Wednesday, 04 December 2019
SUBJECTS: Education ratings, Medevac, the economy, housing prices
TOM CONNELL: Joining me now our first political panel, Liberal MP Katie Allen and Labor MP Amanda Rishworth, here in the studio with me. Thanks for your time. Let’s start with education, we’ve got more and more money being spent and results getting worse, so it’s not about the money?
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Well of course it’s about resources, resources are part of it. But we’ve seen no plan from this Government, they’ve been in for over six years and no plan about how to improve standards. Of course it comes down to resources, teacher quality, and when this Government came into office they ripped up the school improvement plans. They were plans that each school set out how they were going to drive change and improvement in the schools. Christopher Pyne labelled it red tape when he was Education Minister, so that’s the problem we’ve got.
CONNELL: Just on resources though if you compare our spending to other countries, resources in terms of funding, we don’t have an issue with that, that’s not what’s driving these results right? Should the conversation be more about other elements not just funding?
RISHWORTH: We absolutely should be talking about resources, we should be talking about quality, we should be talking about teacher quality. What I find really interesting from this Minister though is he refuses to take responsibility. He blames the States and Territories, he reads out his talking points, his only plan for education that he’s announced is banning mobile phones from the classrooms.
CONNELL: It is up to the States to deliver the education though, it’s their responsibility.
RISHWORTH: But of course it’s about a partnership Tom, it’s about the Commonwealth who invests money into education actually talking with the States about how we drive quality improvement. And that for example is what the school improvement plans were about, but as I said Christopher Pyne ripped those up calling them red tape.
CONNELL: One of the things the Minister said was let’s focus on the system not about funding. Couldn’t all the Ministers have been focusing on the system, are they saying they weren’t focused on that enough?
KATIE ALLEN, LIBERAL MEMBER FOR HIGGINS: So Tom I think the Minister outlined very well in Question Time today that we’ve had one of the biggest investments and as you quite rightly said, we don’t need more money we just need to actually get the outcomes we want. And we’re actually enforcing the Gonski reforms and next week there is the Education Council coming together as part of COAG and Dan Tehan the Minister for Education is working very hard to look at how do we step up in regards to having an impact on outcomes. We do know from things like NAPLAN we’ve been as a country focusing on equity rather than excellence.
CONNELL: So did the Coalition get bogged down in this, because you’ve been in power since 2013 and now we’re talking about let’s really focus on the system here. Did you get bogged down in that and maybe partly as a result of the reduced funding in the 2014 Budget and that’s set us back a few years?
ALLEN: I think at the end of the day you have to invest in education, it’s such an important thing, it’s basically what gets our country going is educating the next generation so they’re ready for the jobs of the future. There’s a lot of change that’s going on in education and what we want to see is back to basics, we want to see the introduction of a real focus on phonics and a decluttering of a curriculum, and that takes time and it takes partnership. I know that Dan is working hard, the Minister for Education is working very hard to get an agreement with all the States and Territories and in fact he’s got them all together next week and that’s very important.
CONNELL: One aspect that does have funding attached to it is teacher pay. Teacher quality has a big impact on students, is that something that could be looked at? You look at Japan where they get a lot more money for example.
ALLEN: Well when I talk to teachers and I’ve been chair of a school and been involved in the education sector, I hear from people that the reason they do teaching is because they want to make a difference and they care about making a difference.
CONNELL: They’re the teachers in there but isn’t it about attracting –
ALLEN: Of course everyone would like to have more income, but what I hear is what they would like is more development of their career.
CONNELL: But isn’t the point about getting the very best people, I’m not casting aspersions on the teachers you were talking to but it’s about getting the best and brightest into teaching, so by necessity if the pay is lower you aren’t talking about people like that because they’re off getting better wages as a lawyer or accountant.
ALLEN: There’s two aspects here, I think there are people who are attracted to the profession because they love what they’re doing, and we know that teachers I think could do better with more pay. But they’re two separate things, you’re not necessarily attracted to a job because –
CONNELL: So what about that extra pay, what does that mean, that the Government might need a bit more money?
ALLEN: I don’t think the outcomes are directly related to teacher pay, what I think they’re related to is the quality of the curriculum and the quality of helping teachers to provide the best outcomes and focusing on numeracy and literacy.
CONNELL: Do you think teacher pay has an impact?
RISHWORTH: I think teacher quality and attracting the best and the brightest is a problem in this country.
CONNELL: Is pay a factor in that?
RISHWORTH: Pay is a factor as well as a range of other things, and I think we need to respect and recognise our teaching profession a lot more than we do in this country.
CONNELL: Okay so on that would that be somewhere Labor might go next, and say we’re spending quite a bit on the broad education spectrum we want to have an extra pledge specifically on teacher pay?
