Doorstop Interview – Perth – Tuesday 29 August 2023

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
DOORSTOP
PERTH
TUESDAY 29 AUGUST 2023 

SUBJECTS: Edith Cowan University City Campus; School funding; NAPLAN results; Sexual assault on university campuses

PATRICK GORMAN, MEMBER FOR PERTH: Patrick Gorman, Federal Member for Perth and it’s great to be here with Arshad Omari the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Edith Cowan University, and my friend and colleague Jason Clare the Minister for Education. We’ve just been seeing the wonderful Edith Cowan University City campus really springing to life. It felt like just a couple of weeks ago we were here doing the ground-breaking on this project and now it is popping out of the ground, soon to be home. Some 10,000 students studying here in the CBD on top of the Perth City Link, a project which Prime Minister Albanese was proud to fund when he was Infrastructure Minister. And it’s been great to see what the workers construction team are doing here. I want to congratulate all the work they’ve done to get this really going. And it’s great to have the Minister of Education. One of the things we’re really committed to doing is opening the doors of opportunity, making sure that more people get that world-class Australian university education. This is a key part of that. And it’s really great to have Jason here today, see what our great West Australian University, Edith Cowan, is doing here in Perth City. I’ll hand over to Jason.

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Thanks, Pat. Thanks Arshad and the whole team at Edith Cowan University for showing us around today. This will change the skyline of Perth, but more importantly, it’ll change the lives of thousands of young people here in Perth, and right around WA.

It’s hard to predict the future, but one thing’s for certain, in the years ahead, more people will go to university. More and more jobs will require a university qualification. That’s one of the findings out of the Universities Accord Interim Report that I released a couple of weeks ago. It made it clear that in the years ahead, more and more people will go to university. Not just that, more and more people will go to TAFE. We know that nine out of ten new jobs being created in the economy right now will require you to finish school and then go on to TAFE or to university.

That’s why campuses like this are important. Almost every capital city in the country has a university campus right in the heart of the CBD, and now with this new campus that Edith Cowan is building here in Perth, we have a campus in the heart of town as well.

One of the things that struck me this morning, looking around at the construction site, is just how close the bus stop and the railway station are and how much easier that will make it for people who want to go to university to go to university. Building campuses in our CBDs, but also in our outer suburbs, in our regions is key to making sure that we meet the targets that the Accord report talks about. Because if more and more people need to go to university, one of the things that we need to do is make sure that more people finish school and more people from our outer suburbs and our regions get a fair crack at going to university. This university being built here in the heart of town is a key part of that. I’m really glad to be here, Arshad. Thanks for showing us around. I really do see this as part of a puzzle in making sure that we provide the campuses, the facilities and the opportunity for young people in the years ahead to get a fair crack at going to university.

Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: A new report by the Australia Institute found lagging school completion rates have been tackled by addressing inadequate funding. An estimated 15 per cent is needed as an increase in public funding to meet Department of Education school resources standards, is that something the government is prepared to commit to?

CLARE: We said before the election that we’ll work with states and territories to make sure that we fix that funding gap. But not just that. We’ve got to fix the education gap that exists in this country. I talked a moment ago about the importance of people finishing school so they can go on to TAFE and university because that’s where most of the jobs are going to be in the years ahead. Over the course of the last six years, we’ve seen a drop in the number of young people finishing school, particularly in public schools, particularly young people from poor backgrounds. Now, you can draw a line back to what’s happening in primary school, and even beyond that, into early education. If you’re a young person from a poor family, you’re less likely to go to preschool and you’re more likely to fall behind in primary school.

The NAPLAN results last week told us that about one in ten young people are in the lowest category, below what we used to call the minimum standard. But young people from poor families, young people from the bush, young Indigenous Australians have got about a one in three chance of being in that lowest group. And not just that, the evidence now shows us that if you’re in that lowest group when you’re eight years old, you’re more than likely to still be in that group by the time you’re about 15. In other words, if you’re below the minimum standard when you’re in third grade, you’re more likely than not to still be below the minimum standard when you’re in year nine. They’re the young people who are most likely to drop out of school, not finish high school, not go to TAFE, not get a chance to go to ECU. So, if we’re going to fix that, we have to fix not just the funding. We’ve got to make sure that money is tied to the sort of things that are going to help those children who have fallen behind in primary school catch up and then to keep up in high school and then to finish high school and then to get a crack at going to a university like this.

JOURNALIST: That’s a pretty specific figure, 15 per cent. Where, if the government is going to spend more on public education, where’s that money going to come from?

