SUBJECTS: Israel-Hamas conflict, Regional Scholarship Program.
JAYNIE SEAL [HOST]: Joining me live is Anthony Chisholm, Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Education. Thank you for joining us. Union leaders have said that the conflict is the direct result of the illegal occupation of Palestinian land. Is that an assessment that you share?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM [ASSISTANT MINISTER]: No, it's not. And I think the government have been really clear in condemning the attacks from Hamas this week. We've been consistent in our language on that and we've also been doing what we can to assist Australian citizens getting out of the conflict zone. And I think I heard another arrival happened overnight that's been the government assistance. We obviously want to ensure that there's protection of civilian lives as much as possible and have been consistent in our calling for that as well. But it is obviously a terrible conflict that is going on over there at the moment.
SEAL: And do you agree with Ed Husic and Anne Aly that Palestinians are being collectively punished?
CHISHOLM: What I know is that the government have been really consistent that we've been condemning the Hamas attacks, but we also want to see that civilian lives are protected. We think that that is important, but we also understand that Israel had the right to defend themselves, but we do call for civilian lives to be protected.
SEAL: And what are your thoughts on Peter Dutton thinking that the Prime Minister should prioritise a visit to Tel Aviv ahead of his trip to the United States?
CHISHOLM: Well, what we've seen from the Opposition Leader this week and over the last couple of weeks is a willingness to politicise every issue. I note in the Parliament that we did put forward a motion that was supported by the Opposition. And I think on these matters of international security and our position in the world, it is better when we approach these in a bipartisan way rather than seeking to score political points.
SEAL: All right, let's turn our attention to some local issues now. The Commonwealth Regional Scholarship Program, it's actually been launched, and applications are open. Tell us more about this launch.
CHISHOLM: Yeah. Thanks, Jaynie. And what we know, given Australia is such a big country, that not everyone can attend a high school in their local area, and for some, boarding school is the only option, but it does come at a cost. So, these scholarships are there to help people send their children to secondary school at a boarding facility. And it provides $20,000 for 50 scholarships for those on lower incomes, and then another 50 scholarships to support people on lower and middle incomes at $10,000 a year. And the important thing is that these scholarships are for the full six years of secondary school. So, it's enough there to provide support for families because everyone wants to ensure that their children get the best possible education. And for some, the only means of that is a boarding school.
SEAL: All right, and tell us a little bit more about it and what the reaction has been amongst regional and rural Australia.
CHISHOLM: Yeah, it is something that I've become well aware of since we've come to government, and I've been in the Assistant Minister for Education Regional Development space. A couple of weeks ago, I was in Darwin for the Isolated Children's Parents Association Conference and there were parents from all over Australia there. And what I got a sense of is just the long distance that some of them travel to see their kids attend boarding school, some of the remoteness that they live in as well. So, it became clear to me that boarding school for these families is the only option if their children are to get a secondary education. But the cost of it, not only the boarding school fees, but then if those parents want to actually travel to see their children during the school term, which I imagine all parents would want to do that. So, this support is there for those on lower incomes, the $20,000 a year and $10,000 a year for those on lower to middle incomes, 50 scholarships at the higher level and 50 at the lower level. And it is really just to provide that extra support to families who wouldn't normally be able to afford those fees. But it also is for the full six-year period so that those families can be confident that their children can be at that facility and school for the whole term of their secondary education. And I think that that would be welcome. We work closely with the Regional Education Commissioner Fiona Nash, who's got really good experience in regional and remote education, and we think that this is a pilot program that will be well received by those people who wish to apply.
SEAL: All right, we do have to wrap it up there, but thank you very much, Anthony Chisholm, for joining us this morning on Sky News Breakfast.
CHISHOLM: Thanks, Jaynie.