Interview with Marius Benson, ABC 702 Sydney
- Minister for School Education
- Minister for Early Childhood and Youth
SUBJECTS: Gonski Review on School Funding, Labor Leadership
HOST: The West Australian Premier Colin Barnett has launched an attack on the Federal Government’s Gonski Review of education funding, saying it's a power grab by Canberra. Mr Barnett says it's a repeat of past Labor attempts to take over the mining industry and the hospitals and the Premier asks why the Federal Government should be trusted to handle education when it can't even decide who should be Prime Minister.
Peter Garrett is the School Education Minister is responsible for implementing the Gonski Report and he's speaking to Marius Benson.
MARIUS BENSON: Peter Garrett, is the Gonski Report simply a power grab by you, a power grab by Canberra as Premier Barnett says?
PETER GARRETT: Absolutely not, Marius. The Commonwealth has no interest or no intention at all in administering State schools. We've always recognised that that's the role of the States. It should continue to be the role of the States and it's a role that they perform pretty well and that's not what Mr Gonski's recommending in his review either.
We do want to work with the States on these recommendations, but we are absolutely not in any way intending to take over the running of State Government schools as the Premier of Western Australia has wrongly suggested this morning.
MARIUS BENSON: But the Gonski Report would see Canberra providing more money for education. That gives you a bigger role. That's more control from Canberra.
PETER GARRETT: Look Marius; that is not the way in which we see it at all. What we see is reaching common agreement about education funding principles, recognising that the States run this system. It's always been the case. It's been the case in our discussions up to now and it will always be the case in the future.
I really want to say to the Western Australian Government we welcome the opportunity to sit down with you and have these discussions. I welcome the comments by the Education Minister Liz Constable and she will come and talk through these recommendations with the Commonwealth.
We do provide significant investment into non-Government schools and also through our national partnerships into Government schools and we want to see this country, nationally, perform well in education. Our future depends on it, but we are not in any way interested in administering State Government school systems. Nothing could be clearer than that.
MARIUS BENSON: Now you say you want to work with the States on implementing the Gonski recommendations, but clearly there are difficulties. WA on this occasion is saying that it's a power grab. Victoria has also criticised it and the Gonski recommendations have got opposition in other areas; the Federal Opposition opposes it and in fact the current funding arrangements stay in place until the end of 2013, by which time there'll be an election.
Is it all together, taken together, a recipe for inaction on the Gonski Report? Is it just going to gather dust?
PETER GARRETT: Marius, I'm going to Canberra today. We'll sit down with parents and the school community and begin our forums. We'll have officials meeting to discuss the working groups. We'll get the Ministerial Council to focus on these principles and recommendations that we want to agree.
This is too important a task to get diverted by what we see as traditional discussions and debates about State and Commonwealth responsibility. The Opposition wants to run a scare campaign that's based on completely misrepresenting Mr Gonski, but I think the public - and I know the States - recognise that we have to do better in education and that we have to do it together.
That's our commitment. We're aiming to legislate this year and we want to work through these principles with all States and I'll continue to say very clearly there's a national interest in getting it right, but we are not interested in running the State school system.
MARIUS BENSON: Now the WA Premier Colin Barnett asks why the Federal Government should be trusted to handle education when you can't even decide who should be Prime Minister. Does he have a point there?
PETER GARRETT: Mr Barnett needs to engage in this discussion on the merits of what's proposed by Mr Gonski. This is the first time that a serious look at education funding has been done in 40 years Marius, and Mr Gonski and his panel were eminent. It's a thoughtful, considered and very important piece of work that we're now looking at and I think, more importantly than that, we've delivered our bona fides on education.
This Government's bona fides - the Labor Government's bona fides on education, I think would be clear, including to Mr Barnett. Let's sit down and talk these things through in a rational and mature way. That's what Mr Gonski I think would expect from his recommendations and that's what we want to do with the States.
MARIUS BENSON: But does Mr Barnett have a point that you can't be taken seriously on any other issue while you can't resolve the central issue of leadership which is tearing the Labor Party apart?
PETER GARRETT: Marius, we remain focused on the things that the Government (a) has done and (b) is going to do.
MARIUS BENSON: You say that and other ministers say that, but you assert that in the face of clear evidence, undeniable evidence that the party is divided maybe two-thirds/one-third over who should lead it.
PETER GARRETT: Well Marius, there's much commentary about these matters but I am strictly focused on what I'm doing today. What I'm doing today is going to Canberra to talk to parents about the Gonski recommendations and how we want to work with other Governments on making sure that every kid's school is a great school.
That's what kids need. That's what they want me to be focusing on and that's what I'm going to stay focused on.
MARIUS BENSON: Peter Garrett, thanks very much.
PETER GARRETT: Thanks Marius.
SPEAKER: The School Education Minister Peter Garrett speaking there to Marius Benson.