Kelly in the Media

Kelly Vincent – 891 ABC Interview with Peter Goers

Peter Goers: Minister for Education, Susan Close. Tammy Franks, Greens MLC. Kelly Vincent, Dignity for Disability MLC. It’s very exciting this city high school. Is it Adelaide High or is it another campus of Adelaide now?

Susan Close: No, it’s a completely separate school and we’re yet to name it. If you look closely it says ‘New CBD High School’ as its sign in the picture because we don’t yet have a name for it, but it will be a completely distinct school. Adelaide High School’s got over 1,400 students now. It’s a big school, it’s big enough, and so rather than try to have leaders to split themselves over two campuses we’ve chosen to put a second school in. It will have their own principal and teachers and it’ll be an incredible school. It’ll be our first vertical school, we go up six storeys, but it’s going to have all of the latest trimmings for good teaching, or as I like to say, pedagogy, because I’ve now been Education Minister for a year and I’ve learnt some of the lingo.

Peter Goers: It could have a Kaurna name; it could be named after someone. You’re doing that more and more with high schools.

Susan Close: What we’ve done is formed a reference group of parents and principals who are associated with the feeder schools and also the existing Adelaide High and we’ve asked them to do a few jobs, and that’s one of them is to suggest some good names.

Peter Goers: Which area will it feed?

Susan Close: We can look on the website of the Department for Education and Child Development and there’s a picture that shows you the large catchment for the two schools. What we’re yet to do is divide that into two and that’s one of the things the reference group will do some serious work on and give us some advice. But look, you’re not going to be short changed with either school; they are both going to be outstanding.

Peter Goers: Adelaide High’s a wonderful school, it always has been, and people are moving there to be part of it. I’m a bit worried about my school Findon High which is being demoted, is it going to go?

Susan Close: Yeah, I think of you every time I think of Findon. I don’t want it to go. Their numbers are pretty low at the moment and that’s troubling. It didn’t trigger enough numbers for some recent money that we’ve been putting in schools, the $250m on STEM. I’m worried about Findon seeing a future for itself and the new Chief Executive and I have booked ourselves in to go and visit the school. I was just chatting to the principal the other day when I had the ‘Ring the Minister’ thing for the principals. She rang in. It is a great school. I know in certain people’s views it’s the best school in the world and I want to see it succeed. So we need to work out ways to build it up and I’m interested in that.

Peter Goers: That area is now – people are old and the kids have moved away but that will reverse and in a generation’s time what do you do then? This has happened to Adelaide High because 25 years ago it was barely popular; it wasn’t what it is today. Do you have to sort of account for that in the future?

Susan Close: We do and we’re reluctant to close schools for that reason. We do occasionally amalgamate when schools are interested in amalgamating. But we need to I think have a really thorough look at the future of Findon because it is a good school; the education there is still top class, there’s no problem with that. But we need to see a sustainable path where it’s getting more and more students over time.

Peter Goers: I was a bit astonished that principals now have to spend a lot of their time out selling their school and this is I think it’s difficult talking people into coming to that school.

Susan Close: Well, what’s happened since you and I were at school Peter is that we’re seeing a lot more private schools taking greater space in the market and you get a fantastic education in the public system; both my kids are in the public system, I’m a product of it. I think it is the best possible option is for children to go to their local school, interact with the people who are in their community and learn from fantastic educators who are part of a big system. But the reality is that around 30% of people are not choosing that and we need to make sure that they understand that they do have a choice. And of course if they want to take a choice to go to a private or Catholic school then that is a choice that they can and should make. But we need to be really clear about the benefits of the public system and I’m a very big advocate for that.

Peter Goers: Me too. What do you make of this Tammy?

Tammy Franks: I‘ve actually been speaking to a parent who’s at a feeder school for Pasadena High and she’s really worried that Pasadena High is on the chopping block and I agree with her. It’s a small school; she’s chosen that for her children into the future quite deliberately. She doesn’t want to go to Unley High which is often seen as the private-public crossover school, it’s a particular type of school. She wants Pasadena and I think schools as community hubs is something we use in the rhetoric and it’s actually how they should be working. We should have community based more and more and I certainly want a smaller school for my daughter because I know that will suit her better when she goes to high school.

