Confused about the Coalition’s position on education funding and the implementation of the outcomes of the Gonski panel review of funding? Were we too — so we got Tony Abbott and education spokesman Christopher Pyne into a room to thrash things out on just where they stand …

Tony Abbott: “Overall, the 66% of Australian school students who attend public schools get 79% of government funding. The 34% of Australians who attend independent schools get just 21% of government funding. So there is no question of injustice to public schools here. If anything, the injustice is the other way.”

Christopher Pyne: “The greatest determinants of the outcome of students is the parental involvement in their children’s lives at school, it’s about principal autonomy, it’s about the independence that teachers have to teach, it’s about governing council control of schools.”

Abbott: “There’s the threat to indexation, there’s the threat to low-fee schools and there is the threat of an effective means test on parents. All of that is there in the Gonski recommendations.”

Pyne: “Look there’s no doubt at all that we have to clean up the arrangements that exist for the support of children with a disability or indigenous students, and students from non-English speaking backgrounds. The treatment of children with disabilities in the school sector at the moment is appalling. I absolutely agree with that.”

Abbott: “There is nothing substantial, nothing concrete, that we have seen that we are confident would be an improvement on the SES funding model that the Howard Government put in place.”

Pyne: “The government will put off implementing the new model until after the next election. It will be their third election without an education policy in schools. In 2007 they squibbed it, 2010 they squibbed it and when the next election comes around they’ll squib it again.”

Abbott: “The existing system is not broken. It’s not broken … I think we are better fine-tuning the existing system rather than trying to turn the whole thing on its head.”

Pyne: “My view is the status quo is a better model than what the government is offering because it provides certainty, it provides higher indexation rates, it doesn’t abolish the national partnerships or the targeted programs and it delivers to the states more money over the next four years. The government is actually cutting it.”

Abbott: “Well, we don’t know what the deal is …  it is thus far a deal that is entirely private between the Prime Minister and the Premier. Now, we are not going to sign up anything we don’t know.”

Pyne: “I think he has been conned. I think NSW has signed up to a very bad deal. Now that they have the opportunity to see the budget in all its black and whitedness [sic], it’s quite clear that the government is cutting education for the next four years.”

Abbott: “We won’t back a so-called national education system that some states don’t support.”

Pyne: “In fact this is not a Gonski response it is a Conski. It is not a Gonski, it is a Conski.”

Abbott: “The only way to ensure that no school is worse off is, I believe to stick with the existing system.”

Pyne: “Forget the hype — over the next four years it appears the federal government’s total investment in school funding will decrease by $325 million.”

Abbott: “We will match the offers that Labor has made. We will make sure that no school is worse off.”

Pyne: “We will adopt exactly the same funding envelope as Labor over the forward estimates so that school principals and parents, that school systems, states and territories can plan from 2014 and onwards knowing that they will attract exactly the same funds whether they are in the new model or out of the new model that Labor would have given them if the school system had gone ahead as planned.”

Abbott: “We want to end the uncertainty by guaranteeing that no school will be worse off over the forward estimates period.”

Pyne: “Labor should have been doing this last year. They should have been planning a new model in 2012.”

Abbott: “I’m not on about the politics of this.”

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.