Doorstop interview, Caboolture
- Minister for Education and Training
Topics: School funding; Emma Husar; By-elections
Simon Birmingham: Well, it’s great to be here tonight with Big Trev Ruthenberg talking about school funding, the Turnbull Government’s fair and consistent approach to delivering record growing needs based funding to Australian schools, and supporting parents’ choice to access faith-based education in Catholic schools or indeed, education in high quality government public schools, independent schools, Lutheran schools. Ultimately we want to ensure that parents can make choices that suit their families to get the best educational opportunities for their children. And we’re really enthused about the fact that across Australia we’re going to be able to deliver record growing funding that is underpinned by a strong economy, a sound budget that’s coming back to balance and jobs growth that will ensure those students who leave this school will be able to get jobs in the future.
You know, elsewhere in terms of politics, it’s not all such a pretty and rosy picture. Bill Shorten needs to return immediately to Sydney to address the controversy surrounding Emma Husar. If Bill Shorten is serious about the concerns he says he has for worker exploitation, has he spoken to Emma Husar’s staff about their claims and allegations that they were bullied in the workplace? Does Emma Husar still have a place on Bill Shorten’s team, given the allegations that she bullied her staff, abused her staff and misused taxpayer funds in the use of her staff? Put simply, Bill Shorten seems to have been saying one thing about his years of commitment to keeping workers safe and secure and yet when one of his own Labor MPs is accused of exploiting those workers, he seems to have turned a blind eye. Well, if the allegations are true – if any of the allegations are true – Emma Husar has no place on Bill Shorten’s team. He should go to Sydney, dismiss her as a Labor MP, disendorse her as a candidate, and ensure that he takes responsibility for a member of his team where the allegations are clear – that they have been doing the wrong thing with their taxpayer funded staff, but worst still, they’ve been exploiting and abusing staff in terms of the work that they’ve had them do.
Question: She says she’s had threats of violence against her now and is now taking leave. Is that of concern, though?
Simon Birmingham: Threats of violence are never acceptable. However, these are serious allegations from people who have been employed by Miss Husar; they have been abused and exploited in the workplace. This is a problem that Bill Shorten should take responsibility for, he should get on the first plane tomorrow morning to go to Sydney, to meet with Miss Husar, to meet with her former staff, to get to the bottom of this and if any of the allegations are true, he should disendorse her as a future Labor candidate.
Question: Is- are you jumping the gun, I guess, given that it is still a pending investigation when it comes to what’s happening with Emma Husar?
Simon Birmingham: Well, is this an investigation or a Labor Party cover-up? We don’t know because it’s all happening behind closed doors in Sussex Street. There clearly needs to be transparency given to this and Bill Shorten needs to take responsibility. Emma Husar is a Labor MP, who Bill Shorten has campaigned alongside of, she’s now seriously alleged to of abused taxpayer entitlements, to have abused and misused her staff, to have exploited workers. Bill Shorten has spent his career saying he cares about worker exploitation, well if he does, has he spoken to Emma Husar’s staff, will he go and meet with them, will he take responsibility as Labor leader for a Labor MP who is alleged to have done the wrong thing?
Question: Just on education, tonight’s forum was about education. And the Catholic associations have figures that show that you’ve got $46.9 billion- million coming out of Queensland Catholic education. Is that true and if so, what do you say to that?
Simon Birmingham: The Queensland Catholic Education Commission is receiving around $50 million-plus additional this year, compared to 2017. And that will grow next year by a further $57 million and keep growing year on year into the future as part of our record in growing funding.
Question: Except that obviously that is going up but not as fast as the rate as it would have, so there’s an effective cut to how much money they’re getting. Isn’t that true?
Simon Birmingham: The Labor Party can make whatever promises they want about how much they’ll spend, but the question for voters across Longman and right around Australia is can you trust the Labor Party to deliver on those promises and can Australia afford those promises? And frankly, the promises are unbelievable and unaffordable.
Question: Sorry, with respect I didn’t ask about the Labor Party. I asked about the Government’s figures that are not growing as fast as they were in terms of money going into education, particularly as we’ve heard tonight, Catholic education.
Simon Birmingham: Government funding to schools across Australia is growing faster now than what was projected in the budget that Malcolm Turnbull and I took to the last election, we have a faster rate of funding growth thanks to an injection of around $25 billion of additional funding in last year’s budget, and we’re committed to making sure that funding is distributed fairly and growing according to need. People and the Labor Party can choose to compare that against Labor promises but those promises are unaffordable and unbelievable.
Question: Mr Ruthenberg, do you think the election is winnable this weekend, especially considering the controversies that you- you’ve had around the defence medal et cetera?
Trevor Ruthenberg: Yeah. Mate, I’ll leave the commentary to you guys. I’m out there – and you guys have seen this – I’m out there working my tail off, one person at a time.
Question: I guess, both candidates- Susan Lamb had the citizenship issue, which is why we’re now having the by-election, you’ve had the muck-up with the medal. How can voters trust either of you?
Trevor Ruthenberg: Again, I’ve put my hand up and I’ve owned my mistake. I’ve spoken to that, it’s now Susan Lamb’s turn to do the same. I think folks can come and talk to me. I’m here facing the hard questions, I’ve been out on the side the road facing the hard questions, I’ve been in front of the media facing all the hard questions. We’re right here, come and talk to me.