SUBJECTS: Coronavirus and schools, Message to teachers, Annika Smethurst
Annelise Nielsen: Joining us live now is Education Minister Dan Tehan. Dan Tehan, thank you for your time. The Government’s got a big push at the moment to get parents to send their kids back to school. It’s a question for Victoria, with their term beginning from today. Why is this the good advice, when there are concerns about kids being transmitters of coronavirus?
Dan Tehan: Well, the medical expert advice has been consistent right along as we’ve dealt with his pandemic, and, that is, it’s safe for children to be at school. So, what we want to see is, for all those parents who need to work, and for all those vulnerable children, that schools remain open, and that they can get taught in the classroom. Now, Victoria and New South Wales, they’ll also do distance learning. But, in the NT, for instance, they want all these students back at school. So, there’ll be a different approach depending on jurisdictional responsibility for each state and territory. But, from a Commonwealth point of view, it’s always been that consistent message – for those parents who have to work and have got that vital role in terms of helping us manage the pandemic, we want you to know that your children can be safely looked after at school. And, also, we want to ensure for those vulnerable children, that they can get access to the classroom so that they can continue this continuity of learning, as well. And, there was another important message that the PM sent out today, and that was to all our teachers, and that’s a very big thank you to all our teachers for the role that you’re playing in helping us deal with this pandemic, in making sure, as best as you can, that our children get that continuity of learning during this pandemic.
Nielsen: You’re a dad who has to keep working. Are your kids in school?
Tehan: So, obviously, we’ve been in school holidays. So, in Victoria, some schools, the public schools start today. Independent schools start back tomorrow. So, I’ll be having a discussion with my children as to what they should do. Obviously, they do have the option to be, of being cared for, safely at home. So, I’ll continue to have those discussions with them. They’re very keen to get back to school. They’re missing their friends. They’re missing their teachers. They’re missing that continuity of learning. So, I’ll have those discussions with them.
Nielsen: Why is that a discussion, though, if the Government is saying that we need to send kids back to school? What’s your hesitation?
Tehan: I don’t have a hesitation. I think it’s safe for children to be at school. Bu, obviously, in Victoria, they’re saying, if you can learn from home, that’s their preference. So, I’ll have a discussion, and I’ll see if they want to go to school. Then, obviously, I’ll have a discussion with the school, to see whether that is appropriate for them to be able to attend. They are very keen to get back to school.
Nielsen: It just seems a bit odd that you’re not committed to it, though. You’re not committed to sending them back to school.
Tehan: Well, I am committed to getting all children back to school, and I’m committed to getting all Australians that continuity of learning, and continuity of education, that they need. So, I’ll continue to have those discussions, and, as I would encourage all parents to have discussions with their children, to make sure if their children feel like that they can get better learning at school, if they feel like – especially if their parents, both parents are working – that it’s a better environment for them to be at school, rather than getting someone to come in, than they can do that. And, I’ll continue to have those discussions.
Nielsen: Can you see why people are getting a bit confused with these directions, though, when you’ve got the Federal Government saying, ‘Send your kids back to school,’ and then the Education Minister saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to have a discussion, and, then, probably, do it’? I mean, this has been an ongoing issue with coronavirus response, that we don’t have a lot of our political leaders practicing what they preach. We’ve had Mr Harwin in New South Wales had to step down because he was off gallivanting at his holiday home down the coast, when we’re all being told to stay at home. So, is this an instance of the Government not practising what it preaches?
Tehan: No, not at all. My children went to school right up until the term one holidays, and, so, I was very keen for them to stay engaged, and they’re staying engaged and they want to get back to learning. Obviously, in Victoria, the recommendation from the Victorian State Government, at the moment, is that, if they can be supervised safely at home, then they can learn online from home. But, I’m very keen for my children to get back to school and learn, and, I’ll have those discussions with them, as I’m sure parents right across the nation are having that. And, as I’ve said, right up until the term one holidays, my children went to school, and I was very keen for them to go to school. And, my hope is, that they will be able to do that when it comes to term two.
Nielsen: And, we just had this breaking news come into the newsroom about the High Court quashing the arrest warrant, the search warrant, rather, of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst. Do you think this shows the police were too heavy-handed, in this instance?
Tehan: Look, I have just heard the news reports of that. I haven’t seen the details of what’s been decided by the courts. I wouldn’t like to comment on it at this time. But, can I just say, as a principle, that what we do want to ensure in this nation is that the freedom of the press remains one of the key pillars of our society. So, I’ll wait and have a look at what the High Court has decided. But, I’ve literally just seen news reports. I don’t know how accurate they are. There’s just been headlines, so I wouldn’t like to comment any further on it.
Nielsen: Education Minister Dan Tehan, thank you.
Tehan: Thanks very much. Cheers.