Release type: Transcript


Interview - 4CA AM Cairns


The Hon Jason Clare MP
Minister for Education

MURRAY JONES: Well, a bit of opinion, around about 7 o'clock this morning I was talking to actually our Minister for Child Safety here in Queensland, and of course some of the impacts when it comes to social media. I want to continue that discussion, and a guy, actually the last time I caught up with him here in Cairns was just down the road here in Grafton Street, we were hiding in a telephone booth together, only because of the wind, it might have looked suspicious, but it wasn't. Minister for Education in the federal sphere, Jason Clare, good morning. How are you today?

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: G'day, mate, very good, very good.

JONES: Good to catch up with you again. Look, Jason, I really want to start by talking about something that came up during the week, a teacher with 35 years’ experience, mainly working in the sphere of primary school, basically said that, you know, the behaviour in the classroom which continues to get worse and more and more of a challenge for teachers who just want to teach. But what they're dealing with so much of their time is dealing with issues to do with behaviour.

But she said that behaviour went south, and things just got dire in the classroom at about the time that social media started to appear in the community, whether it was because parents are no longer focused on their kids, they're more focused on doing things online, and doing things in the social media sphere, or whether it was the children. But it's something that I know that you were actually talking ‑ the Prime Minister said to me just a few weeks ago that you actually brought this up in Parliament. It's something serious that we really need to start to deal with, and I'm sure that you're seeing it in the classroom, is it's one of those things that's really dragging society down.

CLARE: Yeah. It's part of the reason why I'm so keen to get mobile phones out of schools. It's not the total solution, but, getting mobile phones out of the school means that students are focused on the teacher rather than TikTok. It means in the playground that kids are talking to each other and playing with each other rather than looking at their phones. But I'm not naive, unlike when you and I were at school and all of the bullying used to stop at the school gate, nowadays this goes home with you. And when you turn your phone back on at the end of the day, that's when all of that online bullying happens, whether it's on social media or anywhere else, and that's a hard nut to crack.

JONES: And look, you know, I know it's a hard one, and as I was saying earlier on this morning, you know, there's this concept of freedom of speech, and when it comes to freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom to do whatever we want, and unfortunately those concepts are very strong in our society, but you know, freedoms, rights, they don't come without responsibilities.

But you know, we've got issues with youth crime right across the nation. You know, I tend to think that social media is one of the ills that's basically fuelling this. Kids are becoming so disconnected from society. You know, it really takes, I think, you know, possibly an all‑of‑government approach, and I know it's a hard one, but I mean, a crack‑down. I mean kids can't drive until they're 16, 17 years of age, I mean they should be kept off social media until they're that age as well.

CLARE: You mentioned responsibility, Murray, and I think you're right, we've all got responsibility here. I see it as a dad, as well as a Minister, in terms of what my kids get access to, because if they're on the iPad, what they see affects the way they behave at home as well as the way they behave at school.

One of the things that we've got in our toolkit is the eSafety Commissioner. We've quadrupled their budget. I was talking to the eSafety Commissioner the other day. She's got the power to take things off the Internet, to take things down when someone's being bullied. She gave me the horrific example of where you might have, a boyfriend and a girlfriend, one of them sends a photograph to the other that they wouldn't want anyone else in the world to see, and then they break up, then that photo ends up on the Internet. That young person ends up suicidal. They have the power to rip that off the Internet, to take that down. They're the sort of things that we need nowadays, but as I said, I'm not naive enough to assume that it's the total answer, or that you can fix all of this.

JONES: Look, you know, crowded curriculum, you know, this is more of a Queensland thing. NAPLAN, year 5, you know, here in Queensland, things are going south, you know, the basics of maths and English are not being covered. So many teachers are talking about crowded curriculum, you know, doing languages, which I know is important, even physical education is important as well.

But you know, such a crowded curriculum, it's such a stress for teachers, they're not able to get through some of the basics of maths and English, and sadly here in Queensland, NAPLAN is showing that we're lagging behind the rest of the country. You know, things are becoming so much more complicated. Respect for teachers is actually one of the things that's undermining the ability of teachers to be able to just do their job on a daily basis.

CLARE: You mentioned respect. It’s one of the reasons why people are opting not to become a teacher or quitting the profession they love. If you survey teachers today, about 39 per cent say they feel like they're respected by the community. You go to a place like Singapore, that number's 68 per cent, and in Singapore, they've got people lining up out the door of university trying to get in. It's hard to become a teacher in Singapore because so many people want to.

