Gillard fields questions on Q&A

Posted by

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has subjected herself to a hail of questions from a live television audience, but the curliest one came earlier in the day from a school kid.


On a whistlestop tour of the west, Ms Gillard arrived on Sunday night before heading to the marginal seat of Canning, where former WA Labor minister Alannah MacTiernan is challenging Liberal incumbent Don Randall.

The prime minister went to Challis Primary School in Armadale to announce her government’s $482.1 million education program, saying she wanted to speak directly to the people involved, not just the media.

After her PowerPoint presentation to parents, teachers and students, an 11-year-old boy posed a question.

Lachlain Donoghue asked if teachers would get paid more in light of the prime minister’s plans to pay good teachers bonuses.

The prime minister did not answer directly, saying the bonuses would recognise and reward good teachers for their efforts but not touching on overall wage rises.

In addition to cash incentives for teachers and schools, Ms Gillard announced an Australian baccalaureate and national online assessment options for parents to monitor their children’s progress.

Schools and teachers would reap the rewards of better performances, with $75,000 for primary schools that improved their attendance, literacy and numeracy rates.

High schools would gain $100,000 for improving attendance and retention rates, year 12 results and the number of students going on to higher education, training or work.

Federal Labor would also recognise the importance of a strong state school education system, the prime minister said

. She rejected a suggestion poorer schools would be disadvantaged or that the system could be rorted.

At a press conference Ms Gillard sidestepped a question about whether the powerful teachers union would be happy with the idea.

The union has been vocal in its opposition to Labor’s My School website and the national literacy and numeracy assessments

. Leaving Perth, the prime minister surprised journalists by appearing in the role of flight attendant and greeting passengers as they boarded their aircraft.

Ms Gillard joined the travelling media on their charter flight after issues with her VIP plane.

They flew to Adelaide, where she was grilled by a studio audience for ABC Television’s Q&A program.

The audience had two former Labor leaders – Kevin Rudd and Mark Latham – on its mind.

Ms Gillard’s campaigning on Saturday was marked by uncomfortable meetings with both men.

One audience member asked whether she had apologised to Mr Rudd for his abrupt disposal. “I can understand that Australians woke up and they were pretty surprised at the events of that day,” she said.

Among the lighter moments was when the prime minister was asked, “how big of a tool is Mark Latham?” on a scale of one to 10, with, “one being just bearable and 10 being massively annoying”. Ms Gillard laughed heartily before responding, “There are some things that can’t be measured”.