Television Interview with Lisa Millar and Madeleine Morris – ABC News Breakfast – Tuesday 18 October 2022


SUBJECTS: Education; Flood impacts; Israel’s capital.

MADELEINE MORRIS: So, from one very big story to another – and it’s proving to be a really tough week for the education sector. A new report out today has found writing skills declining in schools.

LISA MILLAR: And this comes a day after a Grattan Institute report found many teachers are struggling with daily lesson planning.

Education Minister Jason Clare joins me now from Parliament House in Canberra. Minister, good morning, welcome to the program.

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Good morning, Lisa, thank you.

MILLAR: Are Australian students getting the education they deserve at the moment?

CLARE: We’ve seen over the last 10 years, Lisa, that with NAPLAN results primary school children’s reading and maths has improved. You can see a marked improvement in the reading and maths skills of primary school students, but not for children from poorer backgrounds, from disadvantaged schools, like the one I went to. That’s a serious problem. It’s evidence of where we need to better target funding to help children in that situation.

And this report today shows that for young people, particularly in high school, that writing skills are going in the wrong direction. So, it’s an important report. It tells us that we need to do better. The normal response from an Education Minister would be, “Well, teachers need to do more. Teachers need to do better.” But I think we know better than that. Teachers are already overworked, already overloaded. It’s one of the reasons that we’re seeing a lot of teachers leaving the profession.

MILLAR: Well, I think you said yesterday on Triple J, if it was reported correctly, there’s been a drop of 16 per cent in the numbers of teachers signing up in the first place.

CLARE: We’ve got three problems. We’ve got a drop in the number of young people going into teaching at university, and that’s about 16 per cent. We don’t have enough students completing their teaching degrees – only 50 per cent of people who start a teaching degree finish it, and that’s lower than the percentage of students who start a law degree or a medical degree. And we’ve got too many teachers resigning rather than retiring, giving up on the profession they love. Part of that is because they’re overworked.

Lisa, most people watching the program today know that this idea that teachers rock up at 9 o’clock and knock off at 3 o’clock is just rubbish. And that Grattan report that came out yesterday proves it. It tells the story about teachers spending on average about an extra 6 hours a week developing their own lesson plans. Some are spending much more time than that – all their weekends as well.

We can potentially fix both of these problems with the one solution if we can help teachers by providing them with high-quality curriculum materials that they can use.

MILLAR: Well, there’s a lot of demands on the budget coming up. You need money to do that kind of stuff. Are you confident that you’re going to be able to be the Minister who can make these changes?

CLARE: Well, it’s one of the things I want to first talk to teachers about. Not every teacher wants a lesson plan. The teachers wanted to do it themselves, but particularly for young teachers, early career teachers, it can be a really big help. I want to talk to teachers about it, and I want to talk to Education Ministers about it in December. But it strikes me that workload being a problem, and materials being an important part of helping teachers do that, and an important part of improving their effectiveness as a teacher, is that we should talk about this in December at the next Education Ministers meeting. And think about how we can feed that in to the next National School Reform Agreement, where negotiations for that will kick off next year.

MILLAR: Just a couple of quick other subjects. We’re looking at these dreadful pictures coming out of the flood zone, and we’ve had the warning that prices also are going to increase, whether it’s milk, fruit, vegetables – you name it. Just how bad is it going to get for Australians who are already facing this cost of living crisis?

CLARE: Well, first and foremost, we’ve got people who have lost everything already – they’ve lost their home. There’s people still isolated waiting to be rescued. There’s people that need to be evacuated. So, the focus fairly and squarely today needs to be on the work the SES and the army are doing to help people who need rescuing and need help to get their lives back.

I see reports today also of people looting homes. You know, it doesn’t get much worse than that. Natural disasters tend to bring out the best in Australians, but they also bring out the scum, and you’ve seen examples of that in Victoria. And that is frankly bloody awful.

In terms of what it means for the rest of us, well, when the food bowl gets smashed it has a flow-on effect at the supermarket. We’ve already got the problem of rising inflation, and that’s pushed interest rates up. This makes it worse because you’re going to see less food available, prices going up. It makes it harder for everyday Aussies. So, things will get harder before they get better. No doubt about it.

MILLAR: Minister, finally, can you clear up some confusion about what’s going on with Australia’s position recognising West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? The words have disappeared from the DFAT website. The Foreign Minister Penny Wong has put out a statement saying there’s been no change to Australia’s position. What’s going on?

CLARE: Well, Tel Aviv remains the place where the Australian Embassy is in Israel. No decision has been made yet about this. So, you know, if you want me to clear it up, no decision’s been made yet. As you know, under the former government, Scott Morrison made the decision to recognise West Jerusalem as capital of Israel. I think that followed Donald Trump’s lead. We need to make a decision as Cabinet about that. No decision has been made yet.

MILLAR: Did the policy disappear from the DFAT website a little early? Like, has there been a miscommunication here?

CLARE: Don’t know. Not sure, Lisa. I can’t talk to that. All I can tell you is no decision has been made yet. We’ll make that decision as a Cabinet, and we’ll make that in due course.

MILLAR: All right. Minister Jason Clare, thanks for coming on the program.

CLARE: No worries. Thanks, Lisa.