TOM CONNELL: We’ve had agreement over the past few years that our teaching standards, our education standards are not good enough. We’ve heard that from a whole lot of education ministers, seemingly with no improvement. The latest one, Alan Tudge, says he’s making this his number one priority. So how is he going to succeed? He joins me now live from our Melbourne studio. Minister, thanks for your time and apologies for the delay. I know we had some issues at our end so thanks for your patience.
I found it interesting today…
ALAN TUDGE: No problem.
TOM CONNELL: You were talking about- when we’re talking about improving teacher quality, you've got a whole lot of different priorities here. But is one of the issues- what's your view on HSC marks? And whether they're high enough for teaching standards, just taking them as a bit of an average across the country?
ALAN TUDGE: Generally, that has been an issue, and I think it's one of the factors which does explain why we've had a decline in overall school standards in the last 20 years, and that is the proportion of the students with ATARs above 80 has declined, going into teaching has declined quite sharply in that time. That's just one factor. And ATARs aren't the only thing in terms of what makes a good teacher, but certainly, we have to continuously attract the best people possible into teaching, then give them the skills through that teaching education course so they are ready to hit the ground running in the classroom – and that's certainly a very big focus of mine.
TOM CONNELL: One of the other things - and I'm going to do that terrible thing in journalism and go to personal experience - when we got laptops and internet at school, nobody concentrated or looked in class for about two months, it was such a distraction. And as we've had more and more technology in classrooms, it seems to me it's coincided with, perhaps, our marks going down. Is technology always used in the best way? Is it misused possibly?
ALAN TUDGE: That's an interesting question. I think technology generally has been a good tool for the classroom, and certainly, there's some terrific online materials now which can really complement what the teacher is teaching. I think a more significant problem over the last 20 years, which explains that decline, has also been a bunch of fads which have come into teaching methods. For example, phonics got pushed aside in favour of whole language, in relation to teaching. Child centred learning became predominant when explicit instruction is shown to be much more powerful at actually getting results. So, I think that explains more of what's occurred rather than what you're referring to. And again, that's squarely my focus, with our review of teacher education courses, is to ensure that it's actually evidence-based practices which are taught in our teacher education courses so that when the students come out and they're fully qualified teachers, they can be as effective as possible in the classroom.
TOM CONNELL: Alright. We're awaiting that review, and we'll keep a close eye on this and keep talking to you because it's a huge issue, I know, for a lot of parents out there as well. A couple of other issues to work through. So the Victorian Government has a proposal now on the table to get so-called economic arrivals, and this would be separate to hotel quarantine, separate of the current number - that was a key criteria for you to be able to have this proposal on the table and it would include tertiary students. Is this proposal then likely to get the green light from the Federal Government?
ALAN TUDGE: Well, we just received this proposal last night, Tom, and obviously we'll take a close look at it. But I will say that we just have to be so careful in approving any quarantine arrangement above and beyond that for Australians, particularly when COVID is rampaging throughout the rest of the world, as you know. And certainly, from some of those countries, such as India, which have been great source countries for so many international students, and so many migrants more generally. So, we will be very cautious in relation to this issue. The health and economic security of Australian’s is our number one priority. But we’ll consider the letter which was sent last night.
TOM CONNELL: Are you indicating there that Indian students might not be able to be included in such a scheme? At least for now?
ALAN TUDGE: No. I’m just making the observation that we have a very envious position here in Australia where we have very, very few cases of COVID here in this entire country. Whereas there are other countries, including countries like India which literally had 350,000 cases appear overnight. And India is just one such country which happens to be the second biggest source of international students, plus other migrants, with China, typically, number one. So, we’ve just got to be very careful. We’ll look at it closely, we’ll get the advice, we’ll get the health advice, but our number one priority is Australians.
ALAN TUDGE: Sorry, say that again, Tom.
TOM CONNELL: Are you saying, possibly you could give this plan the approval, but it wouldn’t be for any country? It could be limited if you like?
ALAN TUDGE: Well, we have a bubble arrangement, obviously, for New Zealanders for example, that New Zealanders can come in and study in Australia, as can migrants now as well. But what I’m just saying is that we’ll be very cautious in looking at this proposal.
TOM CONNELL: Alright.
ALAN TUDGE: We just received it last night. So, we’ll get the advice and then go from there.
TOM CONNELL: Okay. Yeah, fair enough.
TOM CONNELL: Childcare, all the headlines here, more money is going to be tipped in. Can you just give us a nod and a wink here? Parents out there, I’m sure, will be very keen to see some more funding.
ALAN TUDGE: Well, should I just reveal the entire budget here on this program, Tom? Listen, this is budget speculation, it happens every single year, as you know, and I'm not going to be speculating on what's in or not in the budget. I will say that we have already increased childcare expenditure by 77 per cent since we came to office, so now $10.3 billion annually.
TOM CONNELL: But that's basically gone, pre-2017 because of inflation.
ALAN TUDGE: What do you mean by that?
TOM CONNELL: Well, the big saving for parents in 2017 has been eaten up by child care inflation, going well ahead of wages since then.
ALAN TUDGE: Well, the average expenditure on childcare, the average out-of-pocket expenditure is about $3.90, whereas it was considerably higher before that time. I mean, all, all people on very low incomes - $70,000 or less, they only pay a $1.56 on average per hour for childcare. So, let's keep this in perspective. Our system, Tom, was always designed to support those of lower means in a considerable manner. And it tapers off, such as those of higher means, don't get much subsidy at all. And that's in stark contrast to some of the proposals out there, including from the Labor Party, who basically have a policy for millionaires whereby a millionaire would get up to $50,000 of subsidy if they had two kids in full time childcare, under their policy. And I don't see how that necessarily helps the overall effort.
TOM CONNELL: Okay.
ALAN TUDGE: Those millionaires don't even need to be working to achieve that under Labor's policy.
TOM CONNELL: Well, we hope to be able to compare their policy to yours soon enough - not quite today. Just finally, just on this consent campaign that got a lot of interesting headlines recently. Some of the videos in particular were seen to have missed the mark. You launched the campaign. Did you view the videos before doing so?
ALAN TUDGE: There were 350 videos, Tom, I couldn't possibly view all of them. And I hadn't seen this particular one, which I thought was a pretty silly video. And the department took that down. I would say there are some good materials on there, though, which are worth looking at, and they're always been there as resources to complement what the states and territories have, and as an additional tool to be used in the classroom, should the teachers think that they're useful.
TOM CONNELL: So, the rest of what's online right now, though, you stand by it. You think the rest of it is a good campaign?
ALAN TUDGE: Again, I haven't looked at every single one of the 350 videos which have been put together, but there are some good materials.
TOM CONNELL: Has someone reviewed it?
ALAN TUDGE: It is being reviewed presently, and I can assure you that many people have gone through this. It was always set up as, well Tom, I will say this, to be a live resource. Well it will be reviewed, as we get the feedback, they'll be adjusted, new materials will be put up, and that was always the intent and that will continue.
ALAN TUDGE: At the end of the day we do want these matters to be taught better in schools. These are some materials which can be used - not compulsory - and they’re a complement to other materials which state and territories do have.
TOM CONNELL: Alan Tudge appreciate your time. We'll talk again, perhaps, when the childcare plan has been revealed. Thank you.
ALAN TUDGE: Thanks very much, Tom.