There is so much anger and passion in the Government’s rejection of Gonski that it is worth while pausing and considering some facts about Gonski.
Fact: The Liberals said they would implement Gonski only three months ago. They now say they will not.
Reason: A number of suggestions have been made but they fall into four broad categories. None of them can be proven.
- Christopher Pyne talks of inequality and complexity, but didn’t mention this before the election even though the report had been in circulation for months. This reason lacks credibility.
- The motivation for the second is that education should not be equal for all people. No government is going to come out and say this and not expect the sky to fall on them. It could be a reason given the Howard Government policy which favoured private schools. Also credible given Pyne saying the Howard model was a good starting point.
- There is not enough money. Given the Labor budget crisis seems to have passed, and the Labor government had identified funding, this also lacks credibility.
- Liberals never intended to go ahead with it anyway. This seems the most likely.
Fact: Governments cannot be dismissed for breaking promises. Dismissal only happens at elections.
Reason: In spite of the Liberals demands that Labor be thrown out for breaking carbon tax commitments, governments are not generally thrown out other than at elections. Whitlam was the exception. If this was the case, most oppositions would spend their time trying to prove broken promises.
There is also the issue of changed circumstances. Labor promised no carbon tax but did not foresee a coalition with the Greens who would only agree to support Labor if there was a carbon tax. It would be unwise for the public to require governments to honour every promise when we don’t know what will happen over the next three years.
Of course there is no such justification for the Liberals dumping Gonski. What circumstances have changed?
Fact: Some states were going to get less then others.
Reason: Not all states had signed up to the agreement. Those who had not signed up would get less. In straight mathematical terms, there may be minor differences but all participating states were transitioning to the funding model proposed by Gonski.
Fact: The Gonski report was the result of two years of hard work and the proposed model was well received by all parties.
Reason: There was next to no challenge to the personnel undertaking the Gonski study, or to the need for the study. There was general consensus that the previous funding arrangements were not working as well as they should. Even when the report emerged, there was general acceptance that it was a good proposal. I cannot think of a time Julia Gillard’s commitment to education has ever been seriously challenged. There is no justification for demanding a new study.
So the key facts show the Gonski study was justified. The participants were eminently qualified, and the recommendations were accepted by all parties – both politically and educationally. The States were committing to the implementation. Had the election not occurred in September, all states were on track to signing up by 2014. The current Government has reversed their position prior to the election for no apparent reason. The most likely reason is that they lied to the electorate about their support in the first place. If they think the objections to killing off the NBN are over the top, Gonski will be a tsunami.
As recently as today we have Tony Abbott telling us that when Christopher Pyne said:
”You can vote Liberal or Labor and you will get exactly the same amount of funding for your school.”
We actually didn’t understand Abbott said:
”I think Christopher said, ‘Schools would get the same amount of money’. And schools, plural, will get the same amount of money. The quantum will be the same.”
Tony Abbott – the man who rewrote history.