TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION WITH LAURA JAYES
TUESDAY, 24 MARCH 2020
SUBJECTS: Centrelink; essential workers; schools closures.
LAURA JAYES, HOST: Let's go live to the Shadow Education Minister, Tanya Plibersek who joins me now from Sydney. Thanks so much for your time. I do want to get to the school situation, but already Tanya Plibersek we have reports of people lining up from 5am outside Centrelink offices. These are scenes yesterday that really echoed scenes of the Great Depression.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Yes, I walked past Redfern Centrelink on my way to work yesterday and there was a queue out the door, I've never seen anything like it. And I think it was obvious, or should have been obvious to the Government, that when they made these announcements the demand for Centrelink services would increase. It's good that they've agreed that they'll put on an extra 5000 staff now, but surely this planning should have been more advanced. The fact that the website crashed yesterday and the Minister tried to pretend it was some hostile forces getting into our internet was pretty poor form. The Government to maintain confidence, has to deal with issues like this - having enough staff, having a computer system that works - but they also have to be honest. If the computer system is down because of unprecedented demand, just say that. Take the Australian people into their confidence. Tell the truth and people will understand that.
JAYES: Yeah I think people understand that there are tough times ahead certainly. But we have seen this big support package pass Parliament with Labor’s support last night as well. Some of these payments still don't flow for a number of weeks and the Government is foreshadowing more money to come. What are you telling your constituents, what are you telling your family, about the next weeks and months ahead?
PLIBERSEK: Well certainly I am being very clear that these are unprecedented times and we need to be kind to and support each other. We need to acknowledge the extraordinary work of our essential services workers, and I'm not just talking about our nurses, doctors, and other hospital staff although they're doing an amazing job, but if we learnt anything in recent times we've learnt that people who stack shelves in Woolies and Coles are essential workers, truck drivers are essential workers, the people cleaning our trains are essential workers. So we need to look after each other. When it comes to small businesses, to people employed casually or in marginal jobs, to people in the arts industry which is big a employer in my electorate - we are seeing really extraordinary numbers of people who are losing their work all together, who've been reduced to very few hours, who are really struggling already to make ends meet. I had one business talking to me yesterday who had just signed a 6 year lease on a new premises and basically they've got to close their doors and the landlord is saying 'well too bad you've signed a lease for 6 years so I expect you to honour the terms of the lease'. We need to accept the huge social impact of this, the health impact of this, and the economic impact of this - and be prepared to help Australians through this.
JAYES: Schools is one of these issues that has been debated at a State and Federal level, but also within families as well. You have school aged children, I have a little girl at day care. I'm still sending her but I fully respect the wishes of parents not to do the same and some parents are in situations where they have no choice but to send their children to school. What is your advice? What are you doing? I know the medical advice is pretty clear, but there also comes a time where reality hits you in the face as well.
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, well the things that parents think about most are their kids health and their kids education. And at the moment those two worries are in conflict - because you want to keep your kids safe, you want to make sure that they don't pick up this virus for themselves and potentially passing it on to parents, grandparents or other family members - so you want to keep your kids safe first of all. But also we know that taking kids out of school has a big impact on their education, particularly if it's those really critical years like Kindergarten where they're learning so much every day, or the HSC where teenagers are worried about their future. So we need to balance those two considerations. The medical experts are telling us that schools are still safe places to be, that's the advice at the moment and I'm watching that advice very, very carefully indeed. And as I've said a moment ago there'll be a lot of essential workers who are in the same position. We need people still to be keeping our supplies on the supermarket shelves, to be keeping things going. So balancing those two things is a very careful consideration. What doesn't help is if we're getting different information from the Prime Minister and the Premiers. It would be very good to have a bit more clarity about where those differences have emerged and how they've emerged. But for the moment i'm sending my kids to school because I want to be able to help my constituents.
JAYES: Of course, but just quickly and this will be my final question, don't you have a situation, 30 per cent of parents already have started keeping their kids at home in NSW, so you have this problem where teachers are teaching almost half of the students they normally would. What happens in 6 months time or 9 months time when things do go back to normal and teachers have taught half the students up to date curriculum and then half of the students are far behind. We're going to have to look at situations where perhaps these school aged children are going to have to repeat a year, or not have school holidays or really have to catch up.
PLIBERSEK: It's a very difficult situation, the first thing to say is thank you to our teachers, our school staff, and our school principals who are doing such an extraordinary job teaching our kids about hygiene, making sure that they're doing the basics and now preparing to teach some online and some in the classroom, and to move fully online. Because of course we do expect that there will be school closures at some time, we need to say thank you to those people and to people who are - first of all, let's not engage in wars between parents who are choosing to keep their kids at home and parents who are sending their kids to school, everybody is trying to do the right thing for their kids and for our broader community, so let's not get into big fights. Schools need all the help they can get to deliver online learning, we need to make sure that kids who don't have computers and wifi at home have a way of continuing their education. Vulnerable kids, there are kids who get their breakfast at school, who are doing occupational therapy or speech pathology at school - we need to look after the vulnerable kids and we need to make sure teachers have all the support they need to be delivering what is a really new, complex way of teaching for many of them.
JAYES: Tanya Plibersek thank you for your time this morning.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you.