Release type: Transcript

Date:

Press conference with Senator Jonathon Duniam

Ministers:

The Hon Alan Tudge MP
Minister for Education and Youth

E&OE--------------------------

JONATHON DUNIAM:

Look, it is great to have Alan Tudge, the Federal Education Minister, here in Hobart to talk about the Morrison Government’s record commitment to education and support services in this state, and across the country. This makes a massive difference to Tasmanian families, to working parents, and to the kids who benefit from our education system. So, I’m really pleased to have been out and about in an early childhood education centre this morning with Alan to talk about the good work. But, why don’t you tell us, Alan. Over to you.

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, thanks so much, Jonathon. And it’s great to be down here in Tasmania and to meet up with many of the local child care operators, schools, university leaders which I’ll be doing later on this afternoon. Can I start though just by congratulating the Gutwein Government on their new cabinet, and particularly to thank Jeremy Rockliff who’s been the Education Minister for the last seven years, and we’ve worked very closely with him and he’s done some great work, and I’d like to think we’ve done some great work together. So, to the Deputy Premier, thank you. And I also look forward to working closely with Sarah Courtney who I’ve already reached out to. I don’t know her, but I’ll be catching up with her this afternoon and, hopefully, we’ll continue to work together, as we’ve done with Jeremy Rockliff.

Last week we, obviously, handed down our budget. It was a really significant budget for the education sector across the board, and that included Tasmanian education sectors, right from universities all the way through schools, to early childhood and to kindergartens. I particularly want to reference out to the kindergarten funding and the child care funding, which is real breakthrough funding last week, because for the first time ever we've got longer term funding support for the kindergartens from the Commonwealth level. And that means $43 million to Tasmanians to support those kids for the year before they start school. And there's about 7,000 kids in that category, and they'll each have $1340 dedicated towards their early year’s education so that they're best prepared for school.

Second, in relation to child care, we put nationally a further $1.6 billion into the child care system, and it's particularly geared towards supporting those families with two or more kids in the child care system. And that's because that's when the bills really start to rack up, and it's also where you can have real disincentives for women in particular, to go back to work or to work that third or fourth day a week.

And we were just out at the, the GoodStart Centre this morning, and they were telling us about a, a single mum, Jonathon, that we're hearing about. She's a new migrant to the country, she's got twins, no other family here, so she has to work. And they were saying what a difference this will make to that particular woman, caring for her twins, really being able to help her bottom line and encourage her to be able to continue to do the work that she has to do to support her young family. It’s families like that, right across Tasmania, that this will make a real difference to - about 500 families in total.

Finally, we've put record funding into schools, once again, here in Tasmania. Next year we'll have about $560 million of federal funds going to supporting Tasmanian kids in their school education, and that's a further 5.1 per cent increase on what was already record funding. And it means, since we've come to Government in 2013, we've increased school funding by 80 per cent to Tasmanian schools. We want to make sure that those schools got the resources that they need to deliver the best possible education for those kids so that they can absolutely reach their potential, and that's exactly what we've done once again in this budget.

So, from early years, through to schooling, all the way up to the tertiary sector, we continue to invest in record levels and we continue to do that here in Tasmania as much as anywhere else across the country.

QUESTION:

So, the child care funding, obviously funding that helps push, you say, parents back in the workplace. But it really only scratches the surface, right? For that 500 families? Is there scope to broaden that?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, we've already invested massive amounts in the child care system more broadly. So since coming to office, our funding has increased by 77 per cent, before this new package. And that means, for example, for everyday families here in Hobart the average hourly out of cost fee is $3.28, and a third of all parents are paying less than two bucks an hour for their child care. That's the, that's the lowest in the country by the way.

So we've already leant very heavily in on the child care system over the last few years. This thing goes to the next step, and particularly targets the families who have got two or more kids in child care because that's when the bills add up. Even if you're only paying a couple of bucks an hour, you got two or three kids in child care, it starts to add up and it starts to become a disincentive for, for women in particular to go back to work or to work that fourth and fifth day.

QUESTION:

You said you’ll be meeting with university leaders later today. Will you be discussing their plan to move into the city?

ALAN TUDGE:

I will be. So, straight after this press conference, in fact, I’ll be heading up to the University of Tasmania to meet with Rufus Black to discuss this plan. And I think it’s a real show of confidence in the University of Tasmania. And I think this plan, from what I’ve seen of it so far, will be good for the University of Tasmania, it’ll be good for students and it’ll be great for Hobart. And I’m looking forward to having a closer look at the detailed plans with Professor Black immediately after this.

