Topics: Schools; WA GST share; WA polling; Labor’s attack on small business; Terrorism; Same sex marriage.
Ken Wyatt: Can I welcome the Prime Minister to the seat of Hasluck, but in particular to Swan View Senior High School. It is great having my other colleague Simon Birmingham here, the Minister for Education. Spending the time with students this morning has been tremendous and the opportunity for them to hear personally about the life of the Prime Minister and hear from my colleague about issues on leadership.
Welcome Prime Minister and welcome Simon.
Prime Minister: Thank you Ken and thank you for the leadership you show in the Parliament and here in your local electorate. You can see the enormous esteem in which you’re held by this community and by the students and what a great role model you are in every way of leadership.
It is wonderful to be here at Swan View Senior High School.
The Western Australian schools, and this school in particular, schools like this in particular got a very raw deal out of the 27 inconsistent secret deals that the previous Labor government stitched up on school funding.
As you know, Simon Birmingham, Education Minister has piloted through the Parliament our historic school funding reforms. For the first time in the history of the Commonwealth school funding at the federal level is consistent, transparent, needs-based, national, fair right across the country.
Western Australia had a really unfair deal from the Labor Party on school funding and we’ve addressed that.
Schools like this will see school funding per student double over the next ten years.
But it is great to be here and see above all the enthusiasm of the students – their optimism, their energy, the great work the teachers are doing, supported by families and a community which Ken is such a great leader, that is getting behind these kids and ensuring that they can realise their dreams. They are going to follow and they are going to excel their dreams because of the great foundations they have here at Swan View Senior High and I am proud to be leading a government that for the first time is ensuring that all students in Western Australia get fair, consistent, needs-based funding on the same basis as students everywhere else in Australia. It is a first. Fairness for WA has been one of the outcomes of these very big school funding reforms that Simon is going to say a bit more about now.
Birmo – over to you.
Simon Birmingham: Well thanks PM, thanks Ken.
I am thrilled to be back in the West for the second time in two months visiting again a range of exemplary schools doing incredible things.
And members of the media, while it’s great to have you all here, it is particularly good to have the media team from the Swan View Senior High School here as well participating in this, highlighting the range of different educational skills, opportunities and abilities that schools like this are equipping young Australians with.
Our school funding reforms are about ensuring fairness – fairness for all states, all school systems. And as the PM said for the first time ever giving the West a fair deal where federal school funding dollars could flow into WA on the same terms as the rest of Australia. Surely that’s only fair. And of course we’re thrilled to be delivering it as a government but also ensuring they’re targeted to need.
As a result of it being needs-based funding, we’ll see an extra $47 million flow particularly into support Indigenous student loadings here in WA schools over the next decade. That’s extra support to help students who often start with many challenges and educational disadvantages and to help bring them up to scale because what’s most important is not the amount of money that a school gets but how it’s used. Ensuring that the record investment we are making is invested in early interventions, in speech pathology, in one-on-one teacher time, in fantastic programs the likes of which we heard about at this school today. Investing in helping students to follow their dreams, to build their dreams, to acquire the skills, the confidence that is necessary to be able to succeed and that’s precisely what our reforms will help people do in future.
Journalist: Prime Minister, there are reports today that WA will be $2 billion worse off as a result of the ABS population forecasts for the state. Ben Wyatt wants a year’s grace to be able to deal with this issue and to deal with the budget black hole. Is that something you’re prepared to consider?
Prime Minister: Well we're certainly closely reviewing the GST allocation.
I mean, as I've said, I'm the first Prime Minister to acknowledge that Western Australia is not getting a fair deal out of the GST. As I was saying last night in Mindarie at the ‘Politics in the Pub’, Western Australia's deal doesn't pass the pub test either generally or, it certainly didn't pass the pub test in that pub.
34 cents in the dollar is not fair.
I'm the first Prime Minister to acknowledge that and to set out a plan to address it.
