Transcript – Drive with Tom Elliott – 3AW

Topics: school funding, gas prices

 

E&OE …

 

TOM ELLIOTT:

Our next guest is Special Minister of State Senator Scott Ryan. Senator, good afternoon.

 

SENATOR SCOTT RYAN:

G’day Tom, how are you?

 

ELLIOTT:

Good. Now I haven’t been able to make head nor tail of your revised Gonski school funding program. What I do know is Catholic schools and people associated with Catholic educations are up in arms. They say they’ve been betrayed, that you’re stripping money out of them, that fees at Catholic schools have to go up. Is that true?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I’m a Catholic school parent and I went to a Catholic school for all 13 years of my education. It is difficult, but let me explain it simply: all the formulas that have been in place for decades and the dozens of deals we inherited from the Gillard government means that students were paid different amounts of money depending on whether they were in a Western Australian state school or a Victorian Catholic school or a NSW independent school. There was no rational basis for it, other than these deals had been done. So what Simon Birmingham is trying to do is to bring a pretty simple philosophy to bear, which is that, on a needs-basis, the Commonwealth will pay 80 per cent of what’s called a ‘resourcing standard’ – a number – based on need and the capacity of parents to pay for a non-government school. The states, who primarily fund and run state schools, will contribute 20 per cent of that. And over the 10 years, we have guaranteed an extra $18 billion for education so that schools and families have certainty.

 

ELLIOTT:

OK, but why is the Catholic sector so angry at you? Because they are. They are livid about it.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I’ve been getting a few emails and I’ve spoken to my school principal and some of the leaders of it. I respect them greatly. As I said, I’m a product of it. I think it’s different in different parts of Australia because the Catholic system has historically been a bit like a state government system, it has redistributed money within itself. The truth is that the Labor Party is promising this mythical $22 billion, which isn’t in the budget and they never provided for, so I think that is also partly it. But across Australia there is an extra $3.6 billion – an increase of $3.6 billion – to Catholic schools.

 

ELLIOTT:

All right, but is it that they were promised, I don’t know, $10 billion, and you were given $3.6 billion, have you dashed expectations about future funding increases? Is that why they’re angry?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Look, in all honesty, it’s best to ask them why they’re angry.

 

ELLIOTT:

Well tell me, I’m asking you, you’ve been copping it and you say you’ve spoken to people …

 

SENATOR RYAN:

And I think part of it is a misunderstanding, because I don’t see a reason for fees to go up. I understand the funding system. I was in the education portfolio in a more junior level a few years ago, I don’t think there is a reason for fees to go up. As I said, I’m a fee-paying parent.

 

ELLIOTT:

Is it that they’ve been promised funding increases of – I’ll make up a number – $10 billion over the next 10 years, and with Gonski 2.0 you’ve come out and said ‘no, you’ll only get $3.6 billion over 10 years’. Is that what the source of the discontent is?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Well I think that could be part of it, because it’s like me promising to give you $1 million tomorrow Tom, if you counted on it you’d be crazy because I don’t have it, and that’s what Labor did. They promised money that wasn’t there, that wasn’t funded and was never going to be delivered.

 

ELLIOTT:

Have you done a deal with the Greens to get this through the Upper House?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Negotiations are still going on. I’m not aware of any deal or any arrangement having been settled at all.

 

ELLIOTT:

Have you changed anything about Gonski 2.0, as it was first proposed, to now?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

As of the announcement of six or seven weeks ago? Look not as far as I know. I’m not in discussions with the cross-bench members and the Greens and they’re ongoing. Parliament is scheduled to rise Thursday, hopefully we will be able to conclude by then.

 

ELLIOTT:

The message for upset Catholic school principals and parents is ‘you’ve made a mistake’?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I think what we’ve got here is that we’re trying to provide simple and guaranteed funding – and there is an increase in funding. Funding goes up. The Liberal Party, the Coalition, has been a strong supporter for decade after decade of the non-government school sector and of school choice, particularly for those not of the greatest economic means.

 

ELLIOTT:

Catholic schools that are saying they need to put their fees up, you’re saying to them you don’t need to?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I don’t see a rationale for fees to go up. I see increased money going into the system and therefore I don’t see why the fees should go up.

 

ELLIOTT:

96900693 131332. We might try and speak to someone associated with the Catholic education system later on or possibly tomorrow.

 

Another issue today, obviously, high energy prices are problematic. I know your colleague Josh Frydenberg as the Energy Minister has been talking about that. This morning, the Prime Minister announced a plan to reduce gas exports and keep more gas for customers in Australia. How would that work?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

So what happened about seven years ago was that they built a big gas export plant in Gladstone in Queensland …

 

ELLIOTT:

In fact there are three separate …

 

SENATOR RYAN:

… There are multiple trains, as they call them. And the Queenslanders loved it. It was a huge investment for a regional town. But the problem is, they’ve now started sucking gas up from what we use here, particularly in Melbourne, but also in NSW, to meet their export contracts when they thought they were going to be getting more gas out of Queensland. At the same time, I understand that production in Bass Strait has been on a long-term decline for a while. So what we’ve done is say ‘we can’t have a situation where I can buy Australian gas overseas cheaper than I can buy it here’.

 

ELLIOTT:

Yeah I mentioned that earlier. Customers in Tokyo get it cheaper than what we do and it’s our gas.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

When there’s a shortage of gas, which is defined as – as I understand it, to use layman’s language – overseas prices being lower than what you can buy it here, the Government’s bringing in a licensing regime that will be reviewed after two years, in order to ensure Australians, and particularly businesses who are seeing very large increases in the gas contracts, can still invest and employ people, as well as us still heating our houses.

 

ELLIOTT:

Ok so what you’re saying is that if the price of gas here in Victoria is higher than the price of gas in, I don’t know, Japan or South Korea, you will order the gas companies to sell less to the Japanese and more to us?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I’m not sure what spot market, or what particular market they’re using to test against, as I said I’m trying to use layman’s language because it is quite technical, the way it was explained to us by the Minister, it was Matt Canavan who is from Queensland, was that in essence and shortage will be partly defined by you have to be able to buy gas in Australia for the same price you can buy Australian gas overseas.

 

ELLIOTT:

But can you, if a private company like Santos or Origin or whoever, they’ve engaged in a contract to sell that gas at a certain price, can you just step in and tell them ‘no, you can’t fulfil that contract, you have to sell it here instead’?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Well remember they won’t be losing any money.

 

ELLIOTT:

Yeah, but can you make them overturn a contract?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

We can have a licensing arrangement. I think this is not a best case option, this is not something that people have been happy to do, these are problems that have developed over a decade. If we have power shortages because we don’t have enough gas to generate electricity over summer, if people can’t afford to heat their homes in the Melbourne winter, I think the Australian people actually expect us to step in.

 

ELLIOTT:

We’ve already had plenty of calls from people saying their gas bills are dramatically higher this winter than they were last winter.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I know mine is.

 

ELLIOTT:

Will we see the effect of this sometime soon?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I’ll be honest enough to say, Tom, I don’t know if people are going to see a reduction – that’s a retail issue – but when you look at the forward trajectory of what is happening to gas prices if we don’t step in, this will prevent further massive increases, particularly to businesses who are gas dependent. Whether they are manufacturers of plastics or whether they use large ovens or they use gas for another business process – that’s where it is really going to pose a risk and we have to ensure our competitive energy prices remain that so we don’t have people turfed out of work.

 

ELLIOTT:

Senator Scott Ryan, Special Minister of State, thanks very much for your time.

 

[ENDS]

 

Author: senatorryan

Share This Post On