Interview – Sky News Afternoon Agenda
SUBJECTS: New Government, Education Minister, school performance, childcare
KIERAN GILBERT: Jason Clare, congratulations. The new Education Minister. I know previously when you’ve been asked about whether you’ve got leadership ambitions, you said this was your dream job. And now you’ve got it.
JASON CLARE: Well, it’s a dream come true. I’m the first person in my family to go to uni. I’m the first person in the family to finish high school. I’m the first person in the family to finish year ten. For my mum and dad growing up in the sixties in western Sydney, they didn’t even dream of going to university. That sort of opportunity didn’t really exist for working class kids in the western suburbs back then, but it does now. And that’s because of the sort of big reforms of people like Gough Whitlam and Bob Hawke. Across the road from my office in Bankstown, there’s a big tower being built now. It’s the new campus of Western Sydney University. Big change is happening, but this is a really important portfolio. We come to this building wanting to change people’s lives for the better. That’s what education does.
GILBERT: So, when you talk about and looking back at your comments and certainly when we’ve been having discussions for well over a decade now, you’ve focussed on this as a game changer, is the way you put it. Why do you see it like that, and do you think it’s still got that sort of transformative potential?
CLARE: Oh, big time. Whether it’s early childhood education, and we talked a lot about that in the election campaign, and the potential that it has to help supercharge the economy by getting more people back into the economy who are at home at the moment, stuck at home, looking after the kids, because it’s more expensive to go to work than to not go to work because of the cost of childcare. Or whether it’s what we do in our primary schools and our high schools. Our schools are effectively the engine room of the new economy. What we do in our primary schools and our high schools, if we get it right, really sets the Australian economy up for the next decade and the decade beyond, making sure that our kids have the skills they need for the jobs of the future.
GILBERT: And obviously you’re day one, you’ve just been sworn in, but do you bring any sense of, I guess, a reform in mind, a value judgement, a set of beliefs that will inform you in this role where you think there needs to be change, can be improvement?
CLARE: Well, three things. First, it’s the big reforms in childcare, making childcare cheaper, not just because it’s good for kids and good for mums and dads, but because it’s good for the economy. So, that’s priority one: getting the legislation that underpins that through the Parliament so that we can implement that. The second is, how do we stop the slide? How do we turn around that slide that we’ve seen in student results at primary schools and high schools? We’re sliding down that that sort of global benchmark, falling behind the US, the UK, China, Korea. I want to work with state education ministers and teachers, all of the professionals in this area to see what we can do to turn that around. And part of that is getting more high achievers at high school to go to university and become teachers. And then the work that we do with our universities. They got hammered by COVID. They didn’t get JobKeeper, but they also lost a lot of international students. They represent one of the biggest export markets that we’ve got. But they’re also the place where we build those skills that I talked about a moment ago, making sure that we’re setting ourselves up for the future means that our universities are skilling up Aussies for those jobs. So, that’s really important as well.
GILBERT: When you look at your campaign – and we had a little visitor before would jump over your shoulder, actually.
CLARE: Little Jack.
GILBERT: There’s Jack there who’s here to provide a bit of support running off now, the little man. When you look at the campaign you had and your family featured through it as well, obviously. But you had a very successful one, didn’t you? You would be happy, obviously, with it, with the result. But now you’ve been promoted beyond, I think, your expectations, haven’t you?
CLARE: Mate, I pinch myself that I’m in this building at all. There’s only a bit over a thousand people that have ever been elected as members of this place. I talked about my mum and dad. My mum didn’t really go to high school. She was in bed crook for two years after she left primary school. The idea that a kid from Cabramatta could rise one day to become the Education Minister still blows my mind. And it’s personal for me, not just because I know in my own story what the power of education is, not just because I see it in my mother and father-in-law who are refugees from Vietnam and their kids, my wife, my brother-in-law are university graduates. But what it means for that little guy running around behind the interview. I’ve got a little boy at kindergarten. I’ve got another little one who’s about to go to childcare.
GILBERT: So being Minister for Childcare, you’re living it.
CLARE: I’m living it. I’m seeing it. But, you know, that’s just one example. I know that there are hundreds of thousands of Australians –
GILBERT: There’s a lot of weight on your shoulders too because we all know how expensive, certainly those that have experienced the last few years. There’s a lot of responsibility here for you to try and fix that system.
CLARE: When Jack went from childcare last year to kindergarten this year, it was like I got a pay rise. Childcare is super expensive. There’s a reason why parents don’t send their children to childcare or don’t send them for that extra day because it is so expensive and if you can make a change there that’s going to help, in particular, women who are often working part time, two or three days to work, three or four or five days, then you’re getting thousands, tens of thousands of skilled Australians ready to go. Now you talk to employers all the time, Chamber of Commerce, they will tell you that there’s a shortage of skilled workers in Australia. And what do we do to train them up? Well, the education system is what that’s all about. But there are a lot of Australians that are skilled right now ready to go, but they’re not working as many days as they’d like to because childcare is so expensive.
GILBERT: Well, you’ve got your first ministerial meeting now and congratulations once again. We might get Jack to come and say g’day. He’s been running around. Hey, Jack.
CLARE: Hey, Jack. Come here. No, you’re going to get shy now? Let me give you a cuddle.
GILBERT: Your dad had a big day today.
CLARE: Was it exciting?
JACK: Uh huh.
CLARE: You got to meet Albo?
JACK: Uh huh.
CLARE: Did you love it?
JACK: Uh huh.
CLARE: Did your little brother love it, too?
JACK: Uh huh.
GILBERT: Good boy. And you’re supporting the right team with that tie top, the blues. Love it. The blues is the footy team. Thanks, Jack. Thanks, Jason. All the best, mate.
CLARE: Thanks mate.