IF nothing else, seeing an Australian Prime Minister in action within handshaking distance is an awesome experience for secondary school students whose awareness of matters political is starting to awaken as they hurtle toward voting age.
Having survived a second attack on her leadership days before and with predictably bad polls dogging her every move, Julia Gillard spent half an hour with a group of 30 Years 8-12 student councillors at Kolbe Catholic College for an informal question and answer session on Tuesday morning, before facing the nation’s media at an official doorstop interview.
After first being welcomed by school captains Hayley Wheatley and Giovanni Spissu, and Principal Robyn Miller, Ms Gillard toured the new Building the Education Revolution-funded facilities – including a new Food Technology classroom – at the Rockingham college with recently-promoted ministerial colleague Brand MHR Gary Gray and WA opposition deputy leader Kwinana MLA Roger Cook.
Breaking the ice, Ms Gillard revealed the only outright fail she got at high school was in Home Economics, in which she admitted to being “quite badly behaved”.
She and her colleagues were kept on their toes with questions from Maggie Bochat, Courtney Pink, Tayla Nye, Georgia Cole, Francesca Spissu, Bianca Uberuaga and Jarred Ophorst.
They ranged from what encouraged her entry into politics, her favourite aspects of being PM, solutions for childhood obesity, assistance for small business, stopping the suffering of refugees arriving in Australia, increasing local education and training opportunities, encouraging tourism and the two-speed economy.
In contrast, national media concentrated on the PM and the Labor Party’s persistently bad opinion poll performances to which Ms Gillard, first prefacing that she didn’t comment on poll results, said people would have a choice to make on September 14, between her leadership of a majority Labor government or the negativity of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.
She announced the Federal Government, for the first time since the end of the Vietnam War, would award an Army Battle Honour to the Australian Army’s Special Operations Command, including the WA-based Special Air Service Regiment and the 2nd Commando Regiment.
It recognised bravery and courage shown during the Shah Wali Kowt Offensive in Afghanistan in May-June 2010, for which Ben Roberts-Smith was awarded his Victoria Cross.
She said the Multi National Base in Tarin Kot in Uruzgan Province would close at the end of the year, with about 1000 Australian personnel returning home.
Given her school-based audience, Ms Gillard’s discussion on education was of most interest, as she sent a message to state governments to stop cutting education spending and properly index future school funding at 3 per cent.