TUESDAY, 30 JANUARY 2024
SUBJECTS: A better and fairer education system; Cheaper Child Care; Schools Upgrade Fund; Dunkley by-election; Bigger tax cuts for more Australians; Housing; Teacher workforce; ACCC report on early childhood education and care
JODIE BELYEA: Good morning. I’m Jodie Belyea. I’m the Labor candidate for the Dunkley by-election and I’m thrilled to be here this morning with the Minister for Education, Jason Clare. So thanks for coming, Jason.
I’m excited to be here today because we’re here at Derinya. We have a school that I belong to. With my son starting school here in primary school, it’s a terrific community. Frankston has exceptional schools and education facilities. We have primary schools, like Derinya, we have Frankston Secondary College, we have Chisholm TAFE and Monash University.
Education is a really important part of learning and development, of building connections with others and of belonging to a community. I’m really thrilled to be here today to acknowledge the incredible commitment by the Government to education. Victoria is the education state. And we are very fortunate to have the opportunities for our children, our teenagers and adults. My son Flynn started school here a number of years ago. And today, him and his mates are starting their first year of secondary college, in VCE at Frankston Secondary College. I’d now like to take the opportunity to invite the Minister Jason Clare to come and speak. Thanks, Jason.
JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Thanks very much, Jodie. Peta Murphy and I used to talk about education all the time. She understood the power of education to change lives in this community and right around the country. And yesterday, we got a report out that showed that we’ve managed to cut the cost of childcare for parents in this country by 11 per cent. That’s making a difference here in this community in Dunkley, and right across the country. And that happened, because Peta voted for it. Because she understood the power of education. And Jodie understands that, I know through your own child’s experience here at the school. You know it in your time as a TAFE teacher. You know what education can do and I know Jodie, that you want to build on Peta’s legacy.
And today is an exciting day, because school’s back here in Victoria, and in many states, right across the country. A lot of excited students, you can hear some of them in the background right now, and a lot of relieved and happy parents, school holidays are over and school is back.
This is a big year for education. It’s a year where we focus on building back our teaching workforce. We have a teacher shortage crisis right across the country. And there is work that needs to be done and is being done to build back our workforce. This has been happening now for about 10 years. Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a drop in the number of young people enrolling in teaching at university. But some good news finally this year in Victoria, and that is that we’re now seeing a 10 per cent increase in the number of offers to students to study teaching at university, right here in Melbourne, right here in Victoria. And that will help to start to turn this around.
We also have to build back our infrastructure in our schools. And I just wanted to make a quick shout out to all public schools across the country, about our school upgrade fund. Applications for that fund are open right now. Applications close at the end of February. These are for big infrastructure projects in our public schools. To build new classrooms, to upgrade classrooms, new woodwork rooms, or music rooms, or art rooms, or the type of upgrades to synthetic playgrounds that we saw just a moment ago, as we were walking here to this press conference. Things that can make a real physical difference in our schools, and create better learning environments for our kids. That’s the Schools Upgrade Fund. Applications close at the end of February so I encourage all principals of public schools to put their applications in.
And then finally and more fundamentally, this is a year to help build a better and a fairer education system. To sign a new agreement with all the States and Territories across the country to finally fully fund all of our schools across the country. And to do that, it’s going to require the Commonwealth Government and State and Territory Governments to work together. For the Commonwealth Government to chip in and for State and Territory Governments to chip in and to tie that money to the sort of practical, real things that are going to change children’s lives forever. Tie those things to the things we know work. That are going to help children to keep up at school, help children who fall behind to catch up at school, and to help make sure that more young people finish school.
Over the last six or seven years, we’ve seen a drop in the number of young people finishing high school. Jodie, I know this must be on your mind as your little boy, now bigger boy goes into high school. In the last six or seven years, we’ve seen a drop in the number of people finishing high school, particularly in public schools, particularly children from poor backgrounds. And this is happening at a time where we need more people to finish school and then go on to TAFE or on to university, because the jobs being created now require you to go to TAFE, like you did Jodie, or to go to university. We’re also seeing that more and more young people from poorer backgrounds are falling behind at school and staying behind, not catching up. That helps to explain why we’re seeing a drop over the last few years on the number of people finishing high school. We have got to turn that around. And this school agreement that we need to strike this year is all about that – building a better and a fair education system for all children across Australia. Happy to take some questions.
JOURNALIST: Jodie, just on stage three tax cuts. What have you heard from voters about stage three tax cuts since the Government changed its position? Are voters that have supported the Liberal Party now wanting to back you?
BELYEA: I’ve been out and about over the last two weeks door knocking, and on the stations, and the overwhelming response that I’m getting is that people are really supportive of the stage three tax cuts. It makes sense for people, and particularly in the community of Dunkley 87 per cent of the population are set to have increased tax relief.
JOURNALIST: Minister just staying on stage three tax cuts Do you think that your stage three tax cut changes are enough to get voters off the line and the Dunkley by-election?
