Gonski gone

Kevin Rudd and I are on a unity ticket. There’s no difference between Kevin Rudd and myself when it comes to school funding.

That’s Tony Abbott before the last election.

“you can vote Liberal or Labor and you’ll get exactly the same amount of funding for your school”.

That’s Christopher Pyne, from the Brisbane Times piece, which is probably the clearest account of what is going on.

In simple terms, Pyne is going to honour the 2014 agreements, plus give the share owing to Queensland, WA and NT without expecting reciprocal commitments, but from 2015 there will be a “flatter, simpler, fairer” formula, within the same envelope of funding, but again without reciprocal commitments from the states and territories.

The LNP’s commitment on funding has only ever been for four years.

Presumably the LNP will have to change the law. Bronwyn Hinz at Crikey:

Another obstacle for Pyne is that the increased funding for school systems that signed up to Labor’s National Plan for School Improvement have been legislated for the period 2014-2019. The complexity of this legislation and a hostile Senate means that the Abbott government cannot just back away from these legislative commitments, and certainly cannot prevent the first additional funds from flowing before the start of the new school year.

Pyne claims that the Better Schools plan was incomprehensible an un-implementable. Certainly he declined a briefing from the Gonski panel and has never shown the slightest interest in Gonski’s findings. He plans to work from the old Howard scheme as a base.

Funnily enough, none of this is a surprise to me. It’s exactly what I expected from what was said before the elections. The statements by Abbott and Pyne back then were always a transparent snow job. Unlike Gillard’s “no carbon tax” statement, they intended to mislead.

On Monday night there was an excellent segment on Lateline wherein NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli spoke like a true Labor politician about the needs of the disadvantaged.

Kate Ellis also performed well.

There were two more last night. Go to the second for the kerfuffle over funding. Pyne claims that the $1.2 billion that would have gone to the non-signatories was ripped out of the budget by Labor. It’s not clear to me that he’s going to replace all of it. Wait for the audit of government functions for further perfidy on this one.

There was also discussion on Saturday Salon.

60 thoughts on “Gonski gone”

  1. I imagine if the Libs stay in to see the 4 years out, some of those states will really be in for exciting times, since it presumably means the schools will get a sudden drop in funding and have to get rid of staff.

  2. I can’t say I have ever heard any minister explain the basics of the Gonski reforms very well. In frustration I finally went to the legislation itself.

    There is something wrong with our system of political communication when the objects clause of the legislation is actually clearer and more inspiring than any pronouncement by any government concerned.

    Full marks to the drafter. If you are interested here it is:


    The Preamble (linked to in the section above) is also worth reading.

    The detail starts in the Guide in section 4. Perhaps Mr Pyne should start there.

  3. WPD, I too am unsurprised that Donnelly has come out with his cheerleading for the “independent” schools sector and the LNP.

    My fingers have itched to blog about this particular activist since he began this predictable pattern of behaviour, but because of his personal tragedy I’ve been hesitant to criticise him as I would other Liberal apparatchiks. But my empathy wears thinner with every column he publishes.

    You’d think that it would be possible, with a modicum of human decency, to be associated with the private school industry and at the same time recognise that Government funds are overwhelmingly for Government schools, and that private schools get too much already. If you call yourself “independent”, then be independent.

  4. Funny how all the conservatives I’ve seen are all backing away from calling Abbott and Pyne liars, which of course they are. Neil Mitchell had the effrontery to suggest Abbott’s lie was not as bad as Gillard’s “lie” about the carbon tax.
    I really do despair of this country.

  5. This latest development re. Pyne and Gonski reminded me of vision I saw on the nightly news during the 2010 general election where Fran Kelly was castigating in strong terms a member of the Labor government (Greg Combett?) for suggesting that Tony Abbott had a secret agenda to bring back Workchoices if he was elected. Apparently Tony had appeared on the Neil Mitchell show and signed a pledge that Workchoices was “dead and buried” and that was the end of the matter and for Labor to suggest otherwise was just outrageous according to Fran.

