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15 Νοε 2013 (πριν από 3 χρόνια και 7 μήνες)

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Australian Agenda

3 March 2013

Chris Bowen


Sky News


Australian Agenda

Chris Bowen, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research

3 March 2013


Interview with

Chris Bowen

Australian Agenda program,
3 March 2013



Peter van Onselen:

We are joined now by Chris Bowen, welcome to the program.


Chris Bowen:

Good morning, Peter; good morning, Paul.


Peter van Onselen:

I want to ask you about policy first up, but start with your former portfolio of
immigration. What do you think of the remarks, in a policy sense, by Scott Morrison.
Some people on your side have been accused of verballing him in relation to his
remarks,
but equally he did make comments that were fairly clear. What's your view?


Chris Bowen:

Australian Agenda

3 March 2013

Chris Bowen


It's what we've come to expect from Scott Morrison. He'll always go for the cheap and,
frankly, pretty grubby line when it comes to this sort of policy. The only exp
lanation for
the Liberal Party set is that asylum seekers are more likely to be criminals than other
people in the community, that's just not right. You can have a strong border protection
policy, which I believe in strongly, but you should never demonise
one particular group
and I think that's what the Liberal Party has been doing and is doing on this particular
issue. It's a very serious charge against one individual, which should be dealt with
through the law and the courts. But to try and make a broader

point about asylum
seekers generally I thought was very unfortunate. I thought the Liberal Party got
themselves in all sorts of bother trying to justify it. You see Eric Abetz out there saying
"You should know where they are because they don't speak Engli
sh". They've just got
themselves in all sorts of bother and they are really, really going to the pretty base
political tactic of demonising asylum seekers which I don't think has any place in the
Australian political discourse.


Paul Kelly:

So is this th
e sort of process that we'll see during the course of
this

election year? How
concerned are you that we'll see this sort of politics being played?


Chris Bowen:

Let's hope not, Paul, but we'll really have to
see

how the Liberal Party plays this. As I
sa
y, I'm up for a debate and I know Brendan O'Connor will be up for a debate about
border protection policies and about how the Liberal Party is engaging i
n
what I

see as
a two
-
card trick

of trying to block the Government implementing its policies
-

most
par
t
icularly the Malaysia agreement

which every expert
says is what would actually
work.


Y
ou'd see the Liberal Party come to office and really only have temporary
protection visas and turning back the boats which will never work for all the reasons
Australian Agenda

3 March 2013

Chris Bowen


we've dis
cussed. So their tactic is to try
and

block the Government from implementing
these policies, and the second part of the two
-
card trick is to demonise asylum seekers
and try and talk this up as an issue. Let's hope that they don't do that but their form is
that they will continue to do it.


Paul Kelly:

What about 457 visas? The Government has announced a crack
-
down on this. Were
you heading in this direction yourself as minister?


Chris Bowen:

Brendan O'Connor said so when he announced this policy. He in
dicated that this was
something the Government have been working
on
for some time, which we have been.
This is about, frankly, a small number of rorts, a small number of employers who rort
the system of 457 visas. The Government's concerned, I was concerne
d, and Brendan
O'Connor was concerned when he took over the portfolio to ensure that we had the
suite of measures available to crack down on those rorts. 457s are very important for
our economy, it's very important that employers have access to them when
there's
genuine skills shortages, but you do need to have measures in place to ensure that they
are for genuine skills shortages. We had begun the process, I had begun the process of
consulting with the Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration whi
ch I had
established. We were working through those measures when Brendan took over the
portfolio. He inherited that work and he's implementing it.


Peter van Onselen:

Minister, one of your new portfolio responsibilities is high
er education. There's a s
tory
on

the front page of the

Sun

Herald
' newspaper today about the O'Farrell Government
Australian Agenda

3 March 2013

Chris Bowen


in NSW looking to raise minimum standards for teachers by putting a forced proposition
there that if you want to become a school teacher you need to have a certain mi
nimum
grade from your HSC,

and if you don't you will be locked out of being able to become a
classroom teacher. What do you make of that?