QUESTION:

Are you worried that if you move the uni into the city it might highlight some of the infrastructure failings over the last 10 or so years when it comes to traffic and things like that? It’s going to put a lot of stress on the middle of town.

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, it also brings real vibrancy into the middle of town as well. And we’ve seen this both across Australia and across the world where university campuses have shifted into the city centre. And when you bring thousands of young people into the city centre, you really bring life and activity into those city centres. It makes it safer for everybody because you’ve always got people around. It’s great for those local businesses because people are spilling out into the streets and local cafes and the pubs and the like, and then it becomes a real hub and a magnet for all people from Hobart to become to come and visit.

QUESTION:

You congratulated Jeremy Rockliff, someone whose response today has been a bit of shock and people in the education system, because he's so well liked. I mean, he even got the support of the union on a lot of things. Are you surprised they would move on such a popular Education Minister?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, I think he's done a great job in the seven years that he has been Education Minister, and I think that's broadly recognised, and I congratulate him for the job that he's done. And in the time that I've been Federal Education Minister I've worked very closely with him, and he's been the most experienced Education Minister at our Education Ministers Meeting, which I chair. So, he'll be missed from that, but I'm sure that Sarah Courtney will do an equally good job. She did a great job as Health Minister. She's now, I think from what I understand, has almost swapped with Jeremy Rockliff in those two very significant portfolios here and I’m looking forward to working with her.

QUESTION:

It takes a while for a new Minister to get their feet on the desk, though. Are you worried that it might be a momentum killer? Some of the reforms that Jeremy Rockliff put in, the post-year 10 stuff’s gone down very well. Are you afraid that a changed Minister might kill some momentum?

ALAN TUDGE:

No. I think that she'll be able to continue on the good work that he has done and then drive further reform, and we'll be partners in that. And I'll be catching up with her this afternoon to get her initial ideas and talk through some of the things which I'm prioritising, including this pre-school funding, which Jeremy Rockliff certainly welcomed this morning when I caught up with him in his last meeting as Education Minister before it was announced at 10 o’clock.

QUESTION:

More broadly, I mean, the Libs here have tried to make education a strength, and I think it's sort of paid off. Federally, is that something you're keeping an eye on as well in trying to steal some space on a traditionally sort of Labor territory? Trying to steal a march on them on education by investing in public education?

ALAN TUDGE:

Our investment in public education has doubled in the last eight years since we’ve been in office.

QUESTION:

And did you have to do that to sort of dispel a myth that you’re for private schools and not public schools?

ALAN TUDGE:

And my ambition and the Government’s ambition is that every kid should have the opportunity to reach their potential. Whether they’re, you know, the, the brightest kid in Tasmania or the kid who's come from the most humble of upbringings, they should each have the opportunity to reach their potential, and that's a very Liberal principle, and we believe that. We believe in school choice and we absolutely believe in adequately funding our schools, which is what we have done in spades. And now, we want to continue to work in ensuring that we can increase the standards over time as well, which becomes the next focus of our agenda.

QUESTION:

Just back on the UTAS move. It's going to cost them about $600 million. Do you think that is a good use of money?

ALAN TUDGE:

It's- The draft plans are out and I'll be going through those with Professor Black this afternoon. That figure I've only seen for the first time in the papers this morning. And no doubt he'll be taking me through some of those details this afternoon.

QUESTION:

And I guess the other criticism that came out was last year staff were asked to take a pay freeze and many were made redundant, so, they sort of feel like it's buildings over staff. Is that a concern for you?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, I mean, universities themselves are autonomous institutions and they run their own finances and make their own priorities. But the University of Tasmania has been a great institution for Tasmania. I absolutely admire and respect the leadership of Professor Black in terms of what his vision is for Tasmania, which is to service the needs of Tasmanians and help solve some of the complex problems which exist in Tasmania. And I look forward to continuing to support the university in those endeavours.

QUESTION:

Just finally, from me, you're out with Senator Duniam today. Is that an endorsement that the preselectors got it right? Him first and Senator Abetz last?

ALAN TUDGE:

No. Senator Abetz was, was invited to come along as well but he had a clash and we’ll continue to work very closely together. But Senator Duniam is a great colleague, a great Minister, and certainly Senator Abetz has been and he's a great colleague as well. And I look forward to his continued contribution and I hope that he's also re-elected at the next election.