Australian state backlash against Labor's education plans | Connect Asia

Australian state backlash against Labor's education plans

Australian state backlash against Labor's education plans

Updated 25 February 2013, 16:41 AEDT

As the Australian Government looks to the May Budget to boost its appeal in the run up to the election, the states are going cool on one of Labor's signature policies: its national school funding plan, known as the Gonski plan.

While Prime Minister Julia Gillard is yet to tell the states how much it will all cost, she faces a rising backlash from the states.

Victoria has come up with its own plan and Queensland is tempted to opt out too.

The Government says it's ready to start unveiling its plan and to negotiate.

Presenter: Alexandra Kirk

Speakers: Peter Garrett, the Minister for School Education; Queensland Education minister, John-Paul Langbroek

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Prime Minister now wants every school to sign up to a "reading blitz", seeking to build support for her education package based on the Gonski review.

PETER GARRETT: We cannot have 75,000 students nationwide not meeting our national minimum standards. We cannot have 30 per cent of kids who are going into high school who can't read and write properly.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Peter Garrett, the Minister for School Education, says intensive support in the first three years of school is critical.

PETER GARRETT: This is urgent, it's necessary. We need to have focused attention on reading in foundation to year three, that's where the experts are unanimous that the most necessary intervention is.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: There's no extra money for it - it's part of the national education funding model the Government wants the states and territories to agree to in April. But it's yet to spell out any details, how much it's willing to spend and what it expects states and territories to pay.

JOHN-PAUL LANGBROEK: We've seen a cruel fraud, a cruel hoax being played on the people of Australia.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Queensland's Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek is miffed the Commonwealth didn't consult the states before announcing the "reading blitz".

JOHN-PAUL LANGBROEK: Of course we need to do something about the funding model for schools, but we've had 18 months of Chinese water torture coming from the Australian Government. And the vast bulk of the populace have no idea what we're talking about, they just want us to get on with the job.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Western Australia isn't keen on the federal plan. Victoria says its commitment to early years literacy is nation leading. More broadly, it's declared it will go it alone on schools funding and Queensland sees merit in that.

JOHN-PAUL LANGBROEK: We're interested to look at what Victoria have been driven to because of their frustration.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Federal Minister Peter Garrett is getting the message.

PETER GARRETT: My expectation is that in this week and the weeks ahead we will be sitting down and specifically going through with those states who are committed to a national plan for school improvement both what we believe are the necessary components of the plan and also the likely offers that will come onto the table for us to pay out their share as we've always said we would do and to seek the same from the states.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Some in Labor are worried voters' expectations have been raised too high. Government sources say the Commonwealth's plan is to increase funding by around $1 billion next year but not reach the Gonski target of an extra $6.5 billion every year until 2019.

Mr Garrett won't elaborate.

PETER GARRETT: Well Alex, your listeners will understand that I'm not going to publicly canvass figures with you in this interview. What the actual quantum figure will be will be a matter for us to determine in our negotiations with the states.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: John-Paul Langbroek says it sounds like a carbon copy of the Federal Government's approach to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

JOHN-PAUL LANGBROEK: Here's $1 billion and I want you to sign up to it and try to use it as a stick to beat voters over the head with that says if you go with us you'll get it, if you go with Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party you won't.

I think it's a cynical way to treat the Australian public and the parents of kids who want better outcomes for their children in education.

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