Chris Bowen:

Look, the quality of teacher education is very important , it's a vital policy area for all
levels
of

government, for universities and for schools and there has been good work
done on it. But this proposal by Mr O'Farrell is a very blunt instrument which I wouldn't
support. What's important is the quality of the teachers coming out of the education
syste
m, out of university. Universities should be able to work out the types of skills and
attributes that they want in their students. It's partly about ATARs, it's partly about
passion and commitment, a belief in edu
cation, and extra
curricular activities; all

sorts of
things that universities should be able to take into account. It's a very blunt instrument.
Many people now go into teaching not straight from school, without an ATAR, so I'm
disappointed in this approach from the NSW Government.



Peter van Ons
elen:

It's hard to argue, isn't it, with a system that puts a base there when we all agree that
there is a bit of a problem.


Chris Bowen:

There is a base and it's determined by university
,

by university in terms of their cut
-
offs
for their own courses.



Australian Agenda

3 March 2013

Chris Bowen


Peter van Onselen:

But the argument is it's too low at the moment.


Chris Bowen:

I don't think Adrian Piccoli or me should be sitting in our offices in our respective
parliament houses telling universities where their cut
-
offs should be. I think unive
rsities
should be trusted to do that. I think we should be working with universities to improve
the quality of teacher education. We've been doing that and we'll continue to do it. I
know the Prime Minister's very passionate and committed to it, Peter Garr
ett as Minister
for School Education is, myself as Minister for Tertiary Education is. We've been
working away on it. But this, is as I say, a poor approach I think from the NSW
Government. We're happy to work with them but dropping a story in the 'Sunda
y
Telegraph'
,

or
'Sun

Herald
', apologies, in terms of consultation, is not the way to do it.
You work together on these things and I think this has all the hallmarks of a bit of a
stunt, frankly, when this is actually a serious policy area to be approached

collaboratively.


Paul Kelly:

As minister what's your response to the Universities Australia submission released last
week? When it comes to funding they want an extra 2.5% a year on the indexation
formula. What's your answer to that?


Chris Bowen:

Th
is is University Australia's submission to the Federal Budget, and the Federal Budget
is handed down in May. That's when our response will be very clear. But let me say
Australian Agenda

3 March 2013

Chris Bowen


this: as I said, during the week at the Universities Australia conference, there is an
area
of stark difference here. We as a government have increased funding per university
student by 10% compared to what it would have been without the reforms we've
introduced. There's now 200,000 more Australians getting access to university
education be
cause of our reforms between 2007 and 2013
-

200,000. This has been an
area of real reform and it's a stark difference. You've got the Liberal approach during
the Howard years of actually cutting university funding, not slowing the growth but
actually cutt
ing funding to universities alone amongst the OECD in doing that. A really
retrograde step. And in the absence of clear commitments from Tony Abbott not to do
that I think the university sector is entitled to be very worried about the Liberal
approach.



Paul Kelly:

Are you calling on Tony Abbott to give the university sector an assurance it won't be
cut?


Chris Bowen:

Yes, and I've already done so and I will continue to do so. Because the track record is
clear, Tony Abbott often refers to the Howard Go
vernment and says, "Look, we've done
it before, we can do it again". He's right about university funding. Yes, they've cut
university funding before and they could do it again, and the best Tony Abbott could
say to the universities conference was "well, th
e best you can hope for is for us not to
cut you". He didn't even give a commitment not to cut funding, and he said that's the
best they could possibly hope for. I think that's a pretty poor message for Australia's
university sector. Not just for the vice
-
chancellors and professors and lecturers, but for
the students, for the families of students, and for those who a
re aspiring to go to
Australian Agenda

3 March 2013

Chris Bowen


university, f
or those in high school wanting to better themselves and dreaming of a
university education. I think that's
a very worrying message from Tony Abbott.


Paul Kelly:

Just on a related issue we had the Chaney report this week wantin
g a very significant
expansion i
n the number of foreign tertiary students in this country, an increase of
about 30% over the next decad
e or so. What's your response to that, is that feasible?