  6. There’s a Drum poll attached to the Donnelly effusion

    “Should the Federal Government honour the education funding deals that were made with the states and territories before the election?”

    When I looked – 78% for, 20% against, 2% unsure.

    For what it’s worth, but I’d say the dismantling of the gonski reforms is going to be very unpopular.

  7. In any sytem which accords some status to logic and rationality the fact that Minister Pyne’s knowledge and understanding of education, teaching and learning, is virually zero would count for something. As an editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald some months ago pointed out the Coalition has been all over the place on Gonski, entirely inconsistent and irrational. Unfortunately as in some other policy areas of major importance that is not sufficient to prevent the Minister pursuing his agenda.

    As I have pointed out elsewhere Pyne’s assertions are entirely without foundation. He has asserted that the present model (the one developed during the Howard years) is not broken. It is! Kathryn Greiner, a member of the Gonski Panel said so. So have scores of research people and others. He wants to put NAPLAN on line: standardised tests do nothing to mprove student acheivement! He advocates helping schools to adopt the Western Australian model of independent public schools. There is no evidence to show they have improved achievement and the studies showing that are by experts including the University of Melbourne. Trevor Cobbold of Save OUr Schools has shown that!

    The Coalition advocates independent schools so that principals have more control over budgets and teacher hiring: it is control over the curriculum which makes th edifference as PISA commentary has shown. He criticises student-centred learning and wants to encourage didactic teaching. Indeed, in the Parliament last week he said he is going to introduce a fund to encourage that. Direct Instruction is to be promoted by him. Direct Instruction does not improve student learning.

    But the most damaging evidence for abandoning the present Howard government funded model comes from analysis of student achievement. Again, Trevor Cobbold has drawn attention to recent research which shows that in independent schools, including Catholic schools, there has been significant decline in achievement. In a post entitled Study Shows Catholic Schools Have Lost any Academic Advantage over Government Schools Cobbold summarises research which should lead Minister Pyne to abandon the present system.

    Pyne asserts that the National Plan for School Improvement (the response to the Gonski Panel’s recomendations) is unimplementable. Nonsense. The fundamentally important feature of the Plan is that it addresses inequality, something the Howard policy signficantly increased. That is the major issue in education as shown by PISA reports. Student engagement, setting high standards, valuing teachers, promoting school leadership, ensuring school and class diversity are all among the features of the best performing school systems. Minister Pyne seems unaware of these matters!

    What Pyne does do is change his tune subtly from time to time so you could be forgiven for thinking he actually cares and does know something. On news broadcasts yesterday he talked abut what made a difference: good teachers, a rich agenda, etc. What he didn’t mention, amongst other things, is that he considers the new National History Curriculum to be biased. Over at The Drum Jane Caro has pungent remarks about Pyne’s turnaround. So does David Zyngier of Monash University.

    Education is of extraordinary importance. For too long it has been driven by ideology and personal mythology which advantages the already advantaged. Whilst the school is but one place where education occurs it is a very important place. Pyne’s ignorance is about to turn reform back by many decades, reform which underlies the National Plan, despite its several drawbacks.

    By the way, how many people recall that the elements of the National Plan were being advanced in the early 1970s by the Whitlam Government? Is Australia advancing?

  8. Helen, I am not aware of Donnelly’s personal tragedy, possibly because I’ve been overseas for the last five weeks.

    Watched Abbott on the ABC and he has his ‘sound bites’ already. Along the lines, ‘we will restore the $1.2 billion Shorten ripped out’.

    Needless to say he gets away with these and other half truths. No ‘journalists’ on the horizon although Tingle didn’t miss.


  9. WPD, he lost his teenage son to a hit and run driver in 2005. so he does deserve a bit of kudos for continuing a line of activism which unavoidably must remind him daily of his own school kid. That said, the ideological line he has chosen to take will be disastrous for millions of other people’s kids.

