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NSW backs Gillard’s Gonski schools plan

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard today said NSW has become the first state to sign up to the National Education Reform…

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell sign the federal government’s education funding deal in Sydney on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. AAP Image/Paul Miller

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard today said NSW has become the first state to sign up to the National Education Reform Agreement, which aims to add $A14.5 billion to the public and private school sector over six years.

The announcement, made today at joint press conference with NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell, comes after weeks of wrangling over a suite of education policy changes proposed by the Federal Government following the Gonski review of school funding.

No state signed up to the proposals when they were put forward at the Council of Australian Government (COAG) meeting last Friday.

But under the agreement made today, NSW will pitch in $1.76 billion and the Federal Government will provide $3.27 billion, meaning an extra $5 billion for NSW schools over six years.

Today’s development will provide a significant boost to Ms Gillard, who has pushed the plan hard in the lead up to the 2013 federal election.

‘Historic announcement’

The Federal Government has proposed stripping A$2.3 billion from universities to pay for new school funding and introducing a $900 million efficiency dividend that will result in a 2% reduction in university funding in 2014 and a 1.25% in 2015.

For their part, the states have been asked to provide a third of the money needed to fund the Federal Government’s plan.

The Northern Territory and Western Australia have resisted backing Ms Gillard’s reforms.

NSW’s support for the Gonski plan is significant because it is the biggest state and controlled by Ms Gillard’s political foes, the Coalition.

“This is an historic announcement, not only for NSW education but for Australian education,” Ms Gillard said at today’s press event in Sydney.

“For me, this is the culmination of five years of work in government.”

Mr O'Farrell said he was pleased NSW was the first Australian state to back to the plan.

“We are delighted today to sign up to this agreement because it provides additional resources, fairer distribution to deliver high standards and better outcomes for schools across NSW,” he said.

“The NSW government has said since the Gonski report was released that we supported the thrust of its recommendations.”

A statement released by Ms Gillard’s office said the Federal Government “has committed to grow its school education spending by 4.7% per year from 2014 into 2015 and throughout the agreement. In return, NSW has agreed to grow its own school budget by 3% per year from 2016 onwards.”

Additional momentum

Bronwyn Hinz, from the University of Melbourne’s School of Social and Political Sciences and the Melbourne Graduate School of Education said she was enthused by today’s developments.

“I was feeling very optimistic after COAG and I expected all or most states to sign up to the proposed school funding reforms. I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. I think this will create additional momentum for other states to sign up. No state want to be the one getting the crumbs at the end,” she said.

“Even the Northern Territory, which has been described in the News Ltd press as being hostile, said they are leaving the door open. All states, behind the scenes, are looking over the fine print and at their budgets.”

Dr Carmen Lawrence, director of the University of Melbourne’s Centre for the Study of Social Change and a former Gonski review panel member, said a deal should have been struck sooner.

“Doing the [negotiations] in the shadow of an election was always going to make it harder,” she said.

“I’m very pleased that this agreement, this first step, has been made towards needs-based funding which is essentially what was proposed [under the Gonski review]. It’s a recognition of the growing gap between the highest and lowest performers, based on income and disadvantage. This was something that simply couldn’t be sustained and shouldn’t be, for reasons of common decency.”

Should the Coalition win the federal election, there remains a chance it may repeal an agreement but Dr Lawrence said “it would be a brave federal government who would say to the NSW government, ‘Oh by the way, we’re going to take $3.27 billion out of your budget’.”

Dr Lawrence said the Commonwealth must better explain and negotiate their plan if they want agreement from states like Western Australia.

“It would also help if the Premier rolled up his sleeves and got engaged in the negotiations,” she said.

“The disappointing fact remains that some of those funds are being taken out of the universities… so the source of these funds is not a happy one.”

Jim McMorrow, Honorary Associate Professor at University of Sydney’s Faculty of Education and Social Work, said the agreement “signals a potential break-through in rectifying the structural imbalance in federal and state funding responsibilities for schools.”

“As acknowledged by the NSW Premier, this has significant benefits for the state’s public schools, which have been adversely affected by the Commonwealth’s current funding arrangements,” he said.

“What is now needed is federal legislation that secures the fine detail of the new funding arrangements, including new funding principles, the national resource standards, criteria for assessing schools' needs, indexation mechanisms and the provision for ongoing review.”

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13 Comments sorted by

  1. Hardy Gosch


    Excellent article. Thanks.

    >Even the Northern Territory, which has been described in the MURDOCH'S LIMITED NEWS press as being hostile ..............................<

    Who believes anything these days what the "traditional" media has to say!
    Murdochracy or Democracy, that is the main issue on 14. September.

    Good to see reforms gradually and carefully implemented by a progressive "fundamentally conservative" government with useful, creative support by the Greens and Independents.
    Murdoch and his mates must never assume control of our lives.