Chris Bowen:

Well, I think that was a projection from the Chaney report and it's a good report. I've
released it and I've welcomed it. We will respond in full detail when we've been through
all ou
r government processes of course, but I wanted to put it out for public discussion
because it's a good and important report.


International education has been one of the areas, again, where we've introduced
substantial reforms. Chris Evans when he held my

portfolio, and myself when I was
Immigration Minister, commissioned Michael Knight, the former Olympics minister, to
review student visa settings. It was a good report which we've implemented in full a
couple of very strong recommendations, two big recomm
endations; post study work
rights and streamlin
ing
, which we have introduced. And having an impact, particularly
in the university sector.


Strong international education is important for our economy but I think even more
importantly than that it's impor
tant for our long term geopolitical strategic interests. We
want to be educating future leaders of our Asia
-
Pacific region here in Australia and we
Australian Agenda

3 March 2013

Chris Bowen


also want young Australians studying in Asia which we will achieve through our Asia
-
bound program which we'v
e recently announced. So international education is very
important for a range of reasons and we're very committed to promoting it, working
with the university, VET, and higher education sectors to do so.


Peter van Onselen:

Paul Kelly was positive about t
he Prime Minister's plan to go to Western Sydney, but in
being so was
-

I hope I'm not verballing you on this
-

was pointing out though equally
that in a sense the way that it's all been made public has been botched. The fact that
that's been botched has r
eally damaged the whole point of her having this five
-
day trip
to Western Sydney, isn't it?


Chris Bowen:

I agree with Paul to this degree, that I think a lot of the commentary has been over the
top over the last week. The Prime Minister has been a regul
ar visitor to Western
Sydney, of course she has. The entire ministry is regularly through Western Sydney.
As we should be. It's a large and important region, important for our economy. More
than a million people live in Western Sydney and I happen to b
e one of them. The
Prime Minister's a regular visitor. She'd be criticised if she didn't come to Western
Sydney. There's some criticism for her coming to Western Sydney...



Peter van Onselen:

But be that as it may, the problem
-

and we just put a carto
on up a moment ago
-

the
problem is that it's now been portrayed as her visiting voters in their
natural

habitat.
She's being viewed as an outsider coming there because of the way that this story
broke.

Australian Agenda

3 March 2013

Chris Bowen



Chris Bowen:

I just reject that completely. As I s
ay, she's a regular visitor. She's from the western
suburbs of Melbourne which has its similarities with the western suburbs of Sydney. In
my discussions with her she's certainly understood the importance of the issues in
Western Sydney. She gets those is
sues as a regular visitor. We talk about Western
Sydney regularly. As I say I live in Western Sydney, I'm a cabinet minister from
Western Sydney, and those issues are very important to the Government. I think some
people would criticise the Prime Minister

if she came to Western Sydney, criticise her if
she didn't come to Western Sydney, criticise her if she stayed at Kirribilli House, criticise
her if she didn't stay at Kirribilli House. Sometimes that's just the nature of political
debate in Australia. I

understand that. It was ever thus, it will ever be thus, but you've
got to call it as it is and say a visit of this nature by the Prime Minister to Western
Sydney is perfectly appropriate and welcome.


Paul Kelly:

We've got these polls which show the si
tuation in Western Sydney for Labor is pretty
dire. I mean very, very dire. Is it that bad? What's your assessment, because your slap
bang in the middle of it.


Chris Bowen:

Well, let's say this, Paul, there will be plenty of polls between now and elect
ion day
about Western Sydney and elsewhere. But let's look at the issues. Firstly you've got a
group of Western Sydney MPs, of which I'm one, who grew up in Western Sydney, still
live in Western Sydney, most of us raising our families in Western Sydney. T
his isn't
some political flavour of the month, this is our driving political passion. Representing
Australian Agenda

3 March 2013

Chris Bowen


the people we grew up with, representing our families, the families that we all go to
school
-

take our children to school with etc. Representing those famil
ies is very, very
important to me, to Jason Clare, to Ed Husic, to Michelle Rowland, to David Bradbury,
to Laurie Ferguson, to Julie Owens. To the whole group of Western Sydney MPs. And
we're going to fight very hard for...