  10. What does that Norton character think about all this!?Did I blind myself testing my table tennis skills this morning!?Strange how the computer decided I would visit a Norton opinion in 2009 before I really gave LP the burl!Finance and what nots. I was going to suggest putting a vending machine in every place that takes your coins and converts them into government bond percentages,and you just build up the percentages by tossing more coins in and add your previous percentage and use number. .The only reason the Liberals are playing high stakes with their own careers on this,is because,someone has too please the Packers.O Farrel one week Abbott the next.Owe you one!

  11. This quote sums up Pyne to a tee:

    Prior to the election he pissed off just about everyone in education and since the election he has finished the job

    The idea that Pyne could drop Gonski without talking to the Gonski panel because he is too busy……

  12. The idea that Pyne could drop Gonski without talking to the Gonski panel because he is too busy……

    It would be hilarious if it was so sad 🙁 Anyway will make great fodder for an ABC comedy if they dare!

  13. Don’t worry too much yet …..

    People hearing the NSW Minister for Education might think it’s just a case of “never get between a Premier and a bucket of money”. But it isn’t – in W.A. the Liberal government while not signing up for the Gillard deal, did accept that the Gonski funding-for-needs model was the right one and is implementing it. (No extra money means some schools lose resources and some gain, so a politically painful process for the government, but they believe the idea is right so they’re doing it).

    Practically all educators agree that Gonski is right, the argument has been won, and we’ll see how far Pyne gets on his own. States run state schools and even without extra commonwealth money I think they’ll adopt the Gonski principle.

  14. You will all be reassured to know that Abbott rejects claims of broken election promise on Gonski school funding. The idea of our Tea Party prime minister telling a porky is…… He is also claiming that

    “[We’re] absolutely honouring our pre-election commitments,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Canberra this morning.

    The point I make is that we will keep our commitments. One of the hallmarks of this Government will be that we keep our commitments.
    Prime Minister Tony Abbott
    “In fact, we’re going to do a little bit better.

    “What we said before the election was that there would be the same quantum of funding, the same quantum of funding under us as under the Labor Party.

    “Now that we know that Labor ripped $1.2 billion out of school funding just before the election – we’re going to put some of that back in.

    “We’re going to put an extra $230 million into school funding that wouldn’t have been there had Labor won the election.

    “One of the hallmarks of this Government will be that we keep our commitments.”

    The good news is that the Tea Party has already fallen behind Labor in one poll taken before Pynes Gonski announcement.

  15. Huh. That 1.2 million, and then some, will be used up in the administrative hassle of ditching the funding model everyone has signed up to and starting again from scratch. What happened to “stop the waste”?

  16. Now the 50 yr old Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia will go into voluntary administration after the Coalition removes their $1.5 m/yr funding (see here.

    The Labor government had promised the council increased funding until 2015. By cutting the current funding, the Government will save itself around $1.5 million a year.

    Chief executive David Templeman says the ACDA is a body with a proud tradition of providing frank and fierce, evidence-based policy advice to governments.

    “Sometimes we do have to be very forceful – 75 per cent of our community know that we have a fundamental problem in Australia with alcohol-related harm. All governments need to listen to that,” he said.

    Former Liberal MP and chairman of the ADCA board, Dr Mal Washer, says the board was surprised the Federal Government acted so quickly.

    “We were hoping we’d get funding until the Government had finished the reviews through the whole sector,” he said…….
    he said: “Certainly the ADCA has been in existence for nearly 50 years, providing that contestable, frank and fearless advice as part of the debate.”……

    Mr Templeman says the benefits that his organisation provides to the community outweighs the cost to the federal budget.

    I was talking this morning to a specialist obstetrician colleague of mine who said: ‘Heavens, a $1.5 million cost ADCA each year’,” he said.

    “And yet in his estimation, to manage and care for a fetal alcohol spectrum baby would cost probably between $10-15 million in their lifetime.”