CLARE: These tax cuts will mean bigger tax cuts for tens of thousands of people here in Dunkley, but they’ll also mean a bigger tax cut for more than 10 million Australians. From coast to coast, right across the country. This means a tax cut for every taxpayer in Australia. As Jodie, said 87 per cent of taxpayers get a bigger tax cut here in Dunkley, but it’s not just Dunkley. This is right across the country. From coast to coast. Every taxpayer will get a tax cut. 84 per cent of taxpayers across the country will get a tax cut and 87 per cent of taxpayers here in Dunkley will get a bigger tax cut. All the time, I get asked questions by journalists, about the cost-of-living, and about the fact that Aussies are doing it tough. And I often talk about the cuts to the cost of childcare, that I just mentioned a moment ago, dropping by 11 per cent. I’ll often talk about the cuts to the cost of medicine that are significant, big cuts to the cost of medicine. I talk about the changes we’ve made to cut the cost of electricity bills. And journalists will often say, but what more can you do? Well, this is what we can do. We can offer bigger tax cuts, to 11 million Australians coming in on the 1st of July. And that will really help a lot of Australians.
JOURNALIST: Was the by-election in Dunkley part of the decision-making process in the stage three tax cuts?
JOURNALIST: Just on negative gearing, given the Prime Minister said economic conditions have changed will the Government consider looking at whether changes should be made to negative gearing?
CLARE: Jim Chalmers answered this question yesterday. We’ve got tax changes for housing, around build to rent, to encourage more investors to invest in housing to build more affordable rental accommodation. We’re also rolling out our Help to Buy Plan, which is designed to help more Australians who want to buy their first home that can’t afford to borrow the full amount of money to be able to buy their first home with help from the Australian Government. This is modelled on what has happened here in Victoria, as well as what’s happened in WA and New South Wales. And that’s a real practical way to help Aussies who want to buy their first home, to get into the market and not have to get a mortgage for the full amount, with help from the Australian Government. So they’re the big changes we’re focused on. Helping people to buy a home and building more affordable rental accommodation with that tax change, to rent to buy.
JOURNALIST: The ACCC says giving out larger subsidies for childcare ends up increasing the cost for parents. What can the Government do to stop that?
CLARE: The steps that we took over the last 12 months have worked. They have cut the cost of childcare on average to parents by 11 per cent. That’s a good thing. But that’s just the first step. What this report tells us is what are the next things that we could or should do? It suggests changes to the childcare subsidy cap. That’s not working at the moment, they say that we should move from an hourly cap to a daily cap. It says that if childcare centres jack up their prices exponentially, then they should be forced to explain that to the Australian Government. And if they don’t have a good explanation, they should be publicly named and shamed. So there are a raft of different recommendations in the report. They also talk about what extra things we can do in places where there are no childcare centres. So we’re going to take those recommendations, we’re also going to take the recommendations that we’ll get from the Productivity Commission in a couple of months’ time on what we need to do to build a universal early education system and respond to both of those reports at the same time.
JOURNALIST: Just on teacher shortages. Many of the kids who start back [indistinct] don’t have ongoing classroom or subject teachers is that good enough?
CLARE: We have a teacher shortage crisis. I mentioned that on the ABC this morning, you heard me. We’ve got to turn that around. There is nothing more important in a classroom than a teacher. Not enough people are enrolling to want to be a teacher and too many people are leaving the profession they love. Part of that’s pay. And there’s been some good news on that front in places like New South Wales in the last few months. Part of that’s workload. The idea that teachers start at nine and finish at three is rubbish. And there’s work being done across the country to try to reduce workload for teachers to make it more manageable. Part of it is respect. A lot of teachers in their heart of hearts feel like they’re not respected by the community that they live in, that they work in, that they love. And it’s something we’ve got to do something about too. If you go to a place like Singapore, you’ll find that most teachers feel like they’re respected by the community. And as a result, there’s a line out the door of university of people wanting to become a teacher. That’s what the ‘Be That Teacher’ advertising campaign that’s running right now is about. About changing the way we as a country think about our teachers, and changing the way our teachers think about their job and the way that the community thinks about them. But there is also more work that we need to do to make sure that the course at university is more practical. Make sure that teaching students get the fundamental skills that they need from day one to teach children to read, write, and do maths. To improve the practical training, they get. Lots of teachers tell me that they don’t feel ready for the job when they first start. They can feel overwhelmed and drowning in the job. That’s why a lot leave in the first couple of years. So there’s lots of reform that needs to happen, both at school and before students even get into a classroom. And fundamentally, the way to do that is for the Australian Government to work hand-in-hand with State and Territory Governments. And that’s what we’ve got to do.
JOURNALIST: We’ve heard that there have been many visa holdups for overseas teachers coming here to teach. What are you doing to address that?
CLARE: There’s about I think around 2,000 teachers from overseas who have been granted visas over the last year or so, to come and work here. Think about that, in the context of the size of the challenge. We’ve got about 300,000 teachers in our classrooms today, we’ve got thousands of gaps right across the country. Getting teachers in from overseas is only a small part of addressing this challenge. We need to make sure that we encourage more people to want to be a teacher, to get into university and study teaching, and help to make sure that more of them finish their degree, at the moment only 50 per cent do. And then make sure that we’ve got the measures and the support in place to help make sure that our teachers who are here today want to be here tomorrow.
JOURNALIST: Jodie, have voters raised concerns the Prime Minister broken election promise by changing tax cuts?
BELYEA: No they haven’t raised those concerns with me. They’ve only talked about the relief and the positivity of the decision made by Prime Minister and Treasurer. Thanks very much.