Paul Kelly:

But what's wrong

with Labor in Western Sydney then? The poll results are just
appalling. What's gone wrong?


Chris Bowen:

We're going to fight very hard on the issues, on the issues that count to Western
Sydney. Now the difference between a Labor government's approach t
o Western
Sydney and a Liberal government's approach is not a hypothetical question, Paul.
There's a clear model here. We, in Government, are delivering the national broadband
network to Western Sydney; 48,000 homes being connec
ted, including in my
elector
ate; v
ery important for small businesses, for kids studying. The Liberal Party just
doesn't get that and they'll cut it. You've seen the approach of the O'Farrell Government
in NSW. Many people voted Liberal for the first time in the last state election a
nd
elected Liberal state MPs. What have we got in return; $1.8 billion cuts to education,
including to TAFE which is very important in Western Sydney. Our Catholic system
schools are really suffering, in crisis because of those cuts. Health cuts, taking
radioactive waste from the Liberal heartland of the North Shore and dumping it in
Western Syd
ney at Lidcombe and Kemps Creek and t
reating Western Sydney like a
dumping ground. This is the Liberal approach to Western Sydney. Contrast that with
the Labor ap
proach, which has strong representation at the federal level from Labor at
Western Sydney, a whole bunch of dedicated, talented members of Parliament who are
Australian Agenda

3 March 2013

Chris Bowen


very committed to the issues as opposed to the Liberal parties that are running this
Western Sydne
y campaign from Warringah and North Sydney saying this is our new
heartland. Well, we're more than happy to have Western Sydney as a battleground
because we have a very good story to tell.



Peter van Onselen:

The Prime Minister says that she's going to set up a task force to deal with gangs and
crime in Western Sydney. This is the Federal Government sort of moving into state
areas of responsibility, isn't it?


Chris Bowen:

Well, we want to work cooperatively.

This is a big issue for Western Sydney and there
has been a gun crime problem for Western Sydney, particularly in my own electorate,
and Blaxland and elsewhere.


Peter van Onselen:

The O'Farrell Government says that most of that is to do with weak Cust
oms rules.


Chris Bowen:

I would hope that Barry O'Farrell would stop trying to shift the blame and actually work
cooperatively with Julia Gillard and the Federal Government on this. The figures I've
seen show that most of the gun crime is conducted with
not weapons that are brought
in from overseas, weapons that are stolen here in Australia. So I'm a bit sort of over the
blame game of every time Barry O'Farrell's asked about this saying "oh, this is all the
Australian Agenda

3 March 2013

Chris Bowen


Federal Government's fault, nothing I can do abo
ut this". Well he's the Premier, we do
have a big problem in Western Sydney with this issue. I think these announcements
today from the Prime Minister and Jason Clare show that we are more than prepared to
get involved and do things. There are federal resp
onsibility, there are state
responsibilities. Let

s work cooperatively. I think people in Western Sydney are over
this blame game, over Barry O'Farrell coming out and saying this is all the Federal
Government's problem. They want us to work together on it
, they are sick of the
shootings and they want all levels of government
-

federal, state and local. Local
government has a role to play here as well, I know many mayors are very concerned
about this. They want us working together on it. This is what we're

saying today.


Paul Kelly:

How much of the problem that you face in Western Sydney is not so much federal
issues but the Labor brand arising from the long period of state Labor government,
which ended in such a disastrous fashion with the suggestion of in
eptitude and
corruption?


Chris Bowen:

Let me say a couple of things about that, Paul. Firstly I think people in Western Sydney
aren't alone; people in NSW have been disgusted by what they've seen through the
ICAC hearings. Let's go straight to the nub
of the question. We're disgusted, I'm
disgusted by what I've seen in those hearings, it's a terrible thing to be watching
playing out. And, yes, people are right to be angry and disgusted about that. I think
John Robertson has taken a very strong approac
h on that going forward. Of course the
State Government had its issues. You have to look at the State Government over a long
period of time and say the entire period of state government by the Labor Party did
deliver to Western Sydney. Whether it's the M5

East, which opened up access to the
Australian Agenda

3 March 2013

Chris Bowen


city in a better way, whether it is the transitways, whether it was investment in health
and all the hospitals that the Carr Government in particular rebuilt. There was a real
commitment to Western Sydney from that gove
rnment. But, yes, of course the people
of Western Sydney were disappointed towards the end of that government and made
their views known at the last state election in a very emphatic way, and that's
appropriate. But what we've seen since is the Liberal Go
vernment, as I say, recognise
that by cutting health funding, cutting education funding, dumping radioactive waste...



