Release type: Transcript


Interview with Marius Benson, ABC NewsRadio breakfast program


The Hon Christopher Pyne MP
Minister for Education
Leader of the House

[E&OE transcript]

Subject: school funding

SANDY ALOISI (program host): As we've heard, the Federal Education Minister, facing a furious response from some states over his decision to abandon the Gonski School Funding Model, is promising more money to states that did not sign up to the Labor plan. 

Christopher Pyne says he'll provide $230 million to Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory next year, but the states that have signed onto the Gonski plan are up in arms after Mr Pyne announced yesterday it would be scrapped after one year. Christopher Pyne joins us now; he's speaking to Marius Benson.

MARIUS BENSON: Christopher Pyne, you're offering $230 million now to the non-Gonski states, that's to fund them just through next year.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, that's right, Marius. Bill Shorten left us with a shambles where he'd ripped $1.2 billion dollars out of the school funding envelope for the next four years. 

He was taking that away from Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. I think that's unfair. I don't think a student in three states should be treated differently to students in the other five, that's not an equitable model. 

So we will be announcing today that we'll put $230 million into those three jurisdictions for 2014, while I spend the next few months sorting out the Shorten shambles that I've inherited.

MARIUS BENSON: But as of the end of next year, the end of 2014, Gonski is a goner?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, from 2015 onwards we'll have to have a new school funding model that is much more transparent, that's fairer for all states and territories and equitable for all students and is much easier to understand and to implement.

MARIUS BENSONYou talk about a Shorten shambles and ripping $1.2 billion out and that this was something you had to deal with when you came to office, but all this was known to you in PEFO, the pre-election fiscal outlook, which came out nearly a month before the election. There was no surprise; you knew it all at a time when you were promising to maintain Gonski. 

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, it wasn't before the election. I must say that PEFO …

MARIUS BENSON: Well, it was 13 August.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: And the election was 7 September, so it wasn't exactly a month, but let's not split hairs. The truth is that in the pre-election fiscal outlook it did appear that there was a $1.2 billion cut to school funding by Bill Shorten, which was tremendously disappointing. 

I have to say, at the time I thought well, hopefully, if we win the election, I'll be able to find that money to put back into Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory, but it's become perfectly apparent the cupboard is entirely bare. We simply don't have money to put into it and therefore the funding envelope that Labor left us at $1.2 billion is our funding envelope and I have to work with that. That's the reality of the former Labor Government.

MARIUS BENSONBut those doubts that you express there about you were hoping that you would have the funds for it, you weren't sharing that with the voters before the election, you were saying definitely it’s a unity ticket, we guarantee that we'll provide the same funds that Labor's talking about when, in fact, you had these doubts, you now say.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, Marius, we have exactly the same funding envelope as Labor, both before and after the election. An education minister is allowed to hope for something more, but the reality is there isn't any more. Labor's left the cupboard entirely bare and we are struggling as it is to try and manage the budgetary crisis that Labor left us as a legacy, so we have exactly the same funding envelope as the Labor Party; that was the promise we made and that is the promise we are keeping.

MARIUS BENSON: Barry O'Farrell, the New South Wales Premier, says he's concerned, that despite having a signed agreement with the Commonwealth, New South Wales may now get less funding. Will New South Wales get less funding?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, no one should assume that any state or territory that signed up to Labor's model will get less funding.  What I have to do though is in 2014, make sure that every state and territory student is treated the same way and that's what we've moved to do today. We are putting more money into the school funding than Labor would have if they'd been re-elected.

MARIUS BENSON: Christopher Pyne, can I just conclude with a general question about how the Government's going. You've been in office less than three months, in that time there's been this crisis with Indonesia, you've raised the debt ceiling after saying before the election there was a debt crisis and more debt was not the solution. You've abandoned plans to buy ships in Indonesia. 

In the past couple of days you've been marked down in the polls and, of course, there was a politicians' entitlements row reflecting on both sides of the House. Is it fair to say that you've lost a lot of paint when your car is only 12 weeks out of the showroom?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Marius, I think the truth is we inherited a mess and we've got off to a good start, but there's a lot more to be done. Being in government isn't all beer and skittles, being in government is about making the difficult decisions that are for the best interests of our country and that's exactly what we intend to do.

MARIUS BENSON: But are things going less tidily than you hoped?

CHRISTOPHER PYNEI think things are going exactly as we expected. We have been left a lot of booby traps by the Labor Party and before the election we flagged that the Labor Party were like bad tenants, who'd wrecked the joint, and now of course they're trying to mug the tradesmen that are turning up to fix the place.

MARIUS BENSONChristopher Pyne, thanks very much.


MARIUS BENSON: Christopher Pyne is the Federal Education Minister.