SUBJECT: School Funding
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Today the government is able to announce that we are finding two-hundred-and-thirty million dollars of new money, extra money, for the school funding model for 2014 for Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. So that two hundred and thirty is broken down as thirty-one million dollars for Western Australia, sixty-seven million dollars for the Northern Territory, and a hundred and thirty-one million dollars for Queensland. That is the money that they would have received if they had signed the agreements with the previous Labor Government that was ripped away from them by Bill Shorten in the pre-election fiscal outlook.
So the whole funding envelope was two point eight billion. In the pre-election fiscal outlook Bill Shorten ripped away one point two billion dollars, and that was taken from Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory because they hadn't signed the funding agreement, and we today are announcing that we're putting two hundred and thirty million dollars of new money back into the system, so that they will all be in the same position they would have been in next year if they'd signed up.
That means every student in Australia is being treated fairly and equitably. There aren't second class students in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory and first class students everywhere else. That means that in 2014 I will come forward in the first part of the new year, next year, with a new school funding model that is fairly and equitably based across the whole of Australia, that's truly national and maintains the same funding envelope as Labor, but of course we are putting more money in next year.
So the irony of the last few days' debate is that Mr Shorten ripped away one point two billion. He reduced the funding envelope. We are matching Labor's funding envelope, so keeping our election promises, plus putting two hundred and thirty million dollars into the school funding model for next year. I note for the second day in a row Mr Shorten has done press conferences and had put to him many times by many journalists, is it true that you took away one point two billion dollars in the pre-election fiscal outlook, and at no occasion has he tried to deny that's exactly what he did. So Labor ripped away one point two billion. We are putting two hundred and thirty million for one year so that every student in Australia is treated as a first class student, not the way Labor would have treated them if they'd been re-elected.
QUESTION: But Minister, yesterday the cupboard was bare, according to you. Where's the extra money come from?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well there's a big difference between one point two billion and two hundred and thirty million...
QUESTION: You said the cupboard was bare.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: ...but I - and the cupboard is essentially bare, but I have been able to find offsets in my portfolio so that we can treat every student next year as a first class student.
QUESTION: So where have you found those?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: In MYEFO, the mid-year economic forecast, that will be revealed, which will be before the end of the year, but I'm not going to pre-empt the MYEFO because that will have a...
QUESTION: Somebody has to suffer to find this extra money.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Nobody's going to suffer, and you'll see that in MYEFO, but the good news is that Queensland, Western Australia and Northern Territory students will not be short-changed by the Bill Shorten shambles that I was left when I became the minister.
QUESTION: What about South Australia?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Yes.
QUESTION: Would you agree that there has been a penalty for this stage at least and others that did sign up?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No. No. South Australia should not assume that they will lose any money at all. None whatsoever. The slightly phlegmatic reaction of the Premier, Mr Weatherill, accusing the government of taking money away from South Australia, is utterly false. Over the forward estimates, South Australia will receive exactly what they would have expected to receive because they know as well as I do, as well as the public does, that the Coalition never committed to year five and six of this agreement. School funding agreements go for four years. That was always our commitment and we are keeping our promise to match Labor's funding. South Australia has no reason to assume that they will lose money. Mr Weatherill is just trying to distract South Australians from the chaos that's engulfed his government because of his handling of the Department of Education when he was the Minister for Education in the Rann Government. He will do anything he can to try and get Education onto funding rather than onto the protection of our children because he's been there every single step of the way while the chaos has engulfed his government over the handling of child protection issues by the South Australian Department of Education.
QUESTION: Minister, can I just ask you a question as an intermediary, will the signatory states have to share their one point six billion dollars with the non-signatory states from 2015?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well in 2014 we will make sure that everybody is a first class student, and from 2015 onwards we'll have a national and a fair and an equitable model. How that exactly stacks up, how each part of it works out, is something that I will reveal next year when I have had the opportunity to sit down and construct a simpler, flatter, equitable and fair model.
QUESTION: But will there be additional funding to that one point six billion dollars that has been agreed to with the signatory states?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well those kinds of deals will be - those details will be announced at the time of the new school funding model, but we will match Labor's funding envelope precisely, but in addition we are spending more than two hundred and thirty million