime Minister, I need to pull you up there, we have four minutes in what I am imagining will be the only time we will talk to you in this election campaign. I would like to run through a few more questions briefly if you could.

Why isn’t a real pension increase for Tasmania’s pensioners being talked about as part of this campaign? If you believe in your delivery of growth in the economy, shouldn’t we be talking about giving pensioners more in real terms?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well pensions, as you know, pensions are indexed. We provide strong support for pensions, we honour and recognise our pensioners but again the ability of government to pay for pensions - to pay for all of the services, to pay for the University of Tasmania’s expansion - all of these services that government provides, are dependent on having strong economic growth. Now Tasmanians are already benefitting from our economic plan, from investments that we’re making and from the big trade export deals. Of course, let’s not forget the Labor Party opposed them. The same unionists that are ringing up and frightening older people with lies in support of Bill Shorten’s campaign, they opposed the big deals, particularly with China, they opposed them bitterly and they are driving jobs for Tasmanians.

LEON COMPTON:

Prime Minister, your party has deferred the backpacker tax decision until January 1. That’s the height of harvest season in Tasmania. What do you say to the Tasmanian farmers that are worried there just won’t be workers here now to bring in their crops because of your non-policy on this issue?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well – the ministers are consulting very carefully with the industry as you know Leon, we represent between the Liberal Party and the National Party, almost all the regional seats in Australia. So we are very keenly aware of this.

LEON COMPTON:

But nobody knows what your tax policy is and you won’t make a decision until the height of the cherry season.

PRIME MINISTER:

Leon all I can say to you is that we will work out a solution with the industry. We are committed to ensuring that they have the right incentives and the right support they need at harvest season.

LEON COMPTON:

Okay and briefly this morning, there seems to have been a clear division of funding activity from your Government through the course of this campaign between the seats that you hold and the seats that you don’t Prime Minister. The $25 million jobs package you announced on Wednesday, can you promise that it will be spent evenly across the five electorates in Tasmania?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it will be spent across Tasmania, absolutely. If I can just remind you, the largest single investment that we are making in Tasmania is the $2.1 billion to enhance Tasmania’s status -as I said - as the global hub for Antarctic research. This includes the icebreaker and all of the maintenance. 80 per cent of the operations and maintenance spend will be in Australia and that is all centred in Hobart as you know. I know there’s some concern in Hobart that a lot of money is being spent in the north, but you know, Tasmania is a diverse state. We are supporting investments right across the state. There’s the $24 million into the roundabout at the Hobart Airport and of course the investment in the Midland Highway too.

LEON COMPTON:

Prime Minister we’ll leave it there. Good to talk to you this morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks so much.