We learned this morning what Labor means by not playing the blame game. The new Federal Government rule is that the Labor administrations in every State and Territory were not responsible for any policy failures. Prime Minister John Howard is to cop the criticism for each and every failure.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard articulated the no-blame-game rules in an interview on ABC radio this morning when she commented on a new study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) saying the performances of Australian high school students in the key areas of maths and reading have fallen compared to other developed nations.

According to the OECD, in reading, Australia lags behind five other countries – Korea, Finland, Hong Kong, Canada and New Zealand. In 2000 Australia was second in the reading rankings. According to Ms Gillard, this fall in Australia’s education standards is the Howard Government’s legacy to the nation.

“Obviously we are trying to overcome more than a decade of neglect,” she said.

“I’m not going to pretend that that’s going to happen overnight. It’s going to be a long job but we’re going to get the job started by delivering on important promises, like our promise for universal preschool.”

There was not even the slightest acknowledgement in her comments that education has always been principally the concern of State Governments.