27 February 2014

Yesterday it was revealed in Senate Estimates that the Abbott Government has thrown away the Gonski reforms and their election promises on schools.

Senator Carr: So they're not committed to implement the previous agreements?

Ms Paul (Education Department): That's right, some of which were for six years, that's correct.

Department of Education officials admitted that the Abbott Government will do nothing to insist that States maintain and grow their funding - including States that have signed up to Labor's Gonski reforms.

Mr Cook (Department of Education): The minister has been quite clear in relation to that while those agreements are in place it's a matter for Victoria and Tasmania as to how they actually commit to those agreements that they made with the previous government.

Senator Carr: And they are...the current government is insisting on those conditions?

Cook: So no, I don't think that's the case at all. I think the Minister was clear, in fact I think he said this in the House, that it's a matter for those two states as to whether they choose to meet those conditions or not.

This is in sharp contrast to the Prime Minister's commitments before the election:

"...we will honour the agreements that Labor has entered into. We will match the offers that Labor has made. We will make sure that no school is worse off." (Tony Abbott, Doorstop, 2 August 2013)

Officials admitted in estimates that the Education Minister Christopher Pyne has also written to states telling them they are free to cut their education budgets:

Mr Cook: so the Minister indicated in his letter and I think the Minister has also been public around this as well, Senator, an expectation that those three states maintain their efforts in terms of school funding.

Senator Carr: Now, what's the nature of that commitment? It's an expectation, but what's the nature of any commitment from those signatory states or territory?

Ms Paul (Department of Education): the Minister has been clear that he's not wanting to control the way states manage their own affairs in terms of how they deliver schools...

"Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne are completely washing their hands of responsibility for improving Australian schools," Shadow Minister for Education Kate Ellis said.

Last year the government was caught by surprise when they massively underestimated community reaction to their first attempt to trash Labor's Gonski reforms.

"Since then the Government has been trying to trick the community into thinking that everything is ok, and throwing out distraction after distraction to deceive from the fact they never intended to implement Labor's Gonski reforms," Kate Ellis said.

"Now we know it is not OK. There is nothing stopping massive cuts to state education budgets and nothing to make sure that every student in every school gets the individual attention they need."