  17. If Pyne has a better school funding proposal then I’ll listen to it just as I would listen to Hunt’s alternative model for reducing CO2 emissions. But, what I find most disturbing is that Pyne has refused to meet with the Gonski Review Panel of prominent Australians and Hunt, whilst he delights in wanting to scrap an ETS, has so far, put up nothing substantive to replace it.

    Is this a government who can only tear down but lack the initiative to build ?

  18. So much for ‘open for business’! How is that possible without educated citizens? Oh, that’s right, correct translation: we get rid of fair wages etc, and bobs your uncle, or Tony in this case. Ugh!

  19. Abbott is defining the boundaries of the debate once again by focussing on the quantum. While the ‘dollars’ are important, the real difference between the Howard model (which Pyne wants resurrected) and the Gonski model, lies in the ‘rationale’ for distribution of those funds.

    So far, from what I’ve watched, Labor misses the crunch points.

    Again, I’m not surprised.

  20. Pyne is wholly ideological and entirely thoughtless. He is an automaton as a culture warrior, pushing all the requisite buttons so as to provide the required frisson to the punishers and straighteners at the Oz and the spittle-spraying boofheads of talkback radio. That he has not even bothered to familiarise himself with Gonski typifies the shallow dilettantism of what passes for the Right in Australia now. It would be a joke but for the fact that his pig-headed, brain-dead partisanship will destroy the lives of tens of thousands of disadvantaged children and institutionalise the rotten privilege of the narrow gimme-gimme class he represents. A pox on him. And a pox on this despicable excuse for a government.

  21. Where did I see that Pyne is the one on the front bench Abbott is most likely to confide in?

    Clearly Pyne sounds like a raving lunatic. He should be sacked for incompetence, but then Abbott should also sack himself.

  22. People here might be interested in Christopher Pyne’s interview on Hobart local ABC radio yesterday:


    Play bingo with the lies and furphies – you’ll be yelling before the end of the interview…

    A couple of points. By “a flatter… model” (~6:50 minutes in) I presume that he means that as much funding will be directed to privileged private schools as to underprivileged public schools – that seems to be a fair use of taxpayers’ money…

    At around 8:10 Pyne starts with the “not lying” spin, and at 8:46 Compton puts it to Pyne that this is his “carbon tax moment” – Pyne responds with “well that’s defamatory and untrue” (slight pregnant pause from Compton). At about 9 minutes in Compton asks if the Coalition is looking to change the disability scheme, to which Pynes responds with “No”, followed by a very pregnant pause from Compton. I suspect that this is a matter of giving Pyne enough rope.

    And note how at the end of the interview it’s actually all Bill Shorten’s fault…

  23. Listen to the interview Pyne gave to Alan Jones on 2GB. Pyne’s website has transcripts. There is an earlier interview on Adelaide local radio with Premier Jay Weatherill in which, as usual, Pyne takes the opporutnity to bucket Weatherill and assert he is not looking after South Australia’s children.

  24. If anyone believed that the unfunded parts of Gonski (what Labor had wanted to implement was not really the Gonski reforms but a subset) or NDIS would survive a LNP government they were living in Lala land. That the various state deals on education reform were a mess is unsurprising given the rushed negotiations.

    There will be new funding and some programs will happen but they will not be as envisaged by the previous Labor Government. The LNP have left enough wiggle room to get away with it.

  25. One of the lies Pyne has been promulgating is that the old SES was based on need and hence was basically OK. On the 7.30 Report Bill Scales, former head of the Productivity Commission and Gonski panellist:

    People had no way of being able to try and determine what might be the appropriate resources that would go to any school under the old model. And in addition, there were some schools which, many years ago, were operating in low socio-economic areas which today are highly gentrified and they were still getting the resources which would have come to them as though they were in low socio-economic areas. So, quite frankly, the system was broken.

    Also it had no impact on resources provided to government schools.

    Jane Caro said the other night that there are only 11 people in Australia who understand the old SES model. It was, as Bill Scales said, opaque.

    I did hear Bill Shorten say Abbott and Pyne lied. The blather that runs out of Pyne’s mouth is incredible.

