Drive with Rafael Epstein ABC 774
26 November 2013
SUBJECT: School Funding
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: In the wake of, well, should we call them turning poll numbers? I think we can call them turning poll numbers, I'm not sure how much the Fairfax poll will be replicated, only time will tell, of course. But in the wake of those poll numbers, my judgment would be that there are more Federal Ministers available to speak to more radio stations.
The Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, has been out and about a bit more. We haven't had access to too many ministers at 774. The Education Minister, though, Christopher Pyne, was available earlier this afternoon. Many of the quotes that - well, many of the words that came from his mouth both before the election and after the election, I put to him when I spoke to him earlier this afternoon.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: ...and that's exactly what will happen, Rafael. We are keeping our promise, as we made it during the election and before, that we would have exactly the same funding envelope for schools as the Labor Party. And in a pre-election fiscal outlook, Bill Shorten cut that from two-point-eight billion dollars over the forward estimates to one-point-six billion dollars. So we are keeping our promise precisely as we stated it.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Look, you'll know the grab from the election campaign that's going around, it's just six seconds. I'll just play it for people, because you talk about the same amount of funding for your school, that's at - you're addressing people. I'll just play that.
[Excerpt from interview]
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: So you can vote Liberal or Labor and you'll get exactly the same amount of funding for your school...
[End of excerpt]
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: So the same amount of funding for your school. Can you repeat that pledge from the campaign, that people will get the same amount of funding for their school?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: They'll get exactly the same amount of funding for their school as they would've got under the Labor Party.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Over four years?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Not over four years because the school funding model is complete chaos, but for 2014 we will make sure that Labor and Liberal will deliver exactly the same school funding model with exactly the same funding envelope. Now, beyond 2014, we have to make sure that every state and territory is treated fairly, we have to make sure that there's an equitable funding model between students and between systems, and that there is a flat structure that's not prescriptive.
Now, we said before the election that we didn't like Labor's command and control features in the legislation and we still don't. So we were completely upfront before the election and we're being entirely upfront today.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: But that is a broken promise, because the discussion during the campaign, as far as I can recollect, is - it was the - precisely the same funding model, funding for your school over four years. Now it's one year, that's a broken election promise. And that's actually...
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: ...it contradicts what you said on November the seventeenth when you were interviewed on Sky.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Not at all, the funding envelope remains precisely the same. Bill Shorten cut that by one-point-two billion dollars, from two-point-eight to one-point-six. We've since discovered, since the election, that Labor's funding model is utterly incomprehensible. It is riddled with regulation and prescription from Canberra when Canberra doesn't actually own or operate any schools. What we want to do is treat the states and territories with the respect that they deserve and remove the Federal Government's heavy-handed approach, that was the Labor Party's policy, and we always said that before the election.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: You said on November the seventeenth, you were interviewed by Peter van Onselen and Paul Kelly, I said we would keep the new school funding model over the next four years. Over the next four years, we will maintain the new school funding model and the budget that went with that in the forward estimates.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: And nobody should assume...
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Now you're saying it's one year.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: And nobody should assume that they're getting less money over the forward estimates. But what I can guarantee is that in 2014 it will be the same model.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Well, that's important, I'm not sure I've - no one should assume they'll get less money over the four forward estimates.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: That's right.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Why can't you then say that every school will get the same money over the four forward estimates? Because the funding envelope allows some schools to receive less and others to receive more. If you want to assure people, why don't you simply say that every school will receive the funding they were going to get over the four years?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Rafael, I'm not going to split hairs. What I will say is exactly the truth, which is that over the forward estimates, nobody should assume - no state should assume, or territory, that they will get less money. But what we can absolutely be certain of is that in 2014 it'll be precisely the same model that Labor proposed and - but then I have to work out a much better system that delivers money to where it's most needed, that is easy to understand and easy to apply, and that isn't what Bill Shorten gifted the new government.