RISHWORTH: Well what we’ve said is that teacher quality makes a difference and we want to make sure we’re attracting the best and the brightest. And I think lifting the profession and the way the public and indeed politicians see the teaching profession – I have been disappointed at some of the Member of Parliament who have talked down the teaching profession. I want to see our teachers really invested in to improve teacher quality and that’s part of the conversation. But of course we need to make sure we are open to that conversation, that we are driving it, not just do what Dan Tehan does and blame the States and Territories.
CONNELL: Alright I have a few teachers in my family so hello if you’re watching.
ALLEN: Same with me.
CONNELL: Deal or no deal, what did it sound like from Jacqui Lambie? It sounded like she got something and she couldn’t talk about it with national security, what did you think?
ALLEN: Well I think at the end of the day it’s a great outcome for the Government as we’re heading into Christmas, we’re very happy with the outcome and we don’t talk about private information that’s going on in that discussion.
RISHWORTH: You probably should.
CONNELL: So what does that mean you don’t talk about it?
ALLEN: Well it’s a discussion that Jacqui – I mean I’m not privy to those sorts of conversations. But I think the good thing is we’ve seen the repeal of the Medevac legislation today and I think that’s a great outcome.
CONNELL: But when you say you don’t talk about it, if there’s any quid pro quo or a nudge or a wink or a mysterious Tasmanian announcement in a few years time, shouldn’t we know?
ALLEN: I think the reality is you’ve seen it’s legislation that needs to be repealed, I think there’s very good evidence that Australians do want to see strong border control and I think that’s what we have delivered.
CONNELL: Jacqui Lambie didn’t actually say the word deal, we were listening today.
RISHWORTH: I think she used the word arrangement, they’ve come to an arrangement. And what that arrangement is there’s questions to be answered, and I think the Australian people deserve to know what that arrangement is. As Kristina Kenneally has suggested, has an agreement been reached about coming to an agreement with the third country of New Zealand?
CONNELL: You’d be happy with that then.
RISHWORTH: We’d certainly welcome it, but we don’t know what to welcome because we don’t know what has gone on.
CONNELL: On the legislation itself so Medevac, 180 people have been transferred, none are still in hospital, majority are now living in community detention not getting medical treatment. What does that say about how the laws are actually working in practice?
RISHWORTH: Well the law stipulates it’s the Minister’s responsibility when medical treatment is finished to return those individuals.
CONNELL: The Department thought says it’s not properly linked to the Migration Act so they can’t go back.
RISHWORTH: That’s not our understanding or interpretation, if the Minister is playing politics and games with this, and I wouldn’t put it past him, then that’s really disappointing. He has the power to do it, so the questions are for the Minister.
CONNELL: So anyone living in community detention, what if they’re not getting treatment per se but there’s a mental health issue if they get sent back? Is that fair enough that they stay in Australia?
RISHWORTH: That is obviously a case by case basis and determination, but the legislation also stipulates that these individuals stay in immigration detention. If they’re released into the community, once again that’s the Minister’s decision to do that. So if there’s questions around the operation, they’re questions for the Minister.
CONNELL: Well the Department says it’s an issue with the legislation itself, anyway it’s repealed now. Let’s talk about the economy, 1.7 per cent growth.
ALLEN: Good news for the Australian economy.
CONNELL: What’s the mark out of ten for growth?
ALLEN: I think at the end of the day we’ve got economic headwinds, we know that. But importantly we have a resilient economy that has seen year on year growth, and that is not always happening in every other country. We’ve got a delivery of tax cuts, that’s a good thing, we have the lowest amount of people on welfare, we’ve got the Budget back into surplus, and I think that’s a good time leading into Christmas.
CONNELL: But what would you give it though, that 1.7 per cent?
ALLEN: I think you’ve always got to look at the full context.
CONNELL: Okay so full context.
ALLEN: I’m not someone to score the economy like that, I think that’s minimising the impact of the fact that the IMF, OECD have all said Australia has a good, sound economy and they’re looking to Australia next year to potentially have the highest growth in the OECD countries. I think that’s pretty impressive.
CONNELL: It’s interesting that households have the money, so disposable income is up because of the tax cuts, so it’s getting there, and they’re increasing their savings at the moment which I suppose is a smart thing for plenty of households to do. So it’ll get spent at some stage, should that be the upside here?
RISHWORTH: Look the Prime Minister, last quarter, he promised things would look better this quarter, and we’ve gone backwards. So against the Prime Minister’s own measure –
CONNELL: How have we gone backwards?
RISHWORTH: Well he promised that there would be better growth figures in the next quarter, and those growth figures are lower than the last quarter.
