SUBJECT/S: Needs-based schools funding; Royal Commission into banks

KIERAN GILBERT: With me now the Shadow Assistant Minister for Schools, Andrew Giles, Mr Giles thanks very much for your time. The literacy and numeracy skills have stalled their improvement, at least in the latest NAPLAN results to be released today, despite record dollars going into our school system. That is a disappointment as the minister pointed out this morning, what’s your reaction to it?

ANDREW GILES, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR SCHOOLS: Well it’s a disappointment. I should say firstly, great to be with you, but I’d really query you saying despite the record investment. I think what the results show is the need for us to continue down the path of needs-based funding in schools if we’re serious about lifting our students’ performance.

GILBERT: But doesn’t it show that money alone – increased money – doesn’t guarantee better results?

GILES: I think no one is saying that money alone is important, but what we are continuing to see and what certainly I’ve seen in the few days that I’ve been in the job is that the Gonski funds that are flowing into schools now are making a difference in schools. And I think that next year when we see the My School data that picture will become much, much clearer.

GILBERT: Now in terms of the early intervention that the Minister was referring to before the break, what’s your view on his argument that there needs to be more evidence based measures in place, like early intervention in infant school and also in terms of improved teacher training and performance? 

GILES: Well I get a bit concerned when Senator Birmingham refers to evidence base. He talked about an evidence base justifying the decision to walk away from the years five and six of Gonski funding back in April, and basically every educational expert slammed him for that; said the evidence base was non-existent. I think the same applies here. When he talks about evidence base it seems to be walking away from the big evidence base that used to be the basis for what was called a unity ticket in needs-based schools funding. When the Gonski report recommended the student resourcing standard that didn’t fall from the sky, Kieran, it was the basis of an exhaustive piece of work and it’s a piece of work that deserves to be seen through, not walked away from at a cost to our students and indeed to our economy. 

GILBERT: But to this point the funding is still at record levels isn’t it, you’d agree with that? And up to $20 billion for the schools in terms of federal funding by 2020, that trajectory continues at least for the medium term? 

GILES: Well the trajectory that this government has put us on is $29 billion less than what’s needed. The government has chosen to prioritise corporate tax cuts over investing in our kids, and investing in our future. It is $29 billion that would be very well spent in terms of advancing our kids’ education, particularly in terms of supporting the types of intervention that Senator Birmingham. The sorts of interventions that are already making a difference in schools today as a result of the Gonski money. 

GILBERT: Do you accept his argument - and really defence of the government’s performance over the last three years - that a lot of their measures in terms of improving teacher performance and teacher qualifications, that that will inevitably have a lag impact on school and student performance? 

GILES: Well it is curious that he talks about the lag in that regard, but doesn’t accept that there might be a lag in terms of the overall improvement when he talks about yesterday’s NAPLAN figures. I think all of these interventions will take time, and that’s our argument, that we need a sustained investment in needs-based funding if we are serious about lifting the output in our schools. I think that goes across all the measures in schools.

GILBERT: Now can I ask you about another issue around today, and that’s the banks handing less than half of the full 25 basis point cut by the RBA yesterday. The Labor Party no doubt would see this just reinforcing your view of the need for a Royal Commission into the banks? 

GILES: Yeah, absolutely no doubt. What we’re seeing today is a really contemptuous decision on the part of the big banks to ignore their responsibility to the community. What’s really disappointing is to see government members effectively acting as spectators rather than people with any engagement in these issues. This is why Labor pushed so hard before the election for a Royal Commission into the banks, and this is why it remains Labor policy. 

GILBERT: What about the banks, and the Treasurer for that matter, pointing out that they’ve increased rates for deposits for savers? 

GILES: That’s fine for them to say, but what we are seeing again is some systemic issues in the banking sector and a government which is unwilling to take seriously its responsibilities. That’s why we’re calling for a Royal Commission, that’s why a Royal Commission continues to be warranted. It’s all well and good for Senator Birmingham to talk about ASIC having the powers, but that’s different from the capacity to really look forensically at what is happening in our banking sector. That’s what’s warranted, that’s what Australian consumers deserve and indeed that’s what the Australian economy warrants as well. 

GILBERT: Labor frontbencher Andrew Giles, the Shadow Assistant Minister for Schools, thank you for your time this morning, we really appreciate it.

GILES: Thanks very much Kieran.   

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