Transcript: Jenny McAllister On The Budget, Education Spending, The Women's Budget Statement And Foreign Aid

8.30am | May 09, 2017





SUBJECT/S: The Budget, Education Spending, Women’s Budget Statement, Labor advertisement, Mark Latham, Foreign Aid

SENATOR MCALLISTER: Malcolm Turnbull, in this morning’s papers, has set his own test for the performance of the Government in this budget. He’s said that that test is opportunity, fairness and security. Well, from everything we know, in relation to education, this budget won’t meet that test. Essentially, to the last election, they went to the 2013 election, promising that they would implement the Gonski reforms, which provided for needs-based funding for every school in every sector. They promised they would implement those reforms in full. Within minutes of arriving in government they tore up those agreements and implemented a $30 billion cut.

Well in this budget that’s been wound back to a $22 billion cut. Well big deal. Because the parents in the Catholic system, teachers in the Catholic system, the parents in the public system, the teachers in the public system, are not buying this story. We have seen education ministers, state education ministers, across all states, except Tasmania, express their grave reservations about the impact of these cuts on the schools in their states. That includes in my state where Rob Stokes has come out to express his concerns, the Liberal Education Minister, and he is obviously concerned about a cut that has the potential to take as much as $7 billion out of my state (inaudible) in education.

Last night we saw a Government Frontbencher, Senator Seselja make his concerns known about the impact that this change to the schools policy will have on schools in the ACT. Now Zed Seselja is the first person to come out publicly and state his concerns from the Coalition side. They are meeting in their party room today as I understand it, and if those Members and Senators from NSW my state, have any courage whatsoever, they will go into that party room and state their concerns about the impact of this cut on the schools in their electorates. Because certainly we will not let up on this conversation. This is a completely unacceptable budget arrangement that does not meet the test of fairness and opportunity that they have posed.

Separately I wanted to make just a couple of remarks about something that’s quite important to me, which is the impact of all budget arrangements on women. Women occupy a very different position in the economy to men, they earn less, they have different work patterns, they have different consumer patterns including different health expenditure and so when we see changes to the budget around education, higher education fees, when we see changes to the budget around health, when we see changes to tax policy, we can be certain that they will impact on Australian women differently to the way they impact on Australian men.

In the past we had a specific budget statement that examined the impact of the budget on women. And it was one way of making sure that women’s needs were not overlooked as they have too frequently been in the past. That was abolished under this Government, and it is the policy of Labor to bring back the women’s budget statement and so we will be examining, very carefully, the impact of this budget on women. And we will be having more to say about this in the coming days.

JOURNALIST: On schools, it is less money provided but it is more targeted. They are standing alongside Gonski to announce these, isn’t there some good in that? Labor now says that these are pale imitations of Labor policies and they don’t quite stand up to it, but they are quite similar. And the Government is now talking about fairness and using a lot of Labor’s language. So what about that aspect of it? 

MCALLISTER: The Government has spent the last two years saying money doesn’t matter in relation to schools. And they have finally twigged that the community understands this to be completely ridiculous. Of course the Schools Resourcing Standard makes a great deal of difference to the level of support that individual students can receive. That said, they’re not really prepared to put their money where their mouth is. We know that investment in education has both benefits for fairness but also benefits for productivity and yet this is clearly not a priority for the Liberal Government. Because despite the recommendation being that we see a very significant investment in schooling to get all the schools up to the School Resource Standard, what’s proposed is a pale imitation of the Labor proposition and it represents a $22 billion wind-back of the arrangements that were previously put in place and agreed with State Governments.

JOURNALIST: Senator the reaction to the advertisement, the Labor advertisement, has been pretty adverse. Was it inappropriate?

MCALLISTER: Bill’s made it very clear that he was unhappy with the advertisement, and I think that is appropriate.

JOURNALIST: That is appropriate?

MCALLISTER: Bill’s response is appropriate. The ad was not appropriate; Bill’s made that very clear.

JOURNALIST: Also Latham has joined up with Leyonhjelm here, would you wish him well if he were to come back to politics in that particular party?

MCALLISTER: I won’t be shedding any tears to see Mark Latham make his final break from the Australian Labor Party. He has made a range of contributions to Australian public life that are pretty inconsistent with Labor values, particularly in relation to women. And I was horrified by the way that he pursued Rosie Batty, I won’t be sorry to see him leave our party.

JOURNALIST: I’d like to get your thoughts on foreign aid and Australia’s contribution and the progressive cuts (inaudible). What is the impact of those cuts on Australia’s foreign obligations (inaudible)?

MCALLISTER: If we are truly concerned about Australia’s security, we ought to be concerned about our role as good international citizens. There is great need, many people experiencing very very distressing conditions internationally, and we owe it as a relatively wealthy country, to make our contribution alongside all of the other developed world nations. I think (inaudible).

JOURNALIST: Barnaby Joyce has said we have a moral responsibility to help other countries keep their lights on, he’s used that as an argument about Adani. Do we have a moral responsibility in terms of foreign aid?

MCALLISTER: We have ethical obligations as a part of the international community but it’s also in our own interests to have stability in the region, secure economies. We can’t achieve that by ourselves, but we can contribute to it as part of our international obligations, and we should.