Interview with Ben Fordham 2GB

  • Minister for Education
  • Leader of the House

2GB - Ben Fordham
26 November 2013
6:03 pm

SUBJECT: School Funding

BEN FORDHAM: The Federal Education Minister is adamant that the Government is keeping its election promise despite claims that they have broken key promise regarding the Gonski reforms, and we have touched on this today. Christopher Pyne, the Education Minister is on the line. Mr Pyne, good afternoon to you.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good afternoon, Ben.

BEN FORDHAM: Have you broken a promise on Gonski?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Absolutely not. We're keeping our promise. Our promise…

BEN FORDHAM: You said - before the election you can vote Liberal or Labor and you'll get exactly the same amount of funding for your school.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Correct, and that's exactly what we're delivering. The tragedy is that Bill Shorten ripped one-point-two billion dollars out of the school funding model in the pre-election fiscal outlook, but that is the basis for where we have to start in government. That's called the PEFO. Now, he reduced that to one-point-six billion from two-point-eight and that's what we have to deliver. So our promise that we would deliver exactly the same funding envelope as Labor is what we're going to deliver.

BEN FORDHAM: How many years did you commit to the Gonski reforms?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, we had a promise over the forward estimate that there would be a funding envelope now of one-point-six billion dollars over the forward estimates and we will keep that promise. Nobody should assume that they will get any less money under the Liberals than they would have under Labor, but what we have to do is make sure the model works and the problem with Mr Shorten's model is it's a Shorten shambles.

BEN FORDHAM: Let's focus on you for just a moment. So how many years did you commit to Gonski reforms and Gonski funding?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: We said that we'd have a four year funding agreement and we will.

BEN FORDHAM: But haven't you said today that you were only guaranteeing next year?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No, I'm saying that we will implement the previous government's new funding model for 2014 while I sort out how to implement the Shorten shambles and the actual funding envelope for the next four years.

BEN FORDHAM: Okay, but weren't you committing during the election campaign, those four years you were talking about, that was in relation to the Gonski funding and reforms, wasn't it?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Correct. That remains the funding envelope. The funding envelope is exactly Labor's funding envelope for the next four years, but what I have to do out of common sense is implement a model that actually is implementable. Now, Bill Shorten left us with a shambles. The funding envelope remains the same but from 2015 onwards, I have to have a funding system that works.

BEN FORDHAM: Can you guarantee that no school will be a dollar worse off?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I won't make the same mistake that Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, Bill Shorten, Peter Garrett and many others made, which was to say one thing when they didn't know the answer. Now, we saw with the New South Wales implementation of the new school funding model that over fifty schools lost small amounts of money and I'm not going to enter into that kind of empty promise.

BEN FORDHAM: But hang on, during the election campaign you said you can vote Liberal or Labor and you'll get exactly the same amount of funding.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Correct, and that hasn't changed.

BEN FORDHAM: But you're no longer willing to commit to that.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No, I'm absolutely committed to it. Whether you voted Liberal or Labor you'll get exactly the same funding envelope for the next four years.

BEN FORDHAM: So therefore no school will be worse off.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, no school can be worse off whether they voted Liberal or Labor.

BEN FORDHAM: But no school will be worse off under your changes.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Whether you voted Liberal or Labor, Ben, you'll get exactly the same amount of money.

BEN FORDHAM: So therefore no school will be worse off.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, Julia Gillard made that promise and we discovered a few weeks ago when New South Wales announced its funding model that there were some schools that were a little bit worse off, so I'm not going to make empty promises that I can't keep.

BEN FORDHAM: Barry O'Farrell is not impressed with this decision today. Did you consult at all the New South Wales Premier? Did you let him know about this announcement before today?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, I've talked to Adrian Piccoli who's the New South Wales Minister for Education and I'm the Federal Minister for Education, many times about school funding over the last months if not years, and I can understand New South Wales's plan to have a six year funding agreement but we never had a six year funding agreement, but I know that they were trying to get the best deal they can for New South Wales and so they should.

BEN FORDHAM: Barry O'Farrell says that he reserves the right to take action against the Commonwealth.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, that's a matter for Barry, but I also have to think about Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory and the fact they didn't sign up to the agreement and that Bill Shorten's ripped one-point-two billion dollars away from them in the pre-election fiscal outlook.

BEN FORDHAM: You, in your press conference today, refused to reiterate that promise from August twenty-nine that you can vote Liberal or Labor and you'll get exactly the same amount of funding for your school. You refused to repeat that in the press conference today but you have just repeated it now on the radio, haven't you?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, I just don't think that's where the gravamen of the issue lies, Ben. I mean, the most important thing is getting improvements in student outcomes, not arguing about the semantics of phrases or words. Now, we'll keep our promise to have the same funding envelope as Labor and we will remove the command and control features from Canberra which we said we would do before the election. The rest of it quite frankly is just politics and I don't think students really are interested in politics, I think they're interested in outcomes.

BEN FORDHAM: So when you say the rest of it is politics, is that part of politics when during an election campaign maybe you say things that you don't mean?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No. We meant it and we're continuing to reiterate it. Whether you voted Liberal or Labor you'll get exactly the same funding envelope.

BEN FORDHAM: Okay, but you won't deliver that commitment because there'll be schools at the moment and all they'll want to know, as you well know, Christopher Pyne, they'll want to know, are we going to be any worse off.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, how can they be if they're getting exactly the same funding envelope under Liberal or Labor?

BEN FORDHAM: Well, why can't you just say that there'll be no school worse off?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Because I think those kinds of phrases are empty phrases from politicians which we saw Julia Gillard make that statement and then it was proven to be untrue two or three weeks ago.

BEN FORDHAM: Okay. We'll see how this plays out when you meet with the state Education Ministers.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: You have to remember, Ben…

BEN FORDHAM: Yes, Christopher?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: You have to remember that the Federal Government doesn't make these final decisions in the final analysis. The state governments run their state schools and they make all the operational decisions, so asking me to make that commitment is asking the wrong level of government.

BEN FORDHAM: Okay, we'll see how it plays out when you meet with your Education Ministers, the state Education Ministers on Friday. Good to talk to you.


BEN FORDHAM: Christopher Pyne, Education Minister, joining us on Sydney Live.


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