Sky News Interview: Education funding, Malcolm Turnbull’s $13 billion handout to big banks, Banking Royal Commission



SUBJECTS: Education Funding, Malcolm Turnbull’s $13 billion Handout to Big Banks, Banking Royal Commission

HOST, KIERAN GILBERT: Welcome back to the program. With me now is Labor’s Peter Khalil and the Liberal Party’s Tim Wilson. Tim, so important we get this spending right. We’re talking about tens of billions of dollars into schools around the country. Not just because of the spending but the impact on future generations. Do you feel that the Government has got this sufficiently right with the latest report in terms of how to get the best bang for the buck in the Gonski plan.

LIBERAL MP, TIM WILSON: [inaudible] got the approach right at every step which is to focus on making sure there’s the available resources that schools need to make sure that kids get a good education, to remove a lot of the discrepancies in the system so all Australian students are treated equally by the Government. But it’s conditional very much on the follow through. The report that’s come out today has outlined David Gonski’s recommendations about how we should achieve that. I’ve no doubt the Government will review it. It’s backed the spirit and the intent, but when it comes to the detail it’s obviously going to require making sure that we follow through practically. Because the recommendations of the report have to translate directly into the classroom and making sure we’re getting those best outcomes for the next generation of Australians to have the best opportunity to be educated, to learn, to grow and then of course to be able to be successful in their whole life.

GILBERT: Absolutely, it seems to resonate I think with everyone that you would monitor as best as possible, Peter Khalil, the individual student and their needs, as opposed to just simply saying they’re in that year cohort, hence they move on at this time. As opposed to checking the real literacy and numeracy standard of each and every individual and from what I can tell this online tool, while Jennifer Buckingham from the Centre of Independent Studies wasn’t convinced about the evidence based nature of the whole approach, that idea of checking the literacy standards and numeracy standards seems to make a lot of sense, Peter.

FEDERAL LABOR MEMBER FOR WILLS, PETER KHALIL: Yeah, Kieran, I know Labor will be looking at this review very closely. All of us have the objective of making sure that every student maximises their potential and the tailored assessments, if you like, for each individual student are part of this review as I understand it. It’s very important to get that right going forward. But frankly, I have to say, why did they $17 billion out the Gonski funding? And Malcolm Turnbull says “oh well, we can’t afford to fund all the schools”; well, why don’t you put the $17 billion back into the budget. That would be a good start to help students across the country.

WILSON: Kieran, this is a fictitious argument that’s being put out. What the Government is clearly focused on firstly is not just the amount of money that’s being put in. No-one is disputing that does have an important role…

KHALIL: It does help, Tim!

WILSON: That does have an important role in making sure that students get the best education. But it’s actually about outcomes and the outcomes you get and the value you get for those dollars. Because the outcomes and the value isn’t measured financially, it’s measured in the capacity of young minds and their potential to contribute to Australia. Peter seems to be disagreeing with my point, but…

GILBERT: Let me ask Peter about this. Because the fundamental number here is the Government are still putting more than $23 billion into the system over the next ten years, Peter. So there becomes a point doesn’t there that it’s the approach, not the dollars?

KHALIL: Well, that’s a convenient argument that Tim’s made there. But frankly the facts are that they are $17 billion short. If you’re going to tell me that doesn’t make a difference to schools, doesn’t make a difference to students and the quality of their education, doesn’t make a different to the ratio between teachers and students and all the rest of it, then we’re in cuckoo land. Tim’s right, outcomes are important, but so is funding. And you’ve got to get both right.

WILSON: And that’s the reality. We’re getting the funding and we’re getting it tied directly to the outcomes to improve the welfare of students. I want to make this point again – the outcome and the value of the money spent in education is not based in dollars, it’s in the human potential of future generations of Australians.

KHALIL: Nice spin!

GILBERT: We have to move on. We’re not going to resolve that debate. It’s been had many times before about that number, whether or not the Government’s going to look at. Obviously we don’t expect any Government will until Labor wins an election, possibly the next one, Peter Khalil. But if you look at the broader budget, things are looking up, Tim Wilson. Wind in the sails, so to speak. Revenue very strong according to Chris Richardson this morning. Gives you a lot of scope for tax cuts, removing the levy. Obviously you don’t want bake in these short term numbers in the longer term, do you?

