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Tuesday, 3 December 2013
Page: 1421

Ms KATE ELLIS (Adelaide) (15:27): What has become very clear in today's parliament is that this government's education policy is nothing more than a sham. The government have taken Gonski, which then they thought was 'Conski', which then they thought was Gonski again, and they have left absolutely nothing but one big con—one big con for the Australian parents, the Australian students, the voters who took them at their word when they said that they were on a 'unity ticket' with the Labor Party when it came to school funding. But what has become apparent is that they are on no such unity ticket whatsoever.

Whilst we have had the member for Sturt flipping and flopping and flipping like a fish on a jetty, they have got absolutely no closer to meeting their election promises. They have got absolutely no closer to being able to repeat the statement they made before the election that no school would be worse off under their government because they know that, under the arrangements they have put in place, absolutely every school will be worse off.

Nothing can disguise the fact that they are betraying every Australian child. They have shamelessly broken their commitment to reforming and lifting our schools. Nothing can disguise the fact that they have deceived every Australian parent, every Australian teacher, every Australian educator, because they told them what they wanted to hear in the lead-up to the election and now they have just tossed that all aside and left absolutely nothing but this sham of a policy. Nothing can disguise the fact that what the minister described as 'a good day in the office' is actually a shamefully bad day for every Australian child relying on us having a strong, healthy future education sector.

So let us be very clear about what it is that those opposite are offering. Those opposite are offering a tiny fraction of the $14.65 billion of additional funding which would be invested into Australian schools under our plan. And what came out in question time today is that those opposite are offering absolutely nothing of the overdue reform of our system which they pledged they would at the election.

So let us just have a look at the facts, because we know that this government are not the government that they said they would be if they were elected. But let us just have a look at what they said before the election and what they have now run an absolute million miles away from. On 29 August we had Christopher Pyne saying:

So Tony Abbott and I made a decision … matching Labor's funding model dollar for dollar.

Uh-uh, you have less than one-third of the dollars putting forward. You are ripping it out of the hands of every school principal, of every Australian parent and of every Australian child who is relying on improvement to our school community.

They also said:

You can vote Liberal or Labor and you will get exactly the same amount of funding for your school.

Well, isn't that interesting? Because now the Prime Minister says, 'Oh, no—we didn't say that. We didn't say "of your school". We said "schools"—plural.' No, you did not, Prime Minister, and no, you did not, government opposite. What you said was that no school will be worse off, and you cannot repeat that to the Australian parliament today because you know what we know, and that is that every single school across Australia will be worse off as a result of this government being elected.

The Prime Minister said, 'As far as I'm concerned and as far as Christopher Pyne is concerned, we are guaranteeing that no school will be worse off.' He said it on 2 August, but come December we cannot hear any of those words again from this Prime Minister. And he said, 'We have a clear commitment for all Australian schools; your funding is certain.' And if there is one thing we have seen in the last couple of days—if there is one thing that all the flips and flops and backflips have shown—it is that absolutely no funding is certain whatsoever because this government have not even made agreements. They have not even made any agreements whatsoever.

So, we had a plan that Labor put forward: $14.65 billion to reform our schools. They have put a commitment of just $2.8 billion and no guarantees that schools will not be worse off or that states will not just rip out that same funding. What we heard in question time today was: no indexation; no guarantees against state funding cuts; no co-contributions, which were an important part of our model; and no accountability mechanisms whatsoever. All they are doing is trying desperately to backflip and clean up the mess that the member for Sturt is making by throwing blank cheques around and asking absolutely nothing of the states in return.

This is a shameful betrayal of Australian students and their parents who took this government at their word when they said they were on a unity ticket—when they said that they would sign up for this model that they have now turfed aside—and when they said that no school would be worse off. (Time expired)