We're going to be assisted by the Productivity Commission inquiry into the way in which GST is allocated and that's ongoing.
And of course, I look forward to speaking with the Premier in the course of the day and he knows very well I have made the case for GST reform around the COAG table.
It's a very, very keen issue and it's one we have provided support for. As you know, we've provided over $1 billion of additional funding to Western Australia to make up for the low GST allocation. We've done that already over the last few years.
And, of course, as Senator Birmingham was observing, in terms of school funding, Western Australia got a bad deal, an unfair deal out of the previous Labor Government's school funding package, which, by the way, every Western Australian Labor Member of the Parliament voted to retain.
So Western Australia got a raw deal, an unfair deal out of Labor's school funding model. All of their MPs and Senators voted to keep it. They voted to keep short changing Western Australian schools.
We voted and managed to get enough of the crossbench to deliver a change, a massive reform, that has given the fair result and very substantially improved result for WA schools.
Journalist: Recent polling is continuing to show that your Government is deeply unpopular in WA, perhaps based on this GST issue. Are you concerned about a wipeout in WA at the next election?
Prime Minister: I'm concerned about delivering good government for all Australians and delivering a good government for Western Australia.
I'm here in Western Australia for the week. We had a very good reception last week. A very good and frank discussion. I'm going to be getting around the state, getting out of Perth and down to Busselton and Albany and up to Broome. I'll be meeting lots of Western Australians.
I can assure you with great representatives like Ken Wyatt and the rest of our WA team who are such an important voice in the party room, in the ministry, around the Cabinet table - Cabinet is meeting here in Perth tomorrow – we are focused on doing the very best job to ensure that the huge ability of Western Australians – you know, you Western Australians, you're the best asset of the state. As I was saying to the kids, it is not the mineral resources and the hydrocarbons, it's the men and women of Western Australia - they're this state's greatest asset and their enterprise is what we're supporting.
Our Labor opponent, by the way, what's he got? He wants to run a politics of envy campaign. He wants to tear down anyone who is trying to have a go. He's obviously got a determination to do everything he can to kick small business in the guts. What does he think is going to drive economic growth other than entrepreneurship and enterprise and small business? Every way you look at it, from raising taxes on small and medium businesses and family businesses, that's not the way to go.
We're providing tax relief because we know that will encourage people to invest and employ and get ahead.
Journalist: Ben Wyatt said last week that you'd be run out of town if you came to Perth without offering a big bag of money to try and address that unfairness over the GST - do you accept that?
Prime Minister: Ben should have been in the pub last night. It was a very warm welcome I can assure you. I've never had a warmer welcome anywhere. It was a good night.
Journalist: Just with the security changes, there have been disruptions at airports, particularly in Sydney this morning.
Prime Minister: Yes.
Journalist: Clearly – well they're saying that there's not enough resources. Why were we not prepared for this?
Prime Minister: Well, let me say firstly, I want to thank the Australian public, the Australian travelling public in particular, for their forbearance.
The heightened security measures that have been undertaken at our airports have been done on the advice of our security agencies which are the best in the world.
We are unrelenting in our efforts to keep Australians safe and as you know and as you heard over the last 24 hours or so, we have succeeded in disrupting a major terrorist plot to bring down an aeroplane. A very serious terrorist plot. Good intelligence, great police work, great investigation, great coordination has enabled us to disrupt that plot and we'll continue in our efforts as the police complete the investigation, as Commissioner Colvin was saying a little while ago, to complete that investigation, and of course, the heightened security measures at the airport, as everywhere, are under constant review.
Journalist: Should we be looking at something like a terror tax to pay?
Prime Minister: No. No.
Journalist: To pay for extra resources?
Prime Minister: No.
Journalist: Can you confirm the initial tip off about that plot came from an overseas intelligence agency?
Prime Minister: I'm not going to confirm or add any detail to the source of our intelligence. And you'll understand why I don't do that.
But I just want to say this to you - in 2017, in the age of the internet, nowhere is far away from anywhere else. So information, plans, ideas travel at the speed of light. So our cooperation with other intelligence services, with other governments, with business, with intelligence and police services within our own country, has to be seamless, and that is why I am not prepared to set and forget.
We have great police services, great intelligence services, as we've seen again and again but I'm always going to seek to make things more effective, more efficient, more connected. We need to be more joined up and that's why I'm setting up the Department of Home Affairs to bring together in the one portfolio and the one department, those vital domestic security agencies - AFP, ASIO and of course, the Border Force.
Journalist: Is that going to be sped up then?
Prime Minister: It's on track. It's very important to ensure that the transition occurs in a way that does not interfere with any existing operations. So this has been a plan long in the making. We've got a very well set out road map for completing that transition, I can assure you.
Journalist: Prime Minister, just back on the GST, separate obviously to the relativity issue which you’ve talked about, is this additional problem with the $2 billion that WA is expected to lose because of population forecasts - should the state and the State Treasury just cop that?
Prime Minister: I've seen the report, Sarah, but I can't comment on it. I haven't had any confirmation of that in any official way. Obviously I've seen the report and no doubt I'll learn more about it.
I look forward to discussing it with my colleagues, both my Western Australian colleagues and, of course, the Treasurer, and of course, I look forward to discussing it with the Premier.
Journalist: The WA Government's view is that you could act to change it right now. There's no necessity for other state governments to agree to a change in the GST. What is stopping yourself and the Treasurer from changing the GST distribution?
Prime Minister: Well, it's very important that any changes to the GST are done in a way that are seen as being fair and fair to all Australians. I think you'd understand that.
As I said earlier today it has got to pass the pub test not just in Mindarie and everywhere else in Western Australia but around the rest of the country too.
So I've taken this cause up on Western Australia's behalf and I set out a way in which we could do that last year.
The West Australian share will adjust, or at least it has been forecast to do so by the West Australian Treasury no less to come back up over 70 per cent. And I flagged, well I set out a plan whereby when it gets to that point that would be an occasion where we could secure the agreement of the other states and territories to set a floor below which state shares and territory shares would not fall because at that point in time nobody would actually lose out - you see?
So, look, it's a political challenge.
But I want to just remind Western Australians of a very fundamental political point - I am the Prime Minister of a Coalition Government, a Liberal-National Government. I'm a Liberal Prime Minister. I'm the first Prime Minister to take this issue on and recognise that Western Australia is not getting a fair deal. The first Prime Minister, the first Government to take action to address it, setting out the plan that I did last year, making the case at COAG, getting the Productivity Commission on the case.
What has the Labor Party done? The Labor Party has criticised us at every turn. The Labor Party Members and Senators from Western Australia sent in a couple of pages of gobbledygook to the Productivity Commission that did not propose taking the action you describe at all. And in the Parliament, they've taken no action.
So the question I have for Mark McGowan - and I'm not in the habit of delivering messages to Premiers through the media because I have a very cordial relationship with him and I want to have a good and constructive relationship with him - but what Mark should be doing is going to Shorten and saying: ‘Okay - what are you going to do to help us? What is your plan?’
Because at this stage, the reality is that the strongest political opposition to a fairer deal for Western Australian comes from the Australian Labor Party.
It is the Coalition that is taking on this very difficult political problem to seek to get a fairer deal for Western Australia. That’s the fact.
Journalist: Just on same-sex marriage, Trevor Evans has indicated that he would be prepared to exercise his right to a conscience vote and cross the floor. Can you prevent backbenchers crossing the floor on this issue?
Prime Minister: In our party, backbenchers have always had the right to cross the floor.
In the Labor Party, you get expelled for doing that.
It's always been a fundamental principle in the Liberal Party and indeed the National Party. So it's a very different political culture to the very authoritarian and centrally controlled culture of the Labor Party.
Thank you all very much.