KIERAN GILBERT: A lot of challenges for Simon Birmingham and the Government. One, the crossbench - we'll get to them in a moment and Labor - but internally there were some questions as to Chris Back, liberal WA Senator, Eric Abetz, Kevin Andrews, they're all yet to be convinced.
STEVEN CIOBO: Well we're going to keep pushing. The Government has got a clear agenda. We want a full transparent and open system. This is about providing record amounts of funding for Australia's education system. It's truly delivering on the Gonski needs-based model. It's one model across Australia that sees the same rules applied regardless. And we're putting an end to the special deals. Yes, there might be some uncertainty about certain aspects of it. But you know what, Kieran? This is Parliament House that seems to be, unfortunately, part of the day-to-day occurrences that take place when you've got a Senate crossbench that want to have different positions. That's part of the challenge of being in government -
KIERAN GILBERT: Have you been hearing these concerns? As the Member for Moncrieff in Queensland as opposed to Trade Minister. Have you been hearing from the Catholic schools saying they've been duded?
STEVEN CIOBO: No, not at all. More than that. I've actually had phone calls from both the public education sector and from principals in my electorate talking about the fact that they welcome this new money. They welcome this new approach, because this approach puts to bed, puts an end to these special deals. It is now one approach that is transparent, that's open, that parents can see whether they're in the public sector or in the private sector. This is a far superior approach. And that's part of the reason why David Gonski endorsed this approach to school funding.
KIERAN GILBERT: So you think the Catholic system that there are elements of different views here because you've got Christian Zahra, the chief of the Catholic Education Commission in town saying that this is going to be an albatross around the Government’s neck at the next election.
STEVEN CIOBO: Look, those certain stakeholders again, are going to argue their case and they're going to argue their case strongly. That's to be expected. The fact is that historically we saw special deals struck between the Federal Government and certain sectors, and, of course, people want those special deals to continue. We've changed that. We’ve made no apologies for the fact that we've changed that. We're not in the business of doing special deals sector by sector. What we're in the business of doing is putting in place a transparent framework, a framework that says if you're from the same, effectively, socioeconomic status, whether you're in Queensland, New South Wales or Western Australia or Tasmania, the same funding model applies. So we make no apologies for the fact that we are about transparency, a genuine needs-based model that sees that same model approach across all of Australia.
KIERAN GILBERT: The Education Union looks like it’s – well there's a bit of a split there. The WA arm of the Education Union reported in today's West Australia newspaper suggesting that this is actually a good deal for the public schools in that state, 6.8 per cent a year increase over the next decade. So they’ve split from the rest of the Education Union. You’d welcome that?
STEVEN CIOBO: Look, of course. Here's the shock Kieran. The Education Union in this country is torn between doing what they know is right, which is supporting the Coalition's approach. Or doing the bidding of their political masters, the Australian Labor Party. I mean, no surprises that what is one of the most leftist unions in the country, I don't think I get many votes from teachers generally. The Education Union is really split because they know the right thing to do here. And the right thing is to see a common approach across Australia, transparent, based on need. They know that that's our approach. That's why they're split because they want to do the right thing but they're also, as I said, heavily conflicted by their support for the Labor Party and wanting to do the bidding of the Labor Party. And that's why you see these kinds of splits.
KIERAN GILBERT: The Greens are also split on this issue. You should be able to get the deal done if the spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young has her way because she sees the merits of this deal quite clearly. But the Greens look like they're split as well.
STEVEN CIOBO: We just need to work this through. This is what it comes down to. We are going to continue to strongly advocate about why this is a far better, more transparent, more equitable model that applies across Australia than the old approach, which as I said, saw special deals done between different sectors. I mean, that's not a long-term solution. That's not a sustainable funding model.
KIERAN GILBERT: Is it sustainable to do deals with the Greens though for the Government, the Coalition - that's not a good look for the Coalition to be siding with the Greens.
STEVEN CIOBO: We have got to get our legislation through. Obviously we would always rather that the Australian Labor Party served Australia's national interest and did the right thing, but unfortunately we often see the Australian Labor Party for pure ideological or pure political reasons will not do the right thing by Australia. So we're forced to deal with who are rational actors in the Senate. If we can deal with rational actors in the Senate from time to time on different pieces of legislations, whether it's One Nation, whether it's independent Senators, or whether it’s Nick Xenophon, or whether it's the Greens, we'll do those arrangements, we'll make understandings in order to get legislation through.
KIERAN GILBERT: You’ve got that in the Party Room. The other is the debate about energy. I don't think you were there last week. But that was quite a feisty debate at times. As someone that's watched this for a long time, do you think that you can land this in a way that's going to satisfy the Tony Abbott’s of the world and still get an energy policy which might bring down emissions?
STEVEN CIOBO: What it comes down to, Kieran, is this: people that have concerns don't want to see energy prices continue to go up. This is what it distils down to, in its most basic element. That is a concern that everyone in the Coalition shares. We want to see price decreases preferably and if not decreases then at least very modest increases in line with inflation or something like that. What we've seen though are very big increases. And part of the reason has been because we've seen an unwinding of what is a common sense approach to energy policy for quite some time. Take for example, South Australia where we've seen all the trials and tribulations in-
KIERAN GILBERT: But is there a way forward for you, for the Government to get this done in terms of well I know there's interventions looming in the export market for gas. But that's not enough. That's a short term mandate.
STEVEN CIOBO: The thing about the Coalition approach is that we're largely agnostic about what's going to be used to generate power. So whether it's renewables, whether it's clean coal, whether it's gas, we know that we've got a variety of options available to us. What we want to do is make sure we're putting more supply into the grid. It's got to be reliable, but it's also got to be stable, Kieran. This is part of the concern I've got about Labor's approach, right? So Labor has this ideological position that they want a 50 per cent renewable energy target. Now we've seen what happens when you have targets like that without the appropriate modelling and storage in South Australia. South Australia's been a debacle. Federal Labor wants to adopt that exact same South Australian approach across the country.
KIERAN GILBERT: Your internal critics say that that's what Finkel comes up with. Close to that - 42 per cent.
STEVEN CIOBO: No it's not because our approach, as I said, is as agnostic as to the technology we use to generate the power. Whether it's renewables, coal, gas, etc.
KIERAN GILBERT: Thanks for your time trade minister. Appreciate it.
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