The federal government says it’s not only secured a national schools funding plan, but it’s also found more cash than Labor promised.
Labor has challenged Prime Minister Tony Abbott to guarantee no Australian school will be worse off under the federal government’s new education funding deal.
Mr Abbott on Monday announced an in-principle agreement for a national schools funding system, claiming it goes further than the money promised by the former Labor government.
The agreement includes the $1.2 billion set aside by Labor for the non-signatory states of Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia.
Mr Abbott said by putting that funding back on table, the new schools deal was more generous than anything being offered by Labor.
“The money that the Leader of the Opposition ripped out, we are fully putting back,” Mr Abbott told parliament, to howls from the opposition benches.
“In this case, we are doing better than simply keeping our commitments.”
But the opposition pursued the prime minister, demanding an iron-clad guarantee that no school would be worse off because of the actions of the Commonwealth or state governments.
Opposition education spokesman Kate Ellis fired off numerous questions, asking whether states would be prevented from cutting their education funding under the deal.
But the government wouldn’t take the bait, reading out statements off support from the premiers of NSW and Queensland for the fresh deal.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne said it must “stick in the craw” that the coalition had not only secured a national deal with all states and school systems, but they’d also found more cash.
“I have delivered a national school funding agreement,” he said.
“I have delivered what the Leader of the Opposition (a former education minister) was incapable of doing.”
Mr Shorten later ran foul of Speaker Bronwyn Bishop.
The leader of the opposition had referred the prime minister to his comment earlier on Monday that there would be no broken promises under his government.
“When will the prime minister stop lying,” he asked.
Ms Bishop ruled the question out of order and asked Mr Shorten to withdraw.
Mr Shorten did withdraw, but not before attempting to move a censure motion against Mr Abbott “for breaking his promises to parents and children across Australia would be worse off”.
Ms Bishop sat him down, described his earlier question as outrageous.
Mr Pyne rose to tell Ms Bishop Mr Shorten’s behaviour was disgraceful.
The opposition leader soon after moved a motion to suspend standing orders to discuss the government’s stance on schools funding.
“It’s Labor who’s worked with parents, it’s Labor who’s worked with educational experts to try and get a better deal,” Mr Shorten said.
“Those opposite are so blinded in their hate of Labor, they are so blinded in their hate of former prime minister (Julia) Gillard.”
Mr Shorten accused the coalition of a cynical attempt to get into power by trying to pretend it was on a “unity ticket” with Labor on schools funding.
“Education is one issue where Labor is leading over the conservatives,” he said.
Mr Pyne moved to amend the motion so the house instead condemned the leader of the opposition leader for cutting funds to schools in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia by $1.2 billion in the pre-election economic and fiscal outlook.
“And for failing to achieve a national fair and needs based school funding model when minister for education,” Mr Pyne said.
“The leader of the opposition has turned up today with last week’s questions packed.
“It’s like he’s turned up to the set of Mad Max to pay a small role in it, but insists it is really Alice in Wonderland …”
Mr Pyne said Mr Shorten should be censured because when he left an “absolute wreckage” in Education that has taken $1.2 billion to fix.
“They are embarrassed that it is the coalition that is delivering more money for students, so we can get on with the real debate in education about quality and about standards because that’s what parents are about.”
The government’s amendment that turned the censure motion back on Mr Shorten was passed.
School funding also dominated Senate question time.
Government Senate leader Eric Abetz said the coalition had indicated very clearly that no school need be worse off given the coalition’s funding.
“That’s because the states are responsible for the allocation of monies,” he added, confusingly.
Senator Abetz said that under the model already adopted in part by NSW and other states “you might actually find some schools are worse off … courtesy of various state government decisions”.