And I - it would be irresponsible of me to implement a new school funding model over the next four years that I know is not delivering money where it should go because it's spending so much money on regulation and prescription.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: So what were you saying, then, when you're Education Minister and you've won the election, and on November the seventeenth you say, I said we would keep the new school funding model. So - if you were going to change that?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: And there will be a new school funding model, but the - but beyond 2014 it'll be a better one.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Okay.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Now, Labor has cut one-point-two billion dollars, Rafael, and Bill Shorten was incapable, today, of being able to deny that he cut one-point-two billion dollars from the school funding model. So what we have to work with is the Shorten shambles that we've inherited. And it would be irresponsible of me not to try and fix that, rather than just pretend that it was a good model when it isn't.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: The Education Minister Christopher Pyne is with me, the phone number is 1300-222-774. This is all in the lead up to a - what should be an enjoyable meeting between Christopher Pyne and his state and territory counterparts later on this week. Minister, if I could - you'll be more than aware, I'm sure, that the New South Wales Premier, Barry O'Farrell, is not too happy. If I can just play a little bit of what he said, I think he spoke just after your press conference.
[Excerpt from interview]
BARRY O'FARRELL: The only contact we've had - and the Minister can correct me on this - the only contact we've had is what we read in the newspapers, what we see on TV, or what we hear on radio, and that's not the way for any government minister to deal with a subject as important as this.
[End of excerpt]
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Clearly New South Wales, Victoria, the others, feel you're changing your mind after the election and they're hearing about it through the media. Why - wouldn't it have been better to contact them in person, have you done that?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Rafael, I've spoken to most of my state colleagues and my territory counterparts over the last two months, including Adrian Piccoli. I...
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: The New South Wales Education Minister, yes.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Correct. I have to say that the Federal Government's responsibility is to make sure that every state and territory is treated fairly. That includes Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. New South Wales and Victoria were well aware that the Coalition would not fund a six year agreement that they had made with the Labor Party, and in Victoria's case, they never signed the bilateral agreement.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: It's a very legalistic interpretation. I mean, the agreements were made. To say to someone like Denis Napthine, the Victorian Premier, oh well, it's not signed. You're just - you're looking for an excuse to break a promise, aren't you?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No, it's just perfectly clear that the Labor Party made a six year agreement. We said before the election that we would fund a four year agreement, and then Bill Shorten cut one-point-two billion dollars over the forward estimates. They're the facts the new Government has to deal with.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: The - look, regardless of what Bill Shorten may or may not have done with the forward estimates, if you go through a campaign saying you will fund a certain amount of money, and that amount of money will stay the same, why would you then lower yourself to what you see as your opponent's poor behaviour?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Rafael, you can only deal with what you've got in the budget. And the budget now, over the forward estimates, is one-point-six billion dollars. That was the pre-election fiscal outlook and that is the reality of what the Government faces. We can't manufacture the cut that Bill Shorten made.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Sure. Look, maybe we can look forward a little bit. The New South Wales Government are also upset that you're going to rest on the formula devised when John Howard was prime minister, what's known as the SES model. New South Wales in particular do not like that model, do you see that as a good basis for going forward, or not?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I don't think anybody should make assumptions about what the new funding model might look like under the Coalition. Certainly the SES funding model that the Howard Government initiated was needs based and was objective and based on objective data. The Independent Schools Council of Australia has said themselves that the data that's now being relied upon by the Labor Party's model is unreliable. And it would irresponsible to implement a model that we know isn't fair and equitable.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Well, the New South Wales Government says the data recommended - the approach recommended by the Gonski Review is what you should be looking at. You're throwing out all of that good work, aren't you?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, the Labor Party was never implementing the Gonski Report. If they were implementing the Gonski Report it would've cost them a hundred-and-fifteen billion dollars over the next ten years.
So let's face the facts here. People are throwing around a lot of reports, a lot of statements that have been made. I can only deal with the reality of the situation, and that is that we have to have an equitable model that's fair to Western Australia, Queensland, the Northern Territory, and the other states and territories that signed up or didn't sign bilateral agreements but made general agreements. I have to be fair to everyone, I can't just be fair to one state over another.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Okay. Minister, thanks for your time.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Pleasure.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: That is the Education Minister Christopher Pyne. Majority of the texts upset with what Christopher Pyne has done, let me read a few of them. The regulations Pyne doesn't like are to ensure the needy get more than the wealthy. Grr. And there is a text or two in opposition - well, basically trashing Labor, supporting the Government. Typical Labor, grandiose plans, no...