AM Agenda – early education, Angus Taylor

Thursday, 28 November 2019

SUBJECT: Early education; Angus Taylor.

ANNELISE NIELSEN: Welcome back we’re joined now by Labor MP Amanda Rishworth and spokesperson for early childhood, and that’s one of the big things you’re pushing this week.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Absolutely, this week there are two reports that have come out talking about the economic benefit of investing in the early years. There’s been a report put out by Early Childhood Australia talking about where we’ve come to and where we’ve got to go, and one of the big things that both of these reports have said is we need to invest in two years of preschool or kindy before school. This is something we are urging the government to do. Unfortunately at the moment the government seems to be wavering on its commitment to fund four year old preschool, and we’ll know soon where their commitment does lie. But these reports are saying it’s time we actually bite the bullet and invest in preschool, kindy and the early years because the economic benefit is so great.

NIELSEN: Is this more a State issue though?

RISHWORTH: Look I don’t believe it is a State issue. What we had going back ten years ago when it was just a State issue was that it varied in opportunity between States. So in some States they did quite well in kindy, in others it was appalling. I believe every child deserves the opportunity to become their best and therefore we need a national system of preschool. It does look different in each State and Territory, but the Commonwealth has a role in providing that because if we don’t, we see children start school behind. We then see that flow on to year 12, we then see that flow on to the workforce. This has real implications for our GDP and our economy as well, and that’s what this reports today by the Minderoo Foundation, as well as the report by Early Childhood Australia, is saying. This has real economic consequences if we don’t invest.

NIELSEN: Couldn’t you make the same argument though for junior school and high school in different State? You’re going to have varying degrees of effectiveness, but at the end of the day these are funded by the States.

RISHWORTH: No the Commonwealth invests a significant amount in schools, the Commonwealth has always invested a significant amount in schools. But I think if we want to have a national system to ensure kids are given the best start to life, and also see that economic return, then the Commonwealth should be a partner with the States and Territories when it comes to early education. They have a role, they have a role in making sure we’re driving quality in the early years, they have a role in making sure that the education system is delivering, because as PWC said for every one dollar invested we get a two dollar return, that is a good investment in anyone’s world.

NIELSEN: And if we’re looking at introducing four year old kinder right across the board, what kind of cost are we looking at?

RISHWORTH: Well at the moment for four year olds its $400 million a year, that’s the Commonwealth’s contribution. Obviously these things need to be worked out with the States and Territories, but my message to the government is don’t walk away from preschool. We’ve seen enrolment rates increase from around 70 per cent before the Commonwealth was involved to around 90 per cent of children accessing early education. I think that’s a really good outcome, it drives change, it’s driving better outcomes on NAPLAN for year three. This is a really good investment and we don’t want come the Budget next year for the Commonwealth to walk away from it.

NIELSEN: And if we just turn to what’s been happening in Parliament today, pretty extraordinary scenes from Labor trying to call a division. You knew you didn’t have the numbers, is this a political stunt?

RISHWORTH: Absolutely not, it’s the principle of the fact that Scott Morrison has misled the Parliament and he hasn’t had the guts to turn up to the Parliament and actually admit to his mistake. We’ve got a Prime Minister that if he doesn’t like what people are saying, he tries to ignore it and bat it away. He is not being accountable to the Parliament. Your first job as a Member of Parliament is to be accountable to the Parliament, not mislead the Parliament and if you do, own up to your mistakes. This is a Prime Minister who is refusing to own up to it and so Labor is trying to get him to actually come into the Parliament.

NIELSEN: Now when we talk about the mistake that you’re calling the division on today, it’s a pretty obvious one. So as clumsy as it is, what kind of damage would that really do?

RISHWORTH: This isn’t about whether there’s damage or not, it’s about the Prime Minister taking accountability for what he says. He shouldn’t be loose with the truth. He shouldn’t be loose with the truth when it comes to television interviews, when it comes to talking to the Australian people, or to the Parliament. And what someone with a bit of courage would do is come into the Parliament and say look I made a mistake, I’m sorry about that. But he doesn’t have the courage to do that, and therefore that is what Labor’s been asking him to do. Come and correct the record like other politicians are expected to do .

NIELSEN: Your colleague Richard Marles was on this morning quite fired up about this as many in the Labor Party are. He said that Angus Taylor was a half-wit, do you agree with that? Is this becoming a personal attack?

RISHWORTH: I think Angus Taylor has a lot of questions to answer in terms of his behaviour and his inability to explain where he got the document from. He relied on a document to publicly shame a public official, and he got it wrong. Somehow this document was not the document he said it was. He has misled the Parliament and he won’t come out and explain it. I am just scratching my head. So I can understand how those characterisations are made, because why won’t he explain himself? There’s a question here about where did he get it from, what is he trying to hide? I think there’s a lot of questions here.

NIELSEN: So when you say you understand why these characterisations are being made, do you agree with calling him a half-wit?

RISHWORTH: I’m scratching my head wondering why is it that Angus Taylor won’t just explain, “I made a mistake, I got this document from here”. Instead what he said is I downloaded it off the City of Sydney’s website, that’s been found out to be not true. Why won’t he come out and actually explain it? Many people on Labor’s side, but also in the public, are asking why can’t these people just be honest? Why can’t they just admit to their mistakes when they make a mistake? They shouldn’t be loose with the truth, people expect more from politicians.

NIELSEN: It does seem like this has been a sustained campaign by Labor. We had during the election about water, then Jam Land, I’ve been in Question Time when I hear you guys yelling across the aisle “well done Angus” making fun of a mistake he made on Facebook once. It does seem like it could be getting a bit personal, calling him a half-wit is not very nice.

RISHWORTH: You’ve spoken about a number of questions that Angus Taylor hasn’t properly answered. I mean these are questions about integrity, and so when you’ve got so many questions about integrity, we’re not bringing them up about Angus Taylor because we particularly want to focus on Angus Taylor. They are his actions and his behaviour that he is yet to account for. It’s his meetings that he’s had, it’s his behaviour that’s been called into question, and quite frankly he hasn’t explained it.

NIELSEN: Amanda Rishworth thank you so much for your time.

RISHWORTH: Thank you


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