  26. So kids and teachers in poor schools will continue to be allocated less resources than kids and teachers in well-off schools.

    Christopher was on Q&A last year loudly shouting he was never going to implement Gonski. He mentioned yesterday his strategy will continue to be “blame teachers for poor educational outcomes.”

    Is it too early in the morning to start drinking?

  27. Queensland Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek, responding to the statements about the schools reforms by Education Minister Christopher Pyne this week, said the political landscape has changed and the other states aren’t being realistic. “.. other states should understand is that they can’t deal with a situation that is now different before the election,” he said. “The world has changed.. “

    That the political landscape has changed is not the issue! The issue is the educational achievement levels of students and the nature of schools, especially the level of support for those students less advantaged. It is the issue of equity between schools which is critical. That is what all the research on school education says and it is what international commentary from the OECD says.

    In the 2013 NAPLAN tests Queensland took back the title of most improved state or territory on NAPLAN, with Year 5 and 3 students posting record state results. But Queensland is still below the national average in all 20 test scores.

    Overall, in 2013 Queensland came about fourth or fifth out of eight states and territories in the percentage of students at or above the National Minimum Standard and Queensland students were placed around 5th to 6th. The state has shown a minimal improvement from 2008.

    Has Premier Newman actually explained why Queensland did not sign up to the school reforms when New South Wales and Victoria did?

  28. NAPLAN tests Queensland took back the title of most improved state or territory on NAPLAN, with Year 5 and 3 students posting record state results

    True. Explained by the fact that raising the school starting age by 6 months had the expected effects.

  29. True. Explained by the fact that raising the school starting age by 6 months had the expected effects.

    And if they also did better checking of age across the board and started boys six months later than girls they’d get another positive temporary blip in the figures.

  30. The latest version of Abbott’s commitments, by Abbott …

    We are going to keep the promise that we made, not the promise that some people thought we made or the promise that some people would like us to make, we are going to keep the promise that we actually made,

    Of course, if one puts that line, it’s an admission that one’s “mandate” is for what others thought they meant. Thus, whatever they said, if people thought they meant they were implementing the “Better Schools” program or “NDIS” or FTTN by 2016 at a third the cost or their unity ticket on Aged Care policy then that’s what they have to do to keep faith.

    Someone should explore each of these things with them and invite them to say what they thought most folk who voted for them thought they meant. That would be instructive.

  31. True. Explained by the fact that raising the school starting age by 6 months had the expected effects.

    wpd – I can understand how either the year 3 or year 5 results would increase in given year due to an increase in enrollment age, but why would both increase at the same time due to that?

  32. Fran @ 34 – the ALP should take a leaf out of the LNP playbook and be running ads (perhaps through social media) featuring Abbott and Pyne promising that their schools policy was the same as the ALP. And keep circulating them for the next 3 years bringing it up again everytime there is ever a controversey over trust in the government.

  33. but why would both increase at the same time due to that?

    From January 2008, children must be six by 30 June in the year they enrol in Year 1. Year 3 results were the first to improve. That cohort’s scores is now reflected in the year 5’s results. Expect a similar improvement in the year 7’s scores in the coming years.

  34. Abbott’s comments are directly contradicted by a statement on Pyne’s website.

    In Aug this year he angrily refuted accusations by the teachers union in South Australia that schools would only receive a third of funding promised by the coalition.

    Pyne countered by claiming that every single school would receive the same funding, dollar for dollar, under either a coalition or Labor govt.

    Check it out before it disappears.

  35. This is still up on the Liberal website:

    If elected, the Coalition will:

    – ensure Commonwealth schools funding committed by Labor for school year 2014 will flow to all states and territories irrespective of whether they have signed a deal with the Gillard or Rudd Government;
    – amend the Australian Education Act to ensure the states, territories and non-government sectors keep authority for their schools; and
    – match the Commonwealth funding for schools committed by Labor over the forward estimates.