Kelly Vincent: I’m hesitant to put on the record that I went to Unley High, but not for the reasons that it’s a private-public school but because my Mum fought very hard to find the best solution for me as a person with certain access needs and she fought very hard to have me – I hate this word – but mainstreamed, because she knew that I could succeed academically and I just needed that bit of support. So she would have hated me to go into somewhere where I could get that support but not have the same expectations on me academically. So at the end of the day that was the best school for me and I’m very grateful for it. My brothers and I are all products of the public school system and I think really what this comes down to is that we need to make sure that all schools are properly resourced so that parents don’t feel particularly forced or pressured into making one choice over the other. In the same way that we can expect quality in our supermarkets no matter which one we go to. We should be able to expect a certain quality from our education system no matter which pathway we choose.

Peter Goers: Too much choice has not helped that because most of us went to the schools we were zoned to go to and we had the best education in the world. But now people have all this choice and I’m not sure it’s helped the public system. Is it possible to have a performing arts high school Susan?

Susan Close: Yes, so you’re thinking sort of ‘Fame Academy’ style?

Peter Goers: Well, they have them interstate and overseas. I think Kelly you’re a playwright; I could see you at a performing arts high school.

Kelly Vincent: Actually my mum has more or less apologised to me in later years of my life for not sending me to a performing arts school because she saw how much I craved that creative outlet. And I think we have specific schools for maths and sciences so why not look at a performing arts school. It’s not necessarily something that we have to do just for a career but it gives you a whole set of skills – public speaking and confidence – and all those things that have held me in great stead and can help other people as well. So why not have it again as an option?

Susan Close: So people may be aware that there are a number of specialisations that happen in our schools and we have fantastic music schools in particular; Woodville High is a superb music school, so is what is now Playford. But there are also dance schools, so Salisbury East has got an incredible new studio for dance performance.

Peter Goers: Charles Campbell?

Susan Close: So I don’t think we sell people too short on that. But we don’t have Fame Academy style where everyone who wants to be famous and talented is going to go to. That’s true. And it may be something that we evolve into because we’re an incredibly artistic and creative state.

Peter Goers: Exactly. And what I’ve seen recently and now over several years is Scotch College, they give performing arts scholarships and they attract wonderful kids out there who are the sort of cream. And I’d love to see them in the public system.

Kelly Vincent: I’ve got a friend, Tory Marshall who did get a scholarship at Scotch and she’s now a recording artist in LA. So it is achieving really great things.

Peter Goers: Well, Sarah Snook was an alumni there.

Kelly Vincent: The other thing in recent days there’s been some issues with the NDIS portal. No-one on the National Disability Insurance Scheme has been able to log on to get funding for services which is having a big impact on people’s lives. And quite apart from all the testing and things that has gone on, but certainly it is an issue. But the disability community I think is looking at this as a bit of slap in the face because the Census was more or less rectified after 36 hours. People with disabilities are potentially been going without services for nine weeks and there’s barely a whisper. So I think our selective anger is quite frustrating to me.

Peter Goers: Well said, Kelly Vincent. Redrawing the electoral boundaries – this never pleases anybody does it Susan?

Susan Close:  No I think that’s the perfect outcome when everyone’s a bit annoyed about it.  So, you know, we’ve had a couple of our seats that we currently holding put in to theoretically the Liberal side and that gives us a bit of case for grievance and there are, you know, I’m sure complaints on the other side as well.  I personally, if this one holds, can’t be disappointed about because for the first time in quite a long time Port Adelaide becomes Port Adelaide. The Le Fevre Peninsula in its entirety is returned to the Port Adelaide seat. I say that but at the same time it gives me no pleasure because Steven Mullighan is a fantastic Member for a good half of the Peninsula right now and I don’t like to see him go but if you think about a community of interest having Port Adelaide as Port Adelaide it is hard to argue.

Peter Goers:  Well what does he think about it?

Susan Close:  He goes a little further south and east, and picks up areas of Seaton for example which is a great seat of course but it’s nice to see Port Adelaide being treated as a single community, but we’ll see if that lasts to till the final version.

Peter Goers: How does this work areas change

Susan Close: The Commission looks at the growth as well that’s anticipated, the demography so that we try as much as possible in South Australia to have one vote, one value, so there’s a tolerance about 10% plus or minus that we have around the same number of voters, that’s one of the factors then of course there’s this other factor which is so difficult which is to try to guess the future election by looking at the past election so the Commission’s constantly chasing the last election to see if they can try to have a boundary draw that gives the people who win the votes also win the seats. It’s pretty challenging because whatever happens Labor works very, very hard in the seats that we know we need to win. Our view is, you get the boundaries you get, you put your head down and you work to win the seats you need to win.

Peter Goers: It is cynical though. We hear a lot of this in elections that in many ways, for example Grey will do much better now that it’s marginal won’t it?

