By Tanya Plibersek

27 August 2020



SUBJECTS: Teaching quality; JobReady Legislation; superannuation.

ALAN JONES, HOST: Well, here we go. Let's go to the girls. Amanda Stoker the talented Liberal Senator from Queensland. I said last week - intellectually strong and she is. And the former Deputy Leader of the Federal Labor Party Tanya Plibersek. As I said last week too, she would have been Deputy Prime Minister had they won the last election. Now, I've got to be true to my word here because I promised Tanya we would take questions on these two critical issues for young people, on education and unemployment. Now in education Tanya, I've made the point many times. I mean, in this country, it is in a mess. Increasingly kids having asked, and I wrote about this this week, to teach themselves. There's no commitment to spelling, punctuation or syntax. Most teachers, let alone kids, wouldn't know what syntax was. Bright children tell me there's virtually no teaching of our history and geography and at best limited study of great writers and good poets and they can't recite a verse of poetry. They might have been to school but it's not education. Now you've said you would restrict entry to teaching degrees to the top 30 per cent. In New South Wales, at least, the Berejiklian Government has borrowed your policy. What chance have you got of making that work and implementing it?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Well, I think we really do need to aim to attract those really high achievers academically into teaching. And I've spoken to the Deans of Education in the universities about this. They weren't actually that happy to hear my plans Alan. I think they want to keep taking people from a much broader group than that.

JONES: That's right,

PLIBERSEK: But I say this to you Alan, it's not just who we attract into teaching. It's how we keep our best and brightest teachers in the classroom.

JONES: That's correct.

PLIBERSEK: I meet with fantastic teachers all the time, you were a teacher, you know, that some are inspirational. They go above and beyond – they’re fantastic people and then they get frustrated. They get to a certain level of their profession and they have to move out of the classroom if they want to keep earning extra money. And even worse than that, one of the things that has really started to bother me is I hear people saying "I'm giving up, there's too much bureaucracy" or worse, "When I when I pull the kids into line, I get an angry call from the parents". So we need to attract the best and brightest. We need to retain the best and brightest, and we need to show more respect for our teachers in the classroom, to keep them in the classroom.

JONES: Correct.

PLIBERSEK: And that's about kids but it's also about their parents.

JONES: Well it is, you're absolutely right on everything you've said. Amanda, can I just come to you on this Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, which Tanya is talking about. The cut off point for teaching and the figures are alarming. Macquarie University - 65, you'll get into teaching. Canberra - 51. Griffith - 62.4. The Catholic University - 66. Charles Sturt - 58. Newcastle - 58. Latrobe - 60. Wollongong - 64. Amanda, these are not academic high flyers are they?

AMANDA STOKER, SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND: Look, I don't *inaudible* with the idea that it would be far better if we had a higher cut off. But the reality is that about 82 per cent of people who go into study teaching don't go in through an ATAR. So, that's only ever going to be a partial solution to the problem. If we want to have great teachers, we need to have great teacher training. We need to make sure they're up to scratch by the time they're finished and that's what our system of testing teachers on numeracy and literacy as they finish their university course is all about doing. 90 per cent of them pass that test at the end of their studies to show that they are in the top 30 per cent of Australians for their numeracy and literacy. And we also need, quite like Tanya said, to increase the respect that we give our teachers and I draw an analogy with the way we treat our Defence Forces. They're not necessarily paid a lot of money, but the respect they get from Australians for the importance of their service makes up the difference. We could do the same with teachers.

JONES: Tanya, could I just come back to you on this business. Is there a downside here if we cut off entrance to teaching for everyone below 70. Might those with an ATAR above 70 be seeking entry into other courses, so who then becomes a teacher?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I don't think the solution to potential shortages is to drop the requirement to get into teaching.

JONES: No, correct. Correct.