It's the reverse in Australia. We've seen over the last 10 years about a 12 per cent drop in the number of people enrolling in teaching courses, about 50 per cent of people who enrol in the course don't finish it, and then about 20 per cent of those young Australians who become teachers quit in the first three years.

Now part of that is the course itself, and we've just recently announced some reforms to make sure that what students are taught at uni are the things they're going to need on day one in the classroom; how to teach the kids to read; how to teach kids to do maths, but also how to manage disruption in the classroom.

The big part of that has got to be improving prac, because the prac is not up to scratch, and if you get a better experience when you're a student of how it’s like to be a teacher in the classroom, then you're going to be a better teacher when you start.

On NAPLAN, this year we made the decision, myself and Education Ministers across the country, to raise the bar. We made NAPLAN harder, or the standard that students have to meet, and we did that deliberately because we want to identify the children who need extra help. What that NAPLAN data this year showed is that one in 10 students across the country are below the minimum standard, but more concerningly, one in three kids from poor families and from the regions, and one in three Indigenous kids, are below that minimum standard. And even more concerning than that, the data tells us that only one in five of those kids who are behind when they're eight years old have caught up by the time they're 15.

JONES: Sure.

CLARE: So next year's a big year. Next year we're going to negotiate a new National Schools Agreement between myself and every State in the country. What we need to do in that agreement is fix the funding gaps that exist for public schools around the country, working together, State Governments and Federal Governments, but also fix this education gap, make sure that we use that funding the right way to help children who fall behind when they're little to make sure that they catch up by the time they're at high school, and they that they finish high school. Because the other problem, Murray, is this: over the last six years we're now seeing a drop in the number of young people who finish high school who go to public schools. Six years ago, it was 83 per cent, now it's 76 per cent, and this is happening at a time where more jobs require you to finish school and then go to TAFE, or to go to uni, and the reverse is happening. So that's a serious problem.

JONES: Look, you know, when you hear kids that don't want to be doctors, they don't want to be lawyers, they don't want to be journalists, they don't want to be teachers, they want to be TikTok influencers, which brings us back to social media. And look, I know you've got to go, but I just want to quickly wrap up, coming back to social media, and I've talked to some of the other Federal politicians about this in the last week or so. When it comes to The Voice, the misinformation, the disinformation is basically holding the day when it comes to The Voice, and sadly, this misinformation, disinformation about what's happening with the Constitution, the enabling legislation when it comes to enabling The Voice, you know, sadly social media and the lies that are told on social media have meant that the message that's been put through the government has been lost, and it's more than likely, unfortunately, to come up with a No vote.

CLARE: Murray, this is not new. Remember when Mabo happened, when the Native Title legislation went through the Parliament over 30 years ago, we were told that you were going to lose your back yard, that the Hills Hoist was going to get pulled up and taken out.

When Kevin Rudd gave the Apology to the Stolen Generations back in 2008, Peter Dutton said that was going to cost $10 billion. Now that wasn't true either. It's the same sort of lies that are being pedalled now. What social media does is allow that to spread faster and wider than ever before.

But you know, I've got to back Australians. Australians are smart. They know that this is, number one, about recognising Indigenous people in the Constitution. That should have been done 122 years ago when the Constitution was originally struck. And it's about setting up an advisory committee to get better results.

Johnathan Thurston works at Yarrabah just down the road from where you are, Murray. He made the point. He said this is fundamentally just about helping to make sure that more Indigenous kids reach their potential, and that's what all of us want.

JONES: And as the Prime Minister said, you know, instead of going to jail, actually going to university for Indigenous kids, that would really change society and turn things around.

CLARE: Think about this, Murray: it costs the Australian taxpayer at the moment $11,000 a year to send an Australian to university on average. If you want to go to James Cook Uni, on average, it costs taxpayers $11,000 per Australian student. It costs taxpayers $148,000 a year at the moment to send an Australian to jail, 13 times as much. And at the moment Indigenous young blokes are more likely to go to jail than uni.

Imagine if making better decisions by listening to people meant that we got some better results there. It would save taxpayers’ money.

JONES: Well, social media, unfortunately, I think is one of the things that is at the root of where we're at here in Australia. We'll wait and see what happens on the 14th of October. You've been very generous with your time this morning. It's been great to talk to you, Jason Clare. Make sure next time you're in town stop in and say g'day, Minister of Education, have a fantastic day. Cheers.

CLARE: Thanks, mate. Cheers.