The government will not match the Coalition promise to pay the Better Schools funding to states which have not signed up to the plan, but would be willing to continue negotiating with them if re-elected, Education minister Bill Shorten said today.
The Coalition, which capitulated just before the election was called and said it would guarantee the Gonski funding for four of the six year program, is not distinguishing between jurisdictions that have signed and those that have not.
But Shorten said Labor was not willing to provide funds with no strings attached. A condition was that the states did not cut their own funds to schools.
“What is the point of the Commonwealth education money walking in the front door, allowing the states to take money out of the system out of the backdoor?”
He said Labor was prepared to keep negotiating after the election with Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. But it was not to prepared to do what the opposition would do – which was hand over a blank cheque.
The government had offered jurisdictions a $2 for $1 funding deal but some were seeking $2 and looking to put in only 20 cents. “We’re generous, but not mugs”, Shorten said.
Shorten argued strongly that teachers should be better remunerated. “Our teachers commit every day – physically, intellectually, emotionally. Yet I do not believe their pay reflects the value of their commitment”.
He was appearing at the National Press Club which had proposed a debate with opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne, who declined the invitation. Pyne said today he had prior commitments and also had two debates locked in with Shorten next week.