Minister withdraws explosive attack on Premier

 

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan has walked back his furious attack on Victorian Premier Dan Andrews over his stance on schools, admitting he "overstepped the mark".

"This is a failure of leadership from Dan Andrews. And it is the most disadvantaged children who are being most affected," Mr Tehan told ABC program Insiders this morning.

He accused the premier of "taking a sledgehammer" to education and was exposing vulnerable children to disadvantage by encouraging parents to keep their kids home from school.

It was an extraordinary missile lobbed by the Commonwealth, after what has been a largely bipartisan and united approach to the coronavirus crisis so far.

 

This afternoon, Mr Tehan issued a statement describing his outburst as being the result of "personal frustration".

"It was this frustration that led me to overstep the mark the mark in questioning Premier Andrews' leadership on this matter and I withdraw," he said.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has been attacked by the government over his stance on schools. Picture: AAP
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has been attacked by the government over his stance on schools. Picture: AAP

 

The interview this morning was tense as Speers repeatedly asked Mr Tehan whether parents should listen to their state premiers, and he refused to give a direct answer.

Host David Speers asked whether Mr Andrews should be listening to the advice of Victoria's chief health officer Brett Sutton, which conflicts with the advice of the broader national medical panel when it comes to coronavirus.

"What he should do is look at what the national medical panel is saying. His state chief medical officer is on that national panel," Mr Tehan said.

"The premiers should listen to the medical experts, the panel that was put together by all state and territory leaders to advise on schools."

"What they should do is listen to the medical experts," the Minister said.

"So it's no longer the federal government's advice to listen to their premier?" Speers pressed.

"They should listen to the medical expert panel, which has been clear in its advice," said Mr Tehan.

They went back and forth like that for some time before moving on.

"Are you saying that the system, through the National Cabinet, is not delivering the right result?" Speers eventually asked.

"It's not. Because we have one premier in particular who is jeopardising the national consensus on this," Mr Tehan said.

Education Minister Dan Tehan launched an attack on Daniel Andrews over a “failure of leadership? Picture: AAP
Education Minister Dan Tehan launched an attack on Daniel Andrews over a “failure of leadership? Picture: AAP

 

Earlier this week, Mr Andrews defended his stance on schools, saying there were a number of measures in place to support remote learning.

"I won't be lectured on looking after disadvantaged kids. We have supported and we will continue to support every student across our state, in the pandemic and well beyond," Mr Andrews told ABC Melbourne on Tuesday.

"I simply don't accept this notion that kids are being left behind. We are doing everything we possible can, in, can I say, unprecedented times."

The government and the state's health authorities had considered the needs of children with the risks posed by coronavirus.

"All of these things have been considered, all of these issues have been weighed, and we believe the right thing to do is keep the kids home at the moment unless you simply can't do that," Mr Andrews told reporters on Tuesday.

"We're working very, very hard to make sure that every young person, every child, every student, gets every chance, and is looked after and cared for.

"We know there is a big job to do to support the most vulnerable in our community … I'm confident we can continue to do that."

Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy says it’s safe for people to send their children to school. Picture: AAP
Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy says it’s safe for people to send their children to school. Picture: AAP

Mr Tehan this morning said New South Wales and Queensland both had plans for sending kids back to school.

"Here in Victoria, we don't have one. We have nothing. And it is the children, ultimately in the end, are those most disadvantaged, who are suffering. And I think it's time we called Dan Andrews out on this."

This disagreement between the federal and Victorian governments has been simmering all week, but the Insiders interview marks a significant escalation in language from Mr Tehan.

It only took a few hours for Mr Tehan to walk back his remarks.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has devised a plan for the staggered return of children to school. Picture: AAP
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has devised a plan for the staggered return of children to school. Picture: AAP

 

Labor leader Anthony Albanese gave his two cents on this issue on Sky News earlier. He accused the federal government of creating confusion.

"My concern here is the Prime Minister one day is saying it's up to the states and territories, and the next day offering advice and making suggestions that are contrary to the advice of the states and territories," Mr Albanese said.

"I think what parents want, and what they tell me, is they want clarity. They want clear advice about when schools will go back so they can plan their own lives."

Originally published as Minister backs down on 'failure' attack


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