“So let’s draw back the curtains and let the sun shine in, let our Parliament be more open than it was before.” That’s how freshly-minted Prime Minister Julia Gillard set the goal for her minority government back in September 2010.
We could certainly use a little sun shining on the high-profile Gonski report on school funding, which was handed to the government last November. The report contains sweeping reform proposals for education that come at a cost of $5-6 billion. It’s a major issue, and one which Gillard claims as close to her heart.
Yet the government has not yet released its response to the report — there has been delay after delay. Apparently the government’s response is still “some weeks away”. Meanwhile, the election inches nearer; the time left to implement serious education reform leaches away.
As Dean Ashenden points out in today’s Crikey, that makes for a phoney debate in which shibboleths are repeated, and claims bandied around about what the government is going to do and why those moves would be such a terrible thing.
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It might help lift the quality and purpose of the debate if the government revealed its hand on Gonski. Similarly, it might have helped Gillard if she had not left the punters hanging on the details of the carbon tax for almost five months early last year — which gave the Coalition free rein to frame how people thought of it.
Being upfront on policy is easier said than done — Kevin Rudd’s hastiness in racing to release his proposed mining tax without much pre-emptive agenda-setting arguably helped cost him his job. It’s understandable that political leaders don’t want to fight too many battles at once. It’s commendable that time is taken behind the scenes to get things right.
But in general, voters might like to see a bit more sun shining on policy debates. And that goes for all sides.