Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview — Sky News Live Afternoon Agenda with Kieran Gilbert

Ministers:

The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business
Acting Minister for Education and Youth

Topics: Ash Barty’s retirement; Australia’s education system; Anthony Albanese’s failed leadership

KIERAN GILBERT:

Let’s go live back to Federal politics, and I’m joined by the Minister for Employment and the acting Education Minister Stuart Robert. I talked to Paul McNamee there about Ash Barty being a role model, and as the acting Education Minister, I tell you what, you reflect on the impact of schooling and role models at that level but none greater in our country than that woman.

MINISTER ROBERT:

What an extraordinary Australian, Kieran. We’ve always said, especially for young girls, young ladies, you can’t be what you can’t see. I think we’ve seen an extraordinary Australian who has mastered the three surfaces in terms of playing tennis and winning at the highest level. She’s a superstar when it comes to cricket – just amazing. She’s gone out at the very top on her terms, her way, couldn’t be prouder. What an amazing lady. Just goes to show for everyone that if you set your mind to it, you can achieve anything. What an amazing Australian.

KIERAN GILBERT:

You today on the schooling front, as acting Education Minister, committed I believe $3.5 million to help with unruly classrooms. Is that effectively what you’re doing? And how do you change what happens at the school level from the Federal level?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well today at the Age Schools Summit we talked through our plan for education - the funding wars are over, Kieran. The Commonwealth will put $315 billion from 2018 to 2029 in the schooling system. We’ve already funded in real terms 60 per cent growth, 100 per cent in nominal terms through to state schools and a lot less into the independent schools. But if we look at our performance internationally, which is slipping against science, maths and English, we need to look at the issues of initial teacher education, of classroom environments, and of course we need to look at the curriculum.

So today we put forward a range of funds to start, kick off this conversation, kick off this process. Let’s start getting some podcasts, some excellent teachers sharing their experiences, their vision, how they work in classrooms, because the numbers we’re seeing are not good in terms of classroom environments, unruly classrooms, and I think everything we can do to really back in and help our hard-working teachers, we should step in and do that.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Is there any study or indication as to where it’s worse? Is it public schools, private schools, capital cities, country areas? Have you got any trends that you’ve picked up?

MINISTER ROBERT:

The OECD data which we’re looking at shows that 20 years ago, we were sort of middle of the pack, if you like, when it comes to the climate of discipline in classrooms. Now we’ve slipped to 70 out of 77 nations. There’s only 38 industrialised nations, so there’s another 32-odd nations to go before you hit us, so we’ve got some issues. We’ve got a third of principals saying that they’ve experienced sort of violence, which is extraordinary, it’s staggering. It’s harrowing, as I said in the speech, and so many teachers saying they’re experiencing this sort of behaviour as well.

So, we’ve all got to work together – there’s no pejorative statement here, this is a problem we’ve all got as a nation. We’ve put record funding in, but our results internationally have gone the other way, so let’s work together. Parents, educators, teachers, systems, state and territory, Commonwealth – we’re all in this together.

KIERAN GILBERT:

The Budget coming up on Tuesday. Does the Federal Government know how hard people are doing it right now?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Oh, absolutely. If you think about the December quarter numbers that had inflation at the headline at 3.5 and underlying at 2.6, that's the first time, Kieran, in six years we've seen the CPI numbers come within the Reserve Bank Governor’s band of 2 to 3 per cent. And that's driven back in the December quarter by 32 per cent increases in fuel, and of course fuel has gone up further, and that flows into every part of our logistics and supply chain, and of course into the cost for housing. And a lot of that is because of the supply chain issues – petrol, of course, because of the unprovoked war in Europe – and supply chain, because people went to goods rather than services during COVID. But you're still seeing containers at a record-high three or four times higher than it was before.

So we're well attuned to the pressures that families are under, well across it in detail. And I think we all experience it when we go to the bowser and starting to see the impact of petrol across other services and other costs.

KIERAN GILBERT:

So, what can be done? You know, because obviously you spoke about those inflationary pressures right now. Are you confident there can be a tangible improvement to the family budget in the lead up to the election at a time when inflation is on the rise?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Very confident the Budget will deliver some very tangible measures in that respect, Kieran. I mean, we've already just announced today, the Treasurer and I, $1.85 billion in cash flow support for small business, and $800 million reduction in compliance costs. Now we know fuel will moderate once we move through the war in Europe. Now, we don't know how long it's going to take and it's tragic over there, but we're already seeing moderation in the wholesale price of diesel coming down below $2 with $1.90-odd, and the wholesale price of unleaded $1.80-odd. So we're starting to see some pressure come off there. But that war in Europe has got some way to go and that's having a direct impact, which means the Commonwealth will use the budget process to provide the necessary support that we can.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Anthony Albanese says he won't be having an enquiry to suggestions of bullying within Labor. He says there were no complaints raised through the processes within Labor. Is that the end of it?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Goodness, no. That’s not even believable, Kieran. We know that that Senator Kitching raised an issue of complaint with the Deputy Leader, Mr Marles. We know it was raised with the workplace bullying cultural team that we've all been sitting down with.

Mr Albanese is playing with words, and it's frankly offensive that no ‘formal’ complaint was issued. Well, if you have to slice hairs on bullying, you have no right, and you are not fit to lead.

And the Prime Minister was right this morning. If you cannot stand up to the bullies in your own party, how is Mr Albanese going to stand up to the bullying in the region? It is just not feasible.

And this morning on breakfast TV for Mr. Albanese to say that the allegation or the alleged bullies are actually part of the solution without doing the work to understand what actually happened, I just don't think is believable.

He speaks about transparency, and the very first test, Kieran – the first test – Mr Albanese fails, and he fails woefully.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Stuart Robert, I appreciate your time. We'll talk to you soon.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Great to talk to you.