    This will provide schools and parents with the funding certainty they deserve. It means that the Coalition will match Labor dollar-for-dollar over the next four years. {my emphasis}

  36. Well, well Fran, the only people who have revealed themselves as confused is the Leader and his Minister.

    As their only policy statements say very clearly they promised to match funding for every single school, dollar-for-dollar.

    The Premiers accepted that promise and many of the people who voted for Abbott may have done so because they believed it too.

    Surely they didn’t lie to us!

  37. From January 2008, children must be six by 30 June in the year they enrol in Year 1. Year 3 results were the first to improve. That cohort’s scores is now reflected in the year 5′s results. Expect a similar improvement in the year 7′s scores in the coming years.

    In which case I’d expect year 3 results to improve one year followed by year 5 results improve a couple of years later, not both improve significantly in the same year. So perhaps something else is also going on in the background?

  38. Fran @ 39 – if that’s the exact wording they used then it appears there is a bit of a loophole in there for them. Aren’t they are claiming that the dollars promised to the states will be the same, but the split to schools within those states may be different? Not that technicalities mean much to the public as the ALP discovered, but it does require that the opposition are half decent at continuing to push this point.

  39. Chris @ 45
    On 21 August 2013, Pyne posted the following on his page:

    ‘Tony Abbott and the Coalition have confirmed that they will commit the same amount of federal school funding as the Government over the forward estimates.

    Every single school in Australia will receive, dollar for dollar, the same federal funding over the next four years whether there is a Liberal or Labor Government after 7 September.’

    Seems clear to me.

  40. Des Griffin @ 31:

    Has Premier Newman actually explained why Queensland did not sign up to the school reforms when New South Wales and Victoria did?

    Not recently that I know of. At the time, from memory, he claimed that some schools were going to be worse off. He was also belly-aching about losing control, IIRC.

    The real reason, I think, was that the state refused to cough up its share – it didn’t want to spend more money on education.

  41. Gentlefolk:
    Much of the discussion here – and elsewhere – has been about funding, about systems of teaching, about lies and betrayal …. guess what are often overlooked in all the talk?

    The students.

    Remember them?

    They’re the ones who need to learn skills in order to survive and prosper out in the world of work. They are the ones who really need to find out how best to lead happy and fulfilling lives.

    Don’t worry about Abbott’s core and non-core promises (MkII) nor about Pyne’s stumbling clumsiness, they’ll be gone in a few months anyway …. the conservative sides of the electorate have discovered they were sold shoddy goods and are already grumbling about getting a refund.

  42. The extra funding for the School Improvement Plan (the response to Gonski) by Messrs Abbott & Pyne to go to Qld, WA and the NT does not mean that schools in those jurisdictions will get the same support as ensvisaged in the Better Schools Plan passed by the Parliament. The States & NT are not required to contribute any of their money as a condition of this extra $1.2 billions! We should wait to see what extra funding they will contribute. It is important to remember that it is not just the extra funding for the next four years from the Commonwealth but the requirement for the states to contribute and as well to increase their own school education spending each year. Most importantly, it will be essential that the states and NT do not use this new money to decrease their own education expenditure!

  43. Gonski really is gone!

    “Gonski has been expunged from the official record.

    Search for the name of the report on the Commonwealth Education Department website and you’ll get a reply asking whether you meant “lenskyi”.

    Search for it by its official title – Review of Funding for Schooling – and you’ll be told your search “returned no results”.”


  44. Ronson Dalby.

    I suspect that with Gonski coming backski this week as a desperate effort in damage control, the removal of the branding is the first manoeuvre in the second battle to remove the policy.

    Without the label the LNP can continue to say that their new plan is the same as Gonski, and then when the unwashed have forgotten about the Gonski tag altogether the Coalition can set about tweaking post-Gonski until the original incarnation really is dead, buried and cremated.

  45. Well, now we know if the ‘right’ people, whoever they may be, make a huge fuss about a Coalition policy, refugee policy excepted, there’s a more than 50% chance Abbott might back down.

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