    Have Murdoch and his mates made up your mind how to vote?
    Wake up people before it's too late!

  2. Henry Verberne

    Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

    I sincerely hope the other LNP states & the NT will come on board. This is a reform that needs to be a national one, or close to it!

  3. Chris Reynolds

    Education Consultant

    Of course it is is disappointing that some of the funds come from universities and TAFE. Robbing Peter etc is not a good thing. However, the alternative may be worse. If the country loses its AAA rating then interest rates on the debt go up; then bigger cuts are needed down the track. Universities have done well out of the Federal government recently. They need to balance their books by doing things smarter and students (either up front) or through HECS) need to contribute more.

    Perhaps we need also to pay more taxes; but I don't think the electorate is ready to bite that bullet. When Abbott gets in it's the last thing he will put to the people. Big business would hate it.

    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Chris Reynolds

      I tend to agree, Chris. And, to be fair, we are only talking something like a 2% haircut for the universities - the public service faces these kinds of stringencies constantly and, though I'm no great fan of cuts, a little bit of pruning avery now and then isn't so terrible.

      But, long term, you're dead right: we would do well to relax our status as one of the lowest taxing nations in the OECD a peg or two and recognise that our public sector and our educational institutons are generally very clean and pretty efficient by world standards, so we really need to accept that if we want to retain the services we have we jus thave to be willing to pay a little bit more!

  4. Jack Arnold


    Thanks for an excellent article; evidence based objective reporting that other TC political commentators should read and copy to their greater benefit.

    The 14 September 2013 election will be fought on policy, something that the Abbott Liberal Notional Coalition Opposition does not understand.

    It is interesting to note the subtle change in the MSM, now looking for Opposition policy, "surprised" to find none and complaining about the policy vacuum. Meanwhile Tony Abbott has become very good at putting his foot in his mouth every time he is let off the chain by his unelected party hack minders.

    1. Frank Moore


      In reply to Jack Arnold

      Jack Arnold, you are dreaming.
      The Election will be fought on the current government's broken promises and policy execution failure.
      The failure to spend money wisely - with some hope of a return on investment.
      The Gonski Report is about another Labor spend fest. Funds derived from Australian Govt (taxpayer) Debt being shoved down the pockets of bureaucrats with no accountability for success/failiure. Witness my comments below: In Victoria alone nearly 5 Billion Dollars per annum on wages for a workforce that NEVER gets the sack! A recipe for failure - delivering failure - and ruining the futures of innocent children for the mortgages of the incompetent, the slack, the low IQ'd underachievers who were paid to become teachers - by the Federal Governement

    2. In reply to Frank Moore

      Comment removed by moderator.

    3. Frank Moore


      In reply to Jack Arnold

      No Jack, I support State Governments handing ownership of schools - lock, stock and barrels - to local communities of Parents. Via trust mechanisms. Parent ownership of schools Jack...
      Quite the opposite of what you thought...
      An Independent Public Schools (WA) model - on steroids.
      removing forever any future possibility of centralised, Big Socialist Education Systems spending 5 Billion Dollars per annum on a labor force that can do no wrong, not answer to anyone and never be sacked.

  5. Geoff Taylor


    I think I just heard Tony Abbott say on the 7.30 Report that unless most states adopted the Gonski deal, the NSW 5 bn wouldn't go ahead under a government led by him.

    1. Frank Moore


      In reply to Geoff Taylor

      NSW ought to some work and in place of expecting funding increases seek to actively and aggressively identify and remove deadwood, underachieving teachers.
      This is the biggest single reason for Big Socialist Education System systemic failure!
      These protected, very special rights workers are a blight on the those parents and their children who are dependent on the Big Socialist Education Systems - along with deadwood academics plaguing the teacher ed field and getting the Federal Government to justify everyone of its 5,000 or so bureaucrats - who don't teach but absorb scarce taxpayer funds.

  6. Frank Moore


    Well pollies signing for the cameras (above) will not improve one child's lot in life - or their education.
    Gonski is a distraction from the main problem of our underachieving, Big Socialist education sector.
    In Victoria, how many teachers have been sacked for under performance?
    Remember, their wages bill alone is nearly a whopping 5 billion dollars per year - what sort of quality control do the powerless parents and children get for that?
    "Just 17 teachers have been dismissed for unsatisfactory…

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    1. Jack Arnold


      In reply to Frank Moore

      This appears to be a personal attack Frank. Tell us ... are you one of the sacked consultants????

    2. Frank Moore


      In reply to Jack Arnold

      Jack, you are massively wrong - again!
      Point to any paragraph or even sentence that you can explain as a "personal attack".

      That said, every billion wasted on unmotivated deadwood is a "personal attack" on the education and indeed the long term future of powerless children and their powerless parents.

      Only those playing politics with their lives - the media, the academics, the educational consultants, the union based pollies, socialists all - only those reprobates win in this system.