COMPERE: …this problem for you.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, he didn't, and that's not really a fair characterisation. I've been working since the election for eleven weeks to try and secure Northern Territory, Queensland, and Western Australia as part of the national funding model and to secure the funds for that. Last week with the Ministerial council bearing down on us on Friday, I thought it was important to give those states and that territory certainty about funding in 2014, but since last week I managed to secure their agreement to the national funding deal and the one-point-two billion dollars that Bill Shorten ripped out put back in, and we will dismantle the central command and control features that were part of Labor's model that we never supported.
COMPERE: Christopher Pyne, the education ministers were kicking you all around the country. They were saying that you'd broken a promise and Jay Weatherill was accusing you, I think, of lying. It wasn't that you brought them on deck. They kicked you around until the Prime Minister intervened and backflipped.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No. Well, that's not really a question, but anyway, David, no, that's not what happened.
COMPERE: But that is what happened, isn't it?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No, that's not what happened. What happened was I'd been working quietly behind the scenes, methodically and carefully, to get Northern Territory, Western Australia, and Queensland into the national model, something Bill Shorten never achieved. Once I achieved that, the funds, the $1.2 billion, was available for those states and territory.
COMPERE: But you said the cupboard was bare.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I also said, in the same press conference, that I'd been working since the election to try and find that money, to try and secure it, and I have secured it.
COMPERE: So the cupboard wasn't bare, then.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, whether the cupboard was bare or not bare, I've secured a significant win for students around Australia, $1.2 billion of more money for kids around Australia, and I've got a national agreement which Labor never had and I'm going to remove the central command and control features, the red tape and regulation, from Canberra, which I don't think has any place in a national funding model.
COMPERE: So - now, you say you'll meet the funding commitment for next year and you will introduce a new model in 2015?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No.
COMPERE: That's what you had said, isn't it?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: To give people certainty last Tuesday I said that we would fund the 2014 commitments for Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia, but that's been superseded by the fact that I've achieved a national agreement with $1.2 billion extra and I think this is a great outcome for students.
COMPERE: Now, given that you had said that that $1.2 billion wasn't there, that disappeared, where will you get that money from? Will that come from the existing education budget?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, in the mid-year economic fiscal outlook, all of the government's savings and spending measures will be revealed. That's a matter for the Treasurer to announce in MYEFO.
COMPERE: All right. Now, the three states that are going to get this $1.2 billion. That will be no strings attached, however, is that correct? In other words, if they wish, they can reduce - obviously you don't want them to, but they can reduce expenditure on education and take the federal money, because they haven't signed up to any of the conditions of the Gonski agreement.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, South Australia has signed up and Jay Weatherill's just announced $230 million of cuts to South Australian education between now and 2017. What that proves is you can sign all the agreements you like, but at the end of the day state and territory governments are sovereign governments and they make their own decisions about their budget.
Now, we would expect that the Commonwealth will make its contribution. There'll be the usual accountability and transparency provisions in these agreements, but if states and territories choose to manage their own budgets the way they decide, they are responsible to their electors, as Jay Weatherill should be responsible next March for cutting $230 million from education while lecturing me - while lecturing me about school funding. I mean, the rank hypocrisy of Jay Weatherill is extraordinary.
COMPERE: Well, why don't you tie your funding to his funding, so if he does, as you accuse him of doing, cut $230 million from his spending, you say well, you do that, you will not get our funding?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Because the Coalition believes, unlike Labor, the Coalition believes state and territory governments should be treated like adults and the Commonwealth should do what it should do and the states and territories should play their role and if South Australian electors are angry about Jay Weatherill cutting $230 million from education, they should vote him out next year.
COMPERE: Christopher Pyne, we were told yesterday that at this meeting of education ministers and your first meeting as federal minister with them earlier, a few days ago, you added an agenda item. And that agenda item, which I think has been passed, forces Jennifer Rankine, the South Australian Education Minister to bring a report back to the Council of Education Ministers on how she is or isn't dealing with the problem of child sexual abuse in the South Australian school system. Is that correct?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, it's basically correct. So every meeting of course the Chairman asks if there's any other agenda items that members would like to add to the list that's already there, and I think there were about ten or eleven items on the list.
And I suggested that it would be useful for the Council to hear from Jennifer Rankine about the catastrophe that had engulfed the South Australian Education Department over the last few months because of the Royal Commission, the Debelle Inquiry et cetera into child protection in South Australia when Jay Weatherill was Education Minister and now Premier.
And she quite graciously agreed to that and reported on South Australia's progress and offered to come back in April with a paper on the measures that South Australia was taking over child protection, and…
COMPERE: Our information is she went nuts over it.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: [Laughs] Well…
COMPERE: To quote somebody, she acted like she'd walked into a revolving glass door.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Oh dear [laughs]. Well, I couldn't possibly comment on how people react to these things, but the outcome was that it was on the agenda, South Australian child protection…
COMPERE: You placed it on the agenda.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Yes, I placed it on the agenda because I thought it was interesting to see if the other states and territories in the Commonwealth might be able to help South Australia with this very sensitive issue.
COMPERE: So you've placed the question of how the South Australian Government deals with child sexual abuse in schools on the national agenda and you are hoping that the other states may be able to help South Australia.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Yes, exactly. I mean, the purpose of the Ministerial Council is that we work collegiately to improve the outcomes for our children's education and child protection obviously in South Australia is the number one issue in our state in terms of education given that the Department of Education is now run by a policeman, and I thought it would be useful for the Council to hear what South Australia is doing and what we might be able to do to help South Australia and they…
COMPERE: Or you're just trying to give her a little political lesson.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No, I think she was pleased to discuss it and offered to bring a paper at the April meeting where we can further elucidate how the states, territories and the Commonwealth might be able to help South Australia to - with child protection issues which are obviously pretty serious issues.