CLARE: Next year we’re going to negotiate the next National School Reform Agreement with the states and with the territories. We’re also going to have bilateral agreements with each state and territory. Part of those negotiations is going to be how do we fix that funding gap. That funding gap is about 5 per cent. At the moment, the Commonwealth provides about 20 per cent of the funding to the states for public schools and the states provide 75 per cent. 20 plus 75 is 95 so a 5 per cent gap. The negotiations next year are going to be who’s going to contribute to fill that 5 per cent gap and what’s the money going to be invested in. I’ve made it clear that, unlike previous negotiations, where money from the Commonwealth has been untied, this time the money will be tied to the things that we know work that are going to help children who fall behind to catch up in school.

JOURNALIST: Just moving on to sexual assault rates at universities, have you met with state and territory Education Ministers yet to discuss issues around sexual violence on campus? And if so, what specific concerns were raised?

CLARE: The week before last, state and territory representatives met with my department as part of a working group to focus on this. I’ll be meeting with state and territory ministers in the first week of October to look at this specifically. One of the things that the Accord Team recommended was that we act now to set up a working group made up of state and territory representatives on university governance. Who should run universities? How do we make sure that the staff are properly paid? How do we make sure that the staff and the students are safe? Universities aren’t just places where people study and work, they’re also places where people live. And I think I’ve made it pretty clear over the last few weeks that no university has done a good enough job of keeping students safe.

In the meetings I’ve had with End Rape On Campus, Stop, with a number of different organisations, they’ve made it clear that more work needs to be done here. I think the research, the surveys that have been done in the past by people like Kate Jenkins have proven that point beyond a shadow of a doubt. We do need to do more here. The working group is a key part of that. We’ve got Patty Kinnersly, the CEO of Our Watch, on that working group to provide me and state and territory ministers with the sort of recommendations we need to make sure that we do a better job of keeping our students safe.

JOURNALIST: I appreciate those meetings are in their initial stage, but have any specific issues been raised around sexual violence on campus?

CLARE: There’s been issues raised with me by organisations like End Rape On Campus as well as STOP about the inability at some of the universities where students go to to be able to put information out in the dormitories, where they live, where they work, the type of services that exist or don’t exist. For students who need either health support or legal advice. Those sorts of things have come up already. There’s been ideas put about how we can either improve what TEQSA does here or some sort of independent body as well. All of that will be considered by this working group with the benefit of some expert advice by Patty Kinnersly. And I’ve made it very, very clear to both the working group and to Patty in my conversations with her that I want to make sure that they’re talking to students, that they’re talking to organisations like End Rape On Campus, because they’re talking to the students that experience this.

JOURNALIST: Universities Australia recently decided to hold another national student safety survey. Wasn’t clear for some time whether that would happen. The Human Rights Commission has recommended it should happen every three years. Would you like to see universities commits to that to ensure it’ll actually happen.

CLARE: In a sense we know the problem. What I want is action. I welcome the fact that Universities Australia are doing the survey again, I want to recognise and thank Claudia Long from the ABC. She’s the journalist who has led this in the media more than anybody else in the country. Action happens because of brave journalists, professional journalists, who are committed to this task, who shine a light in dark corners of our country and Claudia has done that. Surveys are important, but there’s something more important than just identifying the size of the problem and that’s doing what we can to address it. The work that the working group does over the next couple of weeks and months is going to be critical. They’ll provide recommendations to me and other ministers when we meet in December. I said a moment ago, ministers will be briefed in October, the first week in October on the status of the work that the working group is doing. We’ll get their final recommendations in December about steps that we should take to address some of the issues.

JOURNALIST: [indistinct] short of backing a, sort of, mandatory three-year survey?

CLARE: If Universities Australia decides to do that, I would welcome that.

JOURNALIST: Just finally, sorry, a number of sexual violence prevention groups and experts in this area say they’re yet to be contacted by the working group to share their expertise. Can you tell us when you expect to start discussions with those experts?

CLARE: I would want that to happen ASAP. I’ve made it clear to my department, and I’ve made it clear to members of the working group that the key to success here is talking to organisations like End Rape On Campus, Stop and Fair Agenda and others. They’ve got the expertise here. When a young woman is raped on campus somewhere around the country, more often than not they’ll call the police and they’ll call organisations like End Rape On Campus. They’re dealing with this right now, and they’re going to provide invaluable input to the recommendations that I get at the end of the year.

ENDS