CONNELL: But the annual rate has gone up and the quarter this year compared to the same quarter last year –
RISHWORTH: But that wasn’t the test the Prime Minister set himself, the Prime Minister set himself the last quarter that next quarter would be better, and it’s not better.
CONNELL: Well it depends how you measure it, the annual growth rate has increased.
RISHWORTH: I’m talking about the Prime Minister’s own test that he set and that he promised.
CONNELL: Did he specifically say quarter on quarter?
RISHWORTH: He said next quarter things will be better.
CONNELL: You can still argue they’re better if the overall growth rate has gone up from 1.4 to 1.7.
RISHWORTH: Well if we want to split hairs, we know what the Prime Minister meant.
CONNELL: That can be an interpretation.
RISHWORTH: In terms of the average Australian person, I imagine they are feeling nervous about this Government. They don’t have confidence that this Government has a good, solid economic plan and it’s no wonder they’re keeping their money in their pockets.
CONNELL: So what’s the issue right now then, do you think with the current figures we’ve just had are you still talking about a stimulus of some sort, bring forward the tax cuts?
RISHWORTH: I do think there is still an argument to be made for a proportionate stimulus measure, there’s stage 2 of the tax cuts, there’s obviously bringing infrastructure forward. The Government has talked about bringing infrastructure forward but –
CONNELL: It’s announced it.
RISHWORTH: Yes but it’s still two, three, four years away.
CONNELL: You can’t just go and start all these projects tomorrow.
RISHWORTH: There are a number that could be brought forward, and Anthony Albanese has outlined those. So yes the Opposition is still saying these figure are not figures to be celebrating, and we would like to see more action taken from the Government.
CONNELL: We’ll see something I think in the next Budget?
ALLEN: Yes I think the thing is we are investing $100 billion in infrastructure, there’s a lot of positivity out there with I think we have the right settings and we’re holding the course, and we’re looking at a stable, certain and secure environment which is important for the resilience of the Australian economy. People want the stable, certain outcomes that the Morrison Government has delivered. And I think when I was on the hustings in the May election, afterwards the sense of relief in the electorate thanking god we don’t have the alternative. I think that’s playing out that we’re in stable, steady hands with Scott Morrison at the helm.
CONNELL: One of the things he boasted about this week actually, Scott Morrison, was house prices. That they’re going up and we’ve had the biggest monthly increase in Sydney for 20 something years, is that something to celebrate?
ALLEN: I think with the house market there’s two sides to every coin, some people own their own home and they want to see an increase in house prices, and some are first home buyers wanting to get into the market. So we have a number of measures really trying to address that as well.
CONNELL: When you say there’s two sides to the coin, there’s also a lot of measurements people take, the value of the average house compared to average income. Are we getting close or are we in dangerous territory for unaffordability at the moment in Melbourne and Sydney?
ALLEN: I think the thing about prices is it’s location specific, and so housing is about supply and demand and I think the States have a role to play in opening up supply and to enable opportunities such as decentralisation. And I think our views about regional migration are very promising, ways to deal with affordable housing.
CONNELL: But how would you describe where house prices are at at the moment?
ALLEN: Well it depends whether you own your own home or whether you’ve got children who are getting into the housing market, and I’ve got both I’ve got a mortgage and I’ve got children getting into the housing market.
CONNELL: And what are they saying?
ALLEN: My children are quite excited about the First Home Buyers Mortgage Scheme and also Supersavers and things like that, they see that the Government is taking steps to try and make it easier for them. I mean there’s no doubt it is tough for people trying to get into their first home, and so it’s a difficult thing because Australians love to own their own home and that is a big part of our economy, so you can’t treat that with disrespect.
CONNELL: What do you think about where prices are at?
RISHWORTH: I think at the moment wages are flat-lining and that’s a real problem when it comes to housing affordability. The economy is weak, we’ve got wages flat-lining, so with house prices going up it makes it very difficult for people not only to get into their own home, but to make sure they’re able to repay their mortgages and their ability to meet all their debts. So there is concern.
CONNELL: That’s one side, but if we look at this broadly speaking where house prices are at, they are getting to the sort of level where we’re back to those peaks, at that point Labor said something needs to be done to bring down prices.
RISHWORTH: What we have is a situation where wages are not keeping up with the increase in housing costs, and that is ultimately the problem we’ve got here.
CONNELL: But that’s not what Labor was saying last time, they said there’s a distinct problem with the prices themselves.
RISHWORTH: Well when you’ve got a situation where people can’t get in to buy their first home, in fact they can’t even get out and rent a home they’ve got to stay at home with their parents, we’ve got to look at what can be done in the housing market.
CONNELL: Okay well perhaps another one to revisit as Labor decides what policies it’s keeping in the end or modifying. Katie Allen, Amanda Rishworth thanks for your time.