20 June 2017
Transcript - #2017122, 2017

Doorstop interview, Canberra

SUBJECTS: Schools funding; data centre; citizenship tests.

QUESTION:

You’re Treasurer, is there more money to satisfy the Greens in the Gonski model?

TREASURER:

The Education Minister is working through the issues on our needs based funding model, with the crossbench, with the Senate more broadly. What’s important here is we get an outcome which provides the fairness in our school funding system, and the certainty in our school funding system. We’ve got $18.6 billion in additional funding on the table to invest in schools over the next 10 years. Every single sector of the education system benefits from increased funding. We’ll continue to work that issue through the Senate this week and I remain confident that the Senate will support additional needs based funding for schools.

QUESTION:

Are you disappointed though, with the Catholic sector, they’ve come out in the papers this morning saying that they’ve lost confidence in the Turnbull Government over this issue.

TREASURER:

I think there’s a lot of politics going on in this debate, and I think the education of the children has to be beyond politics, beyond unions, beyond any sort of sectional interests here, beyond special deals. It has to be focused on ensuring we have a fair needs based system. That’s what I announced in the Budget, that’s what the country needs, we need to get past these old deals and move to a new arrangement which is fair to everyone. That’s what we’ve put forward. We’ve put the funds in the Budget to back that up. It’s all paid for, there’s no fake funding here. That’s what your get from the Labor Party. You get fake funding for fake deals. What we’ve got is real funding, for real schools, for real students, and that’s what’s in our Budget. That’s what can be delivered. There’s an opportunity for the Parliament to come and support the Australian people and support the education of their children, with the very fair needs-based Gonski model that we’ve put before them.

QUESTION:

Is the Government prepared to wait until after the winter break if it needs more negotiating?

TREASURER:

What the Government is prepared to do is get this done, Lane. What’s important is that we get this done and we’d obviously like to see Australian parents having the certainty and, I think, the encouragement that the very fair system we’ve put before this Parliament, they can come and support. I think that’s the opportunity for this Parliament. We had the Reserve Bank Governor just yesterday talking about the frustrations of modern politics in this Parliament. Here’s an opportunity to actually say to the country, no we can agree on these things, we can agree on things like supporting additional funding for the education of our children, that’s what I put in the Budget and there’s an opportunity for them to do that. There are plenty of other things. Last night, we had the Bank Levy legislated. We had the Medicare Guarantee Fund go through its second reading in the Senate. We had the GST on low value threshold goods passed through the Senate this week, we’ve got the instant asset write-off for small businesses, that’s also been passed. The diverted profits tax comes into effect on the first of July. So, the only organisations paying more tax, the only organisations paying more tax, on the first of July, are big banks and multinationals. That’s under the Turnbull Government. 

QUESTION:

If Senator Birmingham can get this through the Senate, doesn’t he have to spend more than what’s already been announced, will you be expecting him to find other savings in his portfolio?

TREASURER:

I’m not going to speculate or make assumptions about the course of those discussions over the next few days. I’m going to wait for the Minister to be able to continue to do the excellent job he’s doing. He is putting forward a ground breaking change to the way that schools are funded in this country: a fair system, a needs-based system, a system that provides greater support, greater resource, a bigger investment in the education of our children. Minister Birmingham, the Prime Minister, myself, all the members of the team, are very committed to this program. It’s the right program, it’s the fair program, and we look forward to seeing it supported.

QUESTION:

You talk about playing with politics. What do you then say to some of your own members who don’t want a deal with the Greens? That’s politics.

TREASURER:

This Government has done a number of arrangements in the Senate to support legislation, which have been supported by the Greens. The most prominent of those was actually the fact that we had to go to the Greens to get their support to introduce our multinational anti-avoidance legislation. The Labor Party voted against putting tougher tax laws on multinationals. So we had to go to the Greens to get their support for that. There have been other Budget measures the Greens have supported to ensure we can be on a path to bring the Budget back to balance. In fact, on occasions, the Greens have been more economically responsible than the Labor Party has been. What we’ve done, is we’ve put a fair, good, strong proposal for the education of Australian children in the Parliament. Now, if people want to support that, which I’d encourage them to do, I would welcome that support from which ever quarter it comes.

QUESTION:

Can I also ask about this story that was on the ABC this morning regarding the sale of a data centre because of Chinese links?

TREASURER:

I think there’s a bit of misinformation about this. The data centre in Australia was calved out of the global deal that was done for what became the Chinese ownership of that large multinational company. When that company sought to have the Australian operations included in that deal, well, they did not proceed with that. They got a very clear message from the Government about how the Government would feel about that being incorporated into that global deal. The issue here for Defence was having its data centre, its data in a data centre, in a private data centre, which is a decision they made some time ago. That data centre in Australia is not in Chinese ownership, its ownership hasn’t changed. It actually remains in the hands in which it was held when Defence first put their data in that data centre. Now, they’ve made a decision to get their data out of that data centre, and that’s an entirely appropriate decision, and they’ll get that done, I understand, by 2020. So, I think there’s been some conflation of those issues, but the Government acted at all times to ensure the integrity of our foreign investment process when it came to that data centre.

QUESTION:

I was just going to ask you, the other issue today, in the Labor Party Room seems to be the citizenship changes. They’ve suggested that they most likely won’t back the four-year waiting period before you can become a citizen, and also they don’t seem to be backing the tougher English tests.

TREASURER:

On the English tests, I’ve served as an Immigration Minister and to be successful with your migration program, the key skills that really support people when they come to Australia and are successful is that they can get the education, the employment and the language skills that enables them to realise all of their best ambitions for being an Australian. These are three critical things that help the process. Now, there’s no doubt that there are many, many Australians whose language skills have not been great over their time here. But it is also true that where those language skills have improved, that has improved people’s opportunities. So, this is actually about ensuring that we have a citizenship system which is enabling citizens to realise their best ambitions for being an Australian. Now, I’m not surprised that the Labor Party won’t come at these citizenship changes, they never do. They always balk on these issues. They are always internally conflicted on these issues. This should be a fairly straight forward issue for the Parliament but once again you see the Labor Party just unable to bring themselves to support these kinds of positive changes that strengthen out citizenship, that actually strengthen the ability for our immigration and citizenship program to work even better and to reinforce the strong multicultural society that we are.

QUESTION:

Just lastly, Treasurer, how would you characterise the Australian Education Union’s contribution to the debate around Gonski 2.0?

TREASURER:

Unions are putting unions before students. The Labor Party is putting unions before students. And the question is how many others in the Parliament are going to do just that? Thank you.