SUBJECTS: Recruitment of teachers; return of ISIS brides, gas prices.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Well, financial incentives, housing subsidies and lower student loans could soon be on offer for teachers as Education Ministers seek to address the national shortage. Joining us live now out of Sydney is the Education Minister, Jason Clare. Minister, good morning. Thanks for your time. So, excuse me. No question, no question at all that we need to attract great teachers. But how do you keep the good ones that we already have?
JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Part of it's workload. The idea that teachers rock up at nine o'clock and finish at three o'clock's rubbish. A report came out a couple of weeks ago that made the point that teachers in Australia work longer hours than teachers overseas, but only about 40 per cent of that time is face-to-face teaching children in the classroom. So, one of the things that's in this plan is about how we can take some of the admin responsibilities off teachers to give them more time to teach. If you talk to mates who are teachers, they'll talk about salary, but they'll also talk about workload. And that's one of the reasons why we're losing some fantastic teachers at the moment, walking away from the profession that they love.
STEFANOVIC: Right. Isn’t it staffing an issue across the board anyway, so admin staff would be at a minimum, too. So how do you palm off that work?
CLARE: For example, the New South Wales Government is on a recruitment campaign to employ more admin people there. And part of this draft plan is a $25 million fund to test and trial new ideas that can help to take some of that workload off teachers. But it's bigger than that, Pete. To give you a sense of the scale of this crisis, we've seen a big drop in the number of young people going from school into uni to become teachers. Over the last ten years, we've seen a drop of about 16 per cent. We've also seen a drop in the number of people completing their teaching degrees. Only about one in two people who start a teaching degree finish it. So, we've got a drop in the number of people becoming new teachers into our schools.
Not only have we got some really experienced teachers leaving but think about this one - this will shock people watching at the moment. Thirty per cent to 50 per cent of teachers in their first five years quit.
So, there's a whole bunch of things that we need to do if we're going to fix this. One is more uni places. Second is scholarships worth up to 40 grand to encourage the best and brightest young Aussies to become teachers. We've got to fix the way the university system works with a bit more prac to help students train to become teachers. Mentoring and induction for those teachers who just get started is important to help them on their way. And then this workload question is a really big one as well.
So, I put out the draft plan. The purpose of it is to pick the brains of teachers and parents and principals and say: “What did we get right? What did we get wrong? What should be in the plan that's not in the draft plan? And what do you think that we should take out?” We’ll do that consultation over the next couple of weeks.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, well, and I'm sure everyone out there would wish you the best of luck because it does definitely need to improve from where it is. Just a couple of other points here, Jason, while I've got you, I'm wondering –
CLARE: Maybe just on that point, Pete, I was just going to say I don't want to create the impression that I can click my fingers and create teachers or that we can fix -
STEFANOVIC: No, it's going to take time. It's going to take a long time.
CLARE: It's taken ten years to get to this point. It is going to take time. But what people have said is, even though teachers are employed by State governments, a bit of national leadership will help. We can start by stopping bagging teachers and giving them a rap and working together with the Catholics, the Independents, the State and Territory Ministers. And if we all work together here, we can definitely make a positive difference.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, we've got the universities coming on next week, Jason, to talk about that. Now, just back to this point on the ISIS brides. Have constituents in your Western Sydney electorate raised concerns with you about the whereabouts of them?
CLARE: The answer to that is no. I haven't had any contact from constituents talking about that. More broadly, though, Pete, it's important to make the point, this has happened before. This happened three years ago when Peter Dutton was the Home Affairs Minister and they brought in the wives of fighters, and children, into my electorate then. And so, for Peter Dutton to be now criticising what he did three years ago is a bit hypocritical. And I have got to tell you, Peter Dutton didn't pick up the phone and tell me when he did that three years ago.
STEFANOVIC: Right. I asked because I spoke to Dai Le about this yesterday. She's in a neighbouring electorate and she said that there were plenty of people raising concerns with her. No one knows anything. Is that acceptable? Is there a problem with transparency here?
CLARE: The community consultation is important and the Federal Police, the State Police and the security agencies are involved in this. But I think the more general point I would make is when the Libs did this three years ago, no one picked up the phone and told me a thing. So, for them to be trying to play politics with this after doing the absolute opposite three years ago, I think it's a bit rich and just reeks of hypocrisy and politics.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, and just a final one here, Jason, just a final point on gas, because there seems to be some divisions within government. You've got Jim Chalmers, who says that subsidies should be on the table, Richard Marles and the Prime Minister says no cash handouts are cheap. Do you think they should be in or out?
CLARE: I think the message we're making is pretty clear here, Pete, which is that with prices high and people under pressure, we've got to look at what are the solutions that we can implement that can make a positive difference. This hasn't happened because of what's happening here, in big part it’s because you've got a war in Europe. The fact that you're seeing prices go up all around the world tells you that, but it doesn't mean that we can't do anything. And so, Jim's leading a group of Ministers, including Ed and Chris and Madeleine, on what are the practical things that we can do here to put prices down.
STEFANOVIC: But Ed and Madeleine aren't seeing eye to eye at the moment.
CLARE: I take issue with that. Madeleine's done a terrific job in making sure that we've got more gas. That agreement with the gas companies means we've got more supply to make sure we don't run out over the course of the next twelve months.
CLARE: But it doesn't deal with price. And what Ed's saying here is price is an issue too. I reckon everyone would agree with that. And so, we're looking at what are the regulatory interventions that we can take here that are going to make a real practical difference.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Jason Clare, the Education Minister. Appreciate your time, as always. Thank you. And a final point here to wish you the best of luck for our kids.