PLIBERSEK: I think that's the real problem. What we need to do is retain those high standards, but make sure that we are, as Amanda said, properly valuing and respecting our teachers to attract people into the profession. I want parents boasting about the fact that their child is becoming a teacher. I want teachers saying to the next generation, their brightest students, "It's a great job, I want you to follow in my footsteps, I want you to inspire young people too!".

JONES: Good on you. I just wonder Amanda coming to you, is the issue though not so much the teacher but what is being taught? I mean, the curriculums crowded, the syllabus is crook. Kids aren't getting instruction in maths and English and poetry and geography and history like used to happen to the three of us.

STOKER: It's a big part of the problem. And that's why the Coalition is giving the school curriculum a top to toe review to focus it back on the basics, to declutter a lot of the political nonsense from it and to get it focused back on the things that matter - English, maths, geography, history...

JONES: Correct.

STOKER: The stuff that makes us understand who we are and why we are the way we are. And quite honestly if we want teachers to get the respect they deserve it probably starts with us asking them to teach the right things. Because then as they come home to their families these children will shine in front of their parents.

JONES: This is a big issue. Tanya come to you is this overhaul of university fees going to push students towards job creating courses. What evidence is there for that?

PLIBERSEK: There's no evidence. And in fact, there's a lot of evidence that it'll do the exact opposite. Basically, this is a really complicated package. What it does in a nutshell is make it harder to get into university and more expensive for thousands of students. So thousands of students will have their fees more than doubled under this package and the Government says, for example, "Oh, we want more people studying maths". Well the cost to a student to study maths will go down but the government contribution - the government share will also go down. So universities won't be offering as many maths courses...

JONES: Well on that, can I ask you this?

PLIBERSEK: And yet they are saying that we want people to go into - yep.

JONES: Well, why don't we build a bias into the system? Whereby if we're short of maths teachers, why don't we say "listen, we want you to go, we want to indenture you but you won't pay. It won't cost you - it won't cost you anything" if we're so desperate for good maths teachers?

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, we desperately need good maths teacher, specialist maths teachers, specialist science teachers, but also Alan we should be looking at things like specialist music teachers.

JONES: Good on you. Stop it! *laughter*

PLIBERSEK: It would be much better for us to educate people in a subject and then do a masters of teaching like they do in some other countries.

JONES: I mean that's education for its own sake, which is a beautiful thing I think. For its own sake. Amanda, the National Party say they've succeeded in securing change to these higher education reforms and that social work and psychology students won't be in the humanities funding cluster, which will see in that cluster, fees increased by a hundred thirteen per cent, I might add, to $14,500 a year. Apparently the National Party say social work and psychology students will go into the Allied Health cluster costing $7,700 a year. Has that happened in the party room?

STOKER: Look, it's definitely the case that social work and psychology are being dealt with as Allied Health. Now when I came on last time there was a bit of a dispute about whether or not psychology was going to be the subject of increased fees. And this just confirms what I was trying to explain last week. The idea that psychology and social work where it is driven towards being a professional in that field will come down in cost. But if you're doing a subject here and there in a generalist degree, that doesn't really take you to a career in those fields, you won't get the benefit.

PLIBERSEK: Alan, actually this doesn't..

STOKER: So what this does is it pegs the cost of education to areas of demand in our community, and it means that 60 per cent of students...

PLIBERSEK: Well, it doesn't.

JONES: Tanya, this is what we are about.

STOKER: This is important Alan.

JONES: Yep, go on.

STOKER: Alan, this is important. 60 per cent of students will pay the same or less under these changes because the way they are structured is all about directing people to the places of job availability and the benefit of this is double. Not only do they pay less for their course, but they've got better job prospects at the end. That's a double benefit.

