Doorstop interview: Sydney (morning)
- Minister for Education
- Leader of the House
Subject: school funding
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: The Coalition will keep all of its election commitments in the area of school education. We have said we would match Labor’s funding levels and we are. In fact we are going further than Labor because they cut the funding to $1.6 billion.
We have increased $1.83 billion because we are treating Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia as first-class students, rather than a second-class student. Bill Shorten cut $1.2 billion from those states. We are putting $230 million back for 2014.
Unlike Labor we believe that every student in Australia should be treated equitably and fairly. That was our first promise that we would match Labor’s funding and we are. Our second promise was that we would dismantle the central command and control features of the model, that we would remove the prescriptive nature of Labor’s proposals and we would reduce the red tape and regulatory burden on our schools. And that’s exactly what we will do.
Every state and territory minister knows that before the election that we would have a four-year agreement and that’s exactly what we will do because school funding agreements have always been for four years. The forward estimates are for four years and the idea of a six-year agreement is something that we never contemplated and everybody knows that.
So all the rhetoric, and all of the posturing from various people in the education sector about money being taken away and six-year agreements, quite frankly, it is all jumping the gun.
Today is the Education Council Ministers’ Meeting, the Commonwealth, all the states and territories and lo and behold there is agreement about funding between the states and the territories and the Commonwealth. There is very little new under the sun and there is nothing new under the sun today in this meeting.
Everything I have said about schools funding, every commitment that I have made we are keeping. But we do need to sort out the Shorten shambles that I have been left.
On coming to Government, we discovered that Victoria and Tasmania were not signatory states to a bilateral agreement. The National Catholic Education Commission had never signed up to an arrangement or an agreement with the Commonwealth. $1.2 billion has been ripped out from the system and that every state and territory, every state and territory that had signed up had a different level of indexation and a different percentage of a Student Resource Standard that they were expected to reach.
So the idea that there was a national funding model is quite frankly farcical and everybody knows it and putting aside all of the posturing and all of the rhetoric, the fact remains the same. I am the national education minister, there needs to be a national model that is fair to all the states and territories, and that is equitable to students and that is what we will achieve.
QUESTION: How it is though, to have Coalition ministers attack you and use the words ‘this is a matter of trust’? Adrian Piccoli isn’t someone who normally criticises anyone. The Coalition has targeted you. Does that reflect badly on what you have said before the election?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well we are keeping all of our promises and Mr Piccoli is welcome to make whatever remarks he likes about me. I regard Adrian as a friend, I’ve known him for years, but I certainly give license to all the state education ministers to try and get more money out of the Commonwealth, that’s what they do. But I am the national minister for education and every state and territory needs to be treated fairly and I am keeping all the promises we made before the election.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well it isn’t true, Adam. We are not breaking any promises. We are keeping all of our promises.
It is not my fault that Bill Shorten ripped $1.2 billion out of the education funding envelope. Chris Bowen admitted that yesterday on national television and Bill Shorten has spent four days hiding from the press on the issue of whether it is true that he ripped $1.2 billion out of the school funding model. But Chris Bowen was honest enough to say it was true. I note that it is the second time this week that Chris Bowen has contradicted Bill Shorten and that Labor has obviously gone back to their favourite pastime which is undermining their leaders.
QUESTION: Minister, you said quite specifically—explicitly— during the election that you would match Labor’s funding for every single school dollar for dollar and you would honour the agreements, is that not still the case?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: We said that we would match Labor dollar for dollar and that’s exactly…
QUESTION: For every single school? The exact words.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Whatever a school would have got under, thanks Justine I remember.
QUESTION: Just checking.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I have quite a good memory. My eyesight is going, people might have noticed but my memory is still pretty good. We said that we would fund Labor—we would fund schools in exactly the same way as Labor, would match them dollar for dollar. And whatever a school would have received in 2014 under the Labor Party, it is exactly the same what they would have got under the Coalition on one proviso—Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia would get more money because they were cut by the previous Government to the tune of $1.2 billion.
Of course the states and territories apply the actual model, and as I have said, every single state and territory has a different model as you know because you know this area very well. And the only state that has so far applied it is New South Wales and 200 schools are worse off in Mr Piccoli’s state.
QUESTION: What about after 2014?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well next year I will sit down and after consulting and talking with stakeholders I will develop a new model in the early part of the New Year to give everybody time and certainty, that is fair, that is equitable and that it is national. And no one should assume that they would get less money.
Now I know that the South Australian Government is doing everything it can do to distract people from its economic management and the fact that its department of education is embroiled in horrific stories about alleged paedophiles and paedophiles operating schools. Jay Weatherill, when he was Minister for Education and now as Premier, and they have an election in March. So Jennifer Rankine and Jay Weatherill will do everything they can to huff and puff as much as possible to ensure that they distract the South Australian voting public from their horrific record in education and economically.
QUESTION: Are you confident you can develop a model fairly quickly, are you, given that Gonski ... [inaudible]
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Yes.
QUESTION: There are some states that do have signed agreements, how legally binding do you believe they are?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well we are honouring those agreements in 2014 so there is no legal issue. There are no legally binding agreements with anybody else besides New South Wales, South Australia and the ACT. And we are honouring those for 2014.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: But we have also got the capacity as a Government to change the Act and when a Government changes as we were elected on September the 7th, you would expect us to implement our policies. Now I know that the Left in Australia think it is okay for the Government to change but the policies have to remain the same. But the truth is there is a Liberal Government in power now and we said that we would change the Act to dismantle the central command and control features in the Act and that’s exactly what we will do.
QUESTION: Are you still committed to a sector-blind approach on school funding so that government and non-government students …
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I don’t want you two to be fighting with each other. We will do you both then I’ll go back inside.
QUESTION: So that, so that government and non-government students are treated the same? Are you still committed to a sector-blind approach on funding that treats government and non-government schools the same?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: The sector-blind approach on funding was for disadvantaged students…
QUESTION: But in Gonski it was for every student …
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well the Gonski report is not being implemented by the previous Government.
QUESTION: Are you still committed to a sector-blind approach to school funding?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I am completely committed to a sector-blind approach on the loadings that might follow students whether they are in the public sector or the private sector and that’s always what we’ve said. And Justine, you know as well as I do that the model that Labor proposed before the election is not reflective of the Gonski report. Last question and I better go inside.
QUESTION: Just on that that point, you said this is something of the Left. Adrian Piccoli is a Nationals member and education minister. He did a deal—he believes you are letting him down. So you are at war with the Coalition states, this is not a myth of the Left?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I am not at war with anybody. I will leave people’s characterisations of various governments to the commentators. I will work collaboratively and respectfully with all my colleagues to make sure that we put students first—that we get a fair, equitable and national model that promotes teacher quality, a robust curriculum, principal autonomy and parental engagement and you won’t find me publicly denigrating any of my colleagues.
Thank you very much. [Ends]