Susan Close: Oh no, that’s certainly not what I mean I, as being someone who has a relatively safe seat, would never want people to think that Port Adelaide gets no attention for that reason, that would be an absolute nonsense. What I mean is that we can no longer rely on brand. Where there was the rusted-on Labor vote, Liberal vote, that’s all changed now and what we need to do as individual Members is go out and win every single vote and I think my team tends to work really hard at that. We don’t blame the umpires, we try to play the game.

Peter Goers: Well the Liberal Party did blame the umpire it said, “wait a minute, we got more votes”, but that’s the system isn’t it, you’re elected on seats?

Susan Close: Exactly, they have seats where they win extraordinarily handsomely and then we have more marginal. Is that about the boundaries or is that about how hard we work? A bit of both.

Peter Goers: After all it was the Liberal Government which was elected in part thanks to a shocking gerrymander all through that Playford era, that one vote in the country was worth 40 votes in the city in some of the worst cases so they’ve got that legacy and they ended it.

Susan Close: That’s right, and Steele Hall I believe was the one who ended it and much credit to him.

Peter Goers: That’s right, with Ted Chapman.

Susan Close: But one vote one value is absolutely essential, so the gerrymander there was that the number of people in each seat varied enormously, so you could have a very sparsely populated country seat being equal to a very densely populated city seat. We’ve abandoned that, we’ve all moved on from that. What we’re now talking about is running hard for marginals, running hard for every seat. That’s what politics is about.

Peter Goers: Whereas Tammy and Kelly you’re the whole state.

Tammy Franks: Mm, so that boundary hasn’t been redrawn, but what I would say is I think a fairer system would be to have multimember Lower House seats where if you got 10% of the vote you might actually have 10% of the members in the Lower House for a Green’s perspective on that, where it isn’t winner take all in each individual Lower House seat but you might have two members per seat and it would show the diversity of the electorate much better.

Peter Goers: More pollies.

Tammy Franks: No not more pollies. Bigger electorates with multimembers so that it’s not a 50% plus one win number, it’s a more fair system.

Peter Goers: It’s like Italy, you end up with all these shaky coalitions.

Tammy Franks: Not necessarily. We’ve got a Coalition Government now, while it’s not technically necessary, we certainly have two independents in the Cabinet in South Australia.

Peter Goers: It’s changed. The support for the major parties is diminishing.

Kelly Vincent: Indeed. The fact of the matter is that no matter what system we have the Parliament should be reflective of the diversity that we have in our society and the diversity that we’re very blessed to have and proportional representation as Tammy is talking about is certainly a way to achieve that. I have been to countries where they have that in place particularly Scandinavian countries and over there the range of ages, the gender balance is much more reflective of society. So I do think it is something that needs to be looked at, but on the issue about smaller parties, in addition to what has already been said, Dignity for Disability has been certainly very, very angered and disappointed by the two old parties colluding more or less to make it harder for smaller parties to get up, by doing things like increasing candidate fees for each individual candidate $450 to $3,000.  talking about our core constituency for a moment and you’re right, I represent the whole state, but people with disabilities; 45% of people with disabilities in 21st Century Australia as I’m talking to you now, Peter, live at or below the poverty line, so for most of us $450 is already a significant indicator of our dedication to the cause.

Peter Goers: So you and Paul Collier might not have stood that first time if you’d had to stump up $3,000 rather than $450?

Kelly Vincent: It’s a possibility. My concern is that this will translate into less diversity in the Parliament.

Peter Goers: “The Honourable Kelly Vincent has the most beautifully intoxicating voice, she makes Marilyn Monroe sound like Ma Kettle. It would be a pleasure of the sweetest indulgence” he goes on at some length, this Mere Male, “the other two gals sound very nice too” that’s nice. Roy says, “I agree with Susan Close, fear is a disgraceful way to get votes”. Helen says “gorgeous intelligent gals, love Kelly, I see her in our park”. Someone says, “I’m shattered that I lose my wonderful Local Member Vickie Chapman, she’s been awesome for the Hills” yes, she’s a good stick. What gets easier as you get older?

Kelly Vincent: I don’t berate myself the way I used to. Perspective on what’s important in life really helps you get out of that thing of being so self-critical.

Tammy Franks: What gets easier is not caring what other people think about you and not feeling their happiness is somehow your responsibility.

Susan Close: It does get easier to be who you are but it never quite becomes completely simple. I suppose we’ve chosen jobs where we expose ourselves to the public and to public comment and we feel what people say about us and to us. I think with time you get an accretion of perspective and understanding of things and not to get too caught up on individual small matters.

Peter Goers: I thank you ladies, thank you very much.