NATALIE BARR: There is growing tension in the community this morning over the Albanese Government's decision to not formally designate the Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October as an act of terrorism. It means Australian Jews who lost loved ones in that raid are not eligible for government financial assistance. This is despite the government listing Hamas as a terrorist organisation.
For more I'm joined by Education Minister, Jason Clare, and Opposition Leader - Deputy Opposition Leader, sorry ‑ Sussan Ley. Jason, why won't the Government declare this attack as an act of terror?
JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: G'day Nat, g'day Sussan, and happy new year everybody. The Prime Minister's said that this is a terrorist attack, and we're providing financial support for Australians affected by what's happening overseas right now, more than $50 million of support to the Jewish community and to the Muslim community, to people who are directly affected here, and indirectly affected.
Those dead bodies on either side of the border, they're not just bodies, for Jewish Australians and for Muslim Australians, those dead bodies have names, and many people in our community are directly affected by that.
In terms of this declaration, I'm not the Minister for Home Affairs, but I expect the Minister for Home Affairs to have more to say about that in due course.
BARR: So why hasn't there been an official designation though? This was October, we're in the middle of January.
CLARE: I expect that the Minister for Home Affairs is looking at that, but I wouldn't accept the argument that we're not providing support to Australians that are affected by what's happening on the other side of the world, we are. More than $50 million worth of support.
The other thing I'd say, Nat, is this: it's been about four weeks since we were on the show together. Since then, more than 5,000 people have died in Gaza, more than 2,000 kids have died, and those children that aren't dead aren't at school because 50 per cent of the schools in Gaza have been destroyed, 60 per cent of homes in Gaza have been destroyed, 70 per cent of hospitals in Gaza have been destroyed. I think all Australians would want to see an end to this war as soon as possible.
BARR: Yeah, and that is horrific. We can't underplay that. But this was one of the worst terror attacks the world has ever seen. They came, they raped, they murdered. Is this an oversight by your government?
CLARE: The Prime Minister called this out as a terrorism event and condemned it. You've heard me say that on this show a number of times.
BARR: So, is that a mistake, that you haven't made that designation?
CLARE: The Minister for Home Affairs is looking at this at the moment. I just don't want us to confuse this with any argument that we're not providing financial support to Jewish Australians…
BARR: No, that's not the arguments though.
CLARE: …and Muslim Australians who are affected by it, because that is certainly not true.
BARR: No, that's not the argument though. So why do you think there hasn't been this official designation? Is it a mistake?
CLARE: No, I hear you and the point I want to make is the Minister for Home Affairs is examining this at the moment.
BARR: Right. Sussan, do you think a mistake has been made here with that designation?
SUSSAN LEY: Nat, the devastation and the heartbreak that Jason has described began with this terror attack more than 100 days ago, and I cannot understand why it has not been designated, and I don't think Jason can either. I don't think he's able to make excuses for his Home Affairs Minister. But his Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, needs to fix this today. It's been more than 100 days. There are victims of this terrorism incident in Australia that should be getting help that are not getting help. Now Anthony Albanese was able to fly around in his plane to multiple states yesterday. He needs to fix this today.
BARR: Okay. Moving on back home, millions of Aussie students are preparing to return to school, of course, over the next couple of weeks. But parents are struggling to cover the costs.
NAB says the number of education loans for school expenses has soared 73 per cent since 2018. Jason, being the education minister, you know the hurt out there; you see it every day. Will there be extra help for parents in the budget this year?
CLARE: I'm also a parent, and like most parents watching, I can't wait for school to go back. School goes back in Queensland next week, Nat, and back in most other States and Territories across the country the week after, and that comes with a cost, you're right; whether it's new school shoes or uniforms or technology.
One of the biggest costs is fees, and it's a lot cheaper if you're going to a public school than if you're going to a private school. One of the big important things that we need to do this year is make sure that we fund our public schools properly to make sure that they've got the resources they need to help children who fall behind to catch up, to keep up, to finish school, so that for more parents public education, public schools are their first choice. That will help with costs, but also make sure that their children get the education that they deserve.
BARR: Sussan, we did this - we reported this study this week saying that to send a kid to a public school in this country costs $100,000. Everyone in the newsroom said, "Hang on, how on earth have we got to this stage in Australia?" That's what Australian families are facing.
LEY: That's right, Nat, and here I am in beautiful Tocumwal along the Murray River, and I'm meeting families every day as I travel my region, and it's number one on their list of concerns. You shouldn't have to use your credit card to fund public education in this country today. This is not the way we should be teaching our kids in Australia today.
And I read in one of the stories that you've referred to, a mum, Belinda, she just doesn't know how she can do it, with groceries, with back-to-school costs, with technology, with so much coming so soon after Christmas.
The government doesn't have a proper plan to address rising prices, and it's falling to mums like Belinda, and dads in our community on fixed incomes to try and struggle with this at this time of year, and it's just not good enough.
BARR: Yep. It is a very, very difficult time of year. We thank you both. We'll have to leave it there. Thank you both for joining us again this year.
CLARE: Thanks, Nat.