Paul Kelly:

What's your view about the critique offered by people such as Paul Keating and Mark
Latham that Labor is not sufficiently at
tuned to aspirational sentiment, that it's too tied
into old fashioned trade unionism?


Chris Bowen:

Well, I say to that look at our policies. Small business and aspiration is very important.
We have our small business minister, we've got a strong small
business policy. We
actually are introducing in effect small business tax cuts through our instant asset write
-
off and our lost carryback, which Tony Abbott would abolish. We have a pro small
business policy which goes to the heart of aspiration.


Likewis
e, coming back to universities. Universities are the ultimate aspirational tool and
we've opened up university places to so many more people in Western Sydney more
than anywhere else. We've seen the biggest increase in uptake of university places. So
I ag
ree that the ethos of aspiration is very important, and I actually think that is
supported by the policy approaches that we've taken and we need to communicate that
as well.

Australian Agenda

3 March 2013

Chris Bowen



Paul Kelly:

What about Julia Gillard's line the other day. I'd like to ask you,

do you agree with
what she said? That is that you define Labor not as a progressive party, not as a social
democratic party, but as a labour party. That is, as a trade union party. That's how
you'd define it. Is that your view?


Chris Bowen:

Our historical links to the trade union movement are there for all...


Paul Kelly:

I know that, but is that your view now?


Chris Bowen:

Everybody will explain those links in their own ways. The Prime Minister was making the
point that we are a labour pa
rty with trade union links; yes we are. But that's not to
say, of course, that we don't see our great role in life as promoting growth, economic
growth to lift people out of poverty and to let that aspiration become a reality.
Aspiration is important but m
ore important is the reality which Government policies can
open up by promoting economic growth and at the same time promoting opportunity
through education to make the most of that economic growth which was opened up by
those Hawke
-
Keating reforms, which
are so important in opening up our economy and
promoting economic growth, which have been responsible for Australia having the word
record of the longest continuing economic growth over the last 21 years.

Australian Agenda

3 March 2013

Chris Bowen




Peter van Onselen:

But let's call a spade a spa
de here. The Prime Minister saying what she said at the AWU
conference was her playing to her ever
-
dwindling base within the party in the face of
leadership speculation. Now you're very close to Kevin Rudd, everybody talks about you
being a Kevin Rudd supp
orter, she was fronting the AWU. Everyone knows that they
have got her back, as Paul Howes said. She was playing to an internal audience, wasn't
she, when she said that?


Chris Bowen:

Look, you know, you can make that suggestion, Peter. I think the Pri
me Minister was
making a speech at an AWU conference just as she makes a speech daily at
conferences around the country, at all sorts of institutions and organisations. That's her
role as Prime Minister and so she should. Yeah, you can read all you like in
to it, she was
making a speech at a conference just as she does every day around the country.



Peter van Onselen:

Is Kevin Rudd coming back?


Chris Bowen:

Kevin Rudd made his views very clear, I think, sitting in this chair about a fortnight ago.



P
eter van Onselen:

Australian Agenda

3 March 2013

Chris Bowen


He said that the speculation should be cryogenically frozen. My understanding of
cryogenic freezing is that you do that
so
you can come back.


Chris Bowen:

I'm not sure what more Kevin Rudd could say. He's made his position very clear
that
this issue was resolved last February, a year ago almost exactly, and that as far as he's
concerne
d that is the end of the issue and
he supports the Prime Minister going forward
to the election. I'm not sure what you expect him to say. He said it in his own words
here in this studio sitting in this chair.


Peter van Onselen:

Okay. Chris Bowen, we appreciate you joining us on Australian Agenda, thanks for your
company.


Chris Bowen:

My pleasure.