PLIBERSEK: Actually though - I have to say this. This is absolutely not right about psychology and social work students. They will pay $11,000 a year more than they currently do. It's not as big an increase as the Government was originally proposing. They were going to go from six thousand and something to fourteen and a half thousand dollars a year. But it's still going to be more expensive. Thousands of dollars more expensive to become a child protection worker. Why? And Alan we've got these kids who've been struggling through year 12, they've been remote learning, they have been so under the gun. Year 12 is terrible anyway - this has been the worst year to be finishing high school. They're either going to go to university, they're going to go to TAFE or they're going to go on the dole queue. And instead of making it harder and more expensive to get an education, we should be making it easier for people to go to TAFE or go to university and get an education that will help them get a job when the economy recovers. But why we are making it more expensive is beyond me. 40 per cent of students will pay more. Some of them much, much more.

JONES: Well, now you're the Shadow Minister for this. If I could just ask you both, I just have a bee in my bonnet about. I've got a lot of letters from parents and so on this wretched thing about homework. Now, why should a 14 year old child be getting eight hours of weekend homework. I mean, education doesn't end at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. There are other things the child should be able to do. Go out and play, run, climb a tree, listen to some music, have a look at the sun go down, talk to their parents. This becomes sort of form of educational terrorism. Amanda, surely if that eight hours of homework is required either the teacher's crook or the syllabus is crook. Amanda, come on. What do you reckon?

STOKER: Well, I think homework has a place but so does the balance of life. And your ability to read for pleasure, to play outside, to listen to music and appreciate it -

JONES: Well they don't have time for that!

STOKER: To play music also matters too! So what I get as feedback from teachers is that, look, they think a small amount of homework is appropriate, particularly as you get older.

JONES: What? 8 hours a weekend?

STOKER: But it is parents that demand it. Parents are demanding it! Which is bizarre.

JONES: Well Tanya, you've got kids, you've been through this. I mean it destroys the family. I mean they sit there with the -

PLIBERSEK: I'm laughing Alan. I'm laughing because my daughter was one of those, you know that my eldest one, was very conscientious about her homework. Actually she would have done the eight hours if it was set. But my middle one who's 15 now - no way on God's earth is he doing 8 hours on a weekend!

JONES: Well I've got to ask you a question - both of you and see if you answer it honestly. Tanya Plibersek, how many times did you do the kids homework?

PLIBERSEK: Oh, I helped them. Alan, you've got no idea! I'd be on the phone from Canberra talking to my daughter about her Jane Austen essay. Yeah, and my colleagues had been ‘what are you talking about on the phone with the kids going through their homework. And the middle one, I have actually sat there and I have sat next to him and said I'm not moving until you're done. I don't do it but I make him do it.

JONES: Oh, you do so! Amanda how much homework have you done for the kids?

STOKER: My eldest is in year one and so homework usually consists of reading together and it is one of my greatest joys.

JONES: Yes, I know. Just a quick one before we go. I just wanted to ask you and if we don't get time tonight, we will next week. In superannuation, the CBUS, which of course is the superannuation arm of the CFMEU are saying that people should be able to take fifty thousand dollars out of their superannuation to actually start a mortgage on a home and that's caused an uproar and their answer is to say "Well, hang on, we are allowing people to draw on their superannuation to pay the mortgage, why can't we draw on our superannuation to get a mortgage". A quick answer Tanya? What do you think?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we introduced First Time Saver accounts Alan when we're in government, which meant that you got the same tax breaks for saving for your deposit as you did for saving for your super. That's the way to do it. Help people establish the pattern of saving and give them the tax breaks in the way that we used to. A much better approach.

JONES: Okay. Amanda before we go.

STOKER: It's their money and they should be able to do with it what they like.

JONES: It is their money, you’re right.

STOKER: Save it in super or put it into a house, put it into investments that can set them up. So long as they're saving for their retirement in some sort of an asset. They're doing alright.

JONES: Good on you, great to talk to you both. See you next week.

PLIBERSEK: That's the end of super then! No truly, that's the end of super.

JONES: Keep doing the homework! Never mind about the super. We'll talk about that later. There we are - Tanya Plibersek and Amanda Stoker.