|Christopher Pyne (Photo credit: Make Poverty History Australia)|
The coalition won’t guarantee that no state or school will be worse off when its new education funding model is released next year.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne sparked outrage from the states, territories and the federal opposition when he announced on Tuesday the funding and reform package set up by Labor would only apply in 2014 and a new scheme would be negotiated for 2015.
The so-called Gonski scheme had become a “shambles”, did not involve every state and funding had too many strings attached to be effective, Mr Pyne said.
Faced with accusations of a breach of trust, Mr Pyne moved to play down concerns on Wednesday.
“Nobody should assume that they will get less money over the forward estimates, which is exactly the promise that we took to the election,” he said.
However, when asked if he could guarantee no signatory state would be worse off, Mr Pyne replied: “Well, those details will be released when the new school funding model is released early next year.”
Prime Minister Tony Abbott echoed Mr Pyne.
Before the September election, Mr Abbott said the coalition would “match the offers that Labor has made. We will make sure that no school is worse off”.
However, when asked on Wednesday if he could guarantee no individual school would be worse off, Mr Abbott said: “No. What we’re saying is we will absolutely honour our pre-election commitment.
“And our pre-election commitment was that there will be exactly the same quantum of funding under the coalition as under the Labor party.”
Federal Labor frontbencher Jason Clare said the government had broken an election promise. “There’s a reason why everyone is calling Christopher Pyne `Pyn-occhio’ today, and that’s because he is lying to the Australian people,” Mr Clare said.
The former Labor government secured the backing of NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT, as well as independent and Catholic schools earlier this year for the new funding model based on student needs.
The current government is arguing that because Labor returned to general revenue some funding earmarked for the states that did not sign up, the amount now available had been cut by $1.2 billion.
Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory did not sign up, but the Abbott government says it will claw back an extra $230 million for their schools for 2014.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said his state had secured $130 million next year. “We now need to work with them to establish what funding will be available in subsequent years,” he said.
SA Premier and Treasurer Jay Weatherill said discussions about school funding during a treasurers’ meeting on Wednesday were deferred to Mr Pyne.
“(Federal Treasurer Joe) Hockey was very keen to handball that back to Christopher Pyne and I think he wishes him all the best at his education ministers’ meeting coming up later this week,” Mr Weatherill said.
Mr Pyne said he was looking forward to the meeting. “I’m not intimidated because we’re all friends and we’re all trying to achieve the same outcome,” he said.
Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said in the space of 10 days Mr Pyne had gone from fully committed to Gonski to calling it an absolute shambles. “This is policy making on the run of the very worst kind,” he said.