WILSON: I think what we’ve seen is obviously an improvement in the situation in the economy. Yes, some of it is to do with commodity prices. But it’s also to do with a high number of people being employed. We’re seeing a large number of people moving off tax consuming welfare benefits, onto employment and then becoming tax contributors. That’s part of the reason why we’ve seen such a significant improvement. That’s because we’ve seen a thousand new jobs created under this Government every day. So there are lots of good news there, but I always look at any opportunity or any revenue stream as the case for reform and I’ve made no secret about my view that with available resources we should be pursuing tax reform to improve the state of the budget, not just in the short term but in the long term, as well as the hip pockets of Australians.

GILBERT: Just reiterate that for us this morning before I go to Peter for his thoughts. What exactly do you want to see in that sense?

WILSON: Obviously there’s a budget that’s going to be released that’s going to be released next week. We’re hearing that there’s going to be income tax cuts. That’s good. But I’m always a big supporter of when you have revenue and it enables you to be able to finance reform that you seek to do so. So I’m always looking to the future and bigger tax reform in the future.

GILBERT: Alright, Peter Khalil, your thoughts on that and the prospect for what the Government might be able to do here is a bit of budget repair, as well as removing the Medicare levy increase and incomes tax cuts. It’s, as I say, the wind in their sails in an economic sense at the moment.

KHALIL: You mention it, Kieran, about the global headwinds if you like, or the wind in their sails. The good global conditions means that there is a boost to tax revenue. And again, I find it striking and remarkable this mythology around the Coalition being good economic managers. But when you look at the facts, since 2014 the deficit is eight times bigger, net debt has doubled, gross debt has actually crashed through a half trillion dollars

WILSON: [interjecting] And we tried to reduce that. You stopped it, Peter!

KHALIL: Now, don’t blame the opposition. You’re in Government and you’ve been in Government for five years. The facts are that this Government are poor economic managers…

WILSON: [interjecting] Have you tried to support the Government’s plan to reduce spending?

KHALIL: What I would say is this….

WILSON: [interjecting] Have you tried to support the Government’s plan to reduce spending?

KHALIL: Don’t interrupt me. If they were really thinking about Australians, this is what they should do. They should forget about the $65 billion in tax cuts to big companies and the $13.2 billion that would go to big banks, especially given what we’ve been seeing in the Royal Commission, and invest that in education, in healthcare and infrastructure. That’s what they should be doing.

GILBERT: Well, Tim, it does make it a difficult time to be prosecuting the case for the remainder of the $65 billion in company tax cuts. Another $35 billion on the books. When you’ve got, exactly as Peter said there, the daily news out of the Royal Commission so devastating for the big banks. For AMP, we’ve seen the chairman resign this morning.

WILSON: As you know Kieran, these tax cuts effect all companies within a certain bracket, not just banks. Yes, they’re part of it.

KHALIL: [interjecting] A $13 billion part of it!

GILBERT: Can we not talk over each other. Just let Tim answer please. Let’s do it.

WILSON: I don’t actually think we should be saying all companies should be thrown in the same basket because we have a problem over here. That’s being looked at, that’s being reviewed and that’ll be fixed. The principle remains the same, which is… and you had Chris Richardson on your program only before saying the worst tax if you want to undermine economic activity, undermine investment, undermine growth of the Australian economy, undermine jobs growth, is to have high company tax. And so that’s precisely why we’re trying to target it. To increase the number of people in jobs, to boost investment, to create opportunities for Australians.

GILBERT: Peter, just quickly, to you with only twenty seconds left, but he’s right about that. The economists, very much with the Government on that point.

KHALIL: Well, I’ve got to say. It’s a big part. He’s understated it. $13.2 billion in these tax cuts are going to the big banks and some of what we’ve seen in the Banking Royal Commission is absolutely shocking and this is the same guy, who is sitting to my left here today, who actually, like Malcolm Turnbull, said we didn’t need the Royal Banking Commission, so I think the viewers can make their own judgment about that.

GILBERT: We’re out of time. Peter, Tim, have a good day. Appreciate it. Quick break, back in a moment.