COMPERE: She has called in. Jennifer Rankine, Education Minister. Good morning to you, Minister.
JENNIFER RANKINE: Good morning Matt, good morning Dave and good morning, Christopher.
COMPERE: Did you go ballistic when this was added to the agenda?
JENNIFER RANKINE: No, I had…
COMPERE: You wouldn't have been happy?
JENNIFER RANKINE: No, and in fact I had been giving some consideration to in fact putting that matter on the agenda myself, but being that we were…
COMPERE: Oh, he beat you to it.
JENNIFER RANKINE: Well, being that it - well, Christopher and I had quite a colourful conversation over dinner the evening before and I think that's the reason that he put it on the agenda, but…
COMPERE: What, you had a fight?
JENNIFER RANKINE: When we got to - when we got to…
COMPERE: The evening before and do you think it's a bit of payback, or…
JENNIFER RANKINE: No, no. No, well, you know Christopher probably better than I do.
COMPERE: Minister, can you just explain what you mean by that? You had a colourful exchange the night before and you think that's the reason [she] put sexual abuse on the agenda the next day. What do you mean by that?
JENNIFER RANKINE: Well, Christopher was quite derisive about the fact that Tony Harrison had been appointed to head up the Education Department, but that's bye the bye. The important thing is that I was in fact very happy to talk about it.
And as Christopher rightly said I have offered to have officials prepare a paper that we can share with the other states because I'm sure there are issues in other states and you know, at any given time a dreadful incident can occur and that we can all learn - we could all learn from one another.
But interestingly, as we got to the end of the meeting I actually had to wave my little arm in the air and say excuse me, there is one more item on here because I think he was actually happy to let it go. He'd had a particularly bad day and so I think he was happy to let that go by the way. It was just a shot across the bow. But nevertheless, he's now running these furphies around education cuts in South Australia somehow trying to equate those to not honouring the…
COMPERE: Is he correct with his figures about the $230 million?
JENNIFER RANKINE: Two-hundred-and - look, we have - that's over a four-year period in a budget annually of $3.5 billion, so eight…
JENNIFER RANKINE: Hang on a minute, let me finish.
COMPERE: No, no, no. No, Minister, figures can be very confusing for people listening.
JENNIFER RANKINE: Well, I'll be very simple, David.
COMPERE: You have - no, if we can just confirm. You have - you are planning to cut $230 million from the education budget over four years?
JENNIFER RANKINE: We have efficiency dividends over that four years...
COMPERE: Okay. So...
JENNIFER RANKINE: Over five years we are injecting an additional $1.87 billion into the Department of Education and Child Development and we...
COMPERE: But you'll use - how do you quarantine - how can you say to people well the Gonski money this equates to cuts and you want it all honoured?
JENNIFER RANKINE: Well, let me...
COMPERE: Well, how would you possibly be able to sort that out - that wheat from that chaff?
JENNIFER RANKINE: Okay. Now, well - easily. What we have been doing, as efficiency dividends have been required of the Department, is looking at TVSPs, looking at efficiencies in central office and I think even the chief executives for office had some positions there that were identified as not being required. What we will not do - what we absolutely will not do is close schools like the Liberals did. Forty-five schools closed...
COMPERE: Okay. Are you happy with…
JENNIFER RANKINE: ...and we will not reduce teacher numbers. I give you a guarantee of that.
COMPERE: Are you happy with the Gonski - or the funding decision yesterday now?
JENNIFER RANKINE: Well, again David all of this has been done through the media. I have never had the courtesy of even a telephone call from the current Federal Minister nor have...
COMPERE: Are you happy with what you've read or heard or...
JENNIFER RANKINE: Well, it's still very vague. We signed an agreement for six years with the Federal Government and I expect them to honour that. If we do not get that money, that is $400 million, $200 million a year - $200 million a year ripped out of the education system in South Australia.
COMPERE: Chris Pyne - just giving you a chance to respond there - Federal Education Minister.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, two things I need to respond to. One is that I wasn't in the least bit derisory about the new Education Secretary in South Australia, but I am embarrassed as a South Australian. I am very embarrassed that our Department of Education is headed by a police commissioner because of the incredible state that the State Labor Government has got education into in South Australia. So I do think it's a very serious issue.
I certainly wouldn't be mocking anybody who was trying to fix it, but I am embarrassed as a South Australian that our state is now led by a police commissioner because that is the priority for the Department of Education and education itself has been pushed into the second priority.
Secondly, Jennifer Rankine has confirmed that they are cutting $230 million on education in South Australia at the same time as they are lecturing the Federal Government about school funding. When we're putting more money in, they're taking money out and their one - their state could have signed an agreement.
COMPERE: Is this the end of the back flips? Anymore?
COMPERE: With [inaudible], this is locked in now, because it's changed so much in terms of policy when you're in Opposition and what you've done in Government, is this it?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, I'm very happy to have put $1.2 billion extra in over the next four years that Labor took out and I'm very happy to have achieved the national funding model that Labor never achieved?
COMPERE: Do you think - would you be worried if the states that had signed up to the Gonski agreement chose not to stay in it if they see the other states getting the money with no strings attached?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, the Commonwealth will provide its funds. If - what the states do is a matter for them at the end of the day. If they choose to stay part of a national funding model, we'll be very glad. I'm sure they all will and I don't think it's a - I think it's a bit of a moot question. They're all very happy to be part of a national funding agreement because they're getting tremendous amounts of money from the Commonwealth to do so.
COMPERE: Christopher Pyne, thank you.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Pleasure.
COMPERE: Before that Jennifer Rankine, the State Education Minister, thank you for calling in.