Release type: Transcript


ABC News Breakfast with Madeleine Morris


The Hon Dan Tehan MP
Minister for Education

Subjects: Coronavirus and schools, Year 12 students, Child care, Universities

Madeleine Morris: Now, yesterday we heard disruptions to the school year will be taken into account when Year 12 students are applying for university. Let’s dig deeper into that and bring in Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan. Good morning to you, Minister Tehan.

Dan Tehan: Morning. Pleasure to be with you.

Morris: Thanks for joining us. And, why are we still having ATARs? Why don’t we do away with them for the year?

Tehan: Because, we want to make sure that all students can realise their dreams of going to university, going into vocational education, or going into employment. We want to make this year as normal as we possibly can. We know it’s been turned on its head for many students, but we want to try and ensure that this Year 12 cohort gets as much as possible the experience that Year 12 cohorts have had before them. And, that’s why we made it very clear there will be no mass repeating. There will be no Year 30, sorry, Year 13. You will get your ATAR for 2020, so you can go on and realise your dreams.

Morris: But, why don’t we do what other countries do, which is to have applications, have more nuanced applications, rather than a single number, which you’re going to have to take into account and finesse anyway, as I understand it, because of these massive disruptions?

Tehan: Yeah. ATAR is a ranking, so, the students will get ranked as they usually do. Now, that will take into consideration things like digital divide, and where there’s been a large impact, for instance, if COVID-19 has had a large impact on a region or on a particular school, then we’ll take that into consideration. But, every state and territory is committed to ensuring that students will get an ATAR for 2020, and will be able to go on to university, vocational education, or into employment – whatever they want to do next year.

Morris: Victoria announced yesterday it’s going to be full at-home learning for pretty much all the students, with a couple of exemptions, for term two. Is it your expectation that the other states and territories will do the same thing?

Tehan: Each state and territory will act according to their jurisdiction, and where the pandemic is at. So, for instance, in the NT, at this stage, school will operate as normal, schools will be open for all children to attend for term two. It’ll be different for Western Australia and South Australia, again. New South Wales and Victoria are very much in-line, in terms that they’re encouraging students to stay at home. But, one thing that all states and territories are committed to – if you’re, if the parents have to work, or the children are vulnerable, and they can’t be safely looked at home, then schools will remain open for those children. So, parents won’t have to choose between going to work, or staying at home and looking after their kids. Schools will be open for all those parents who need their children cared for in the school environment while they’re working.

Morris: On that, child care centres are still open. We have seen another one close down overnight because of infections of staff care, staff members, there. If we see that more and more, will you have to reassess whether it’s safe for those child care centres to be open?

Tehan: Well, the chief medical panel which advises the Government – which is made up of the Federal Chief Medical Officer and all the state chief medical officers – they’re providing regular advice through to the Government, through to the National Cabinet, on this. We’ve said all along, ‘We’ll act according to their advice.’ Now, at the moment, they’re saying it’s safe for you to have your children in child care, it’s safe for you to have your children at school. We’ll continue to take their advice and act according to that.

Morris: Can I just take you to the university sector, Minister Tehan. Now, you’re passing today, it’s expected, the $130 billion JobKeeper package. There was some confusion about whether charity status would apply to universities for that. Charities only have to lose 15 per cent of revenue in order to get the JobKeeper package. It’s made clear now that that’s not going to happen. But, universities are facing a huge funding shortfall, which is certainly going to have repercussions on their staff. What are you going to be able to do to keep those staff, and keep them employed? It’s such a big sector.

Tehan: So, we’re continuing to have discussions with the university sector. They’re eligible for JobKeeper under the arrangements that were announced for all other businesses and not-for-profits …

Morris: … Which is a 30 per cent loss of revenue. Is that correct for them?

Tehan: That’s right. A 30 per cent loss of revenue, if you’re under a billion, 50 per cent if you’re over a billion. But, we will, we’re looking at other measures, as well, that we can work with the university sector on. We understand the important role that they’re going to play in educating our children, not only this year but next year. We think there’ll probably be increased demand next year for universities. So, we’re working with them to make sure that we can provide the foundations that they’ll need to continue to be able to educate our children.

Morris: But, they’re losing huge amounts of revenue which has, I mean, as we know, overseas students have, in some cases, really propped up the university sector, particularly certain universities. How are you going to be able to keep these huge institutions, and the numbers that they actually employ, going, with a vastly-changed education system?

Tehan: Well, we want to make sure that our focus is on our domestic students, and making sure that our universities can support them. We also want to make sure that we’re catering for, and looking after, our international students, who are here with us at the moment. So, we’re continuing to have discussions with the universities on that, and those discussions have been very fruitful. The universities are engaging incredibly well with the Government, and we’ll have more to say on this over the coming days.

Morris: Okay. Dan Tehan, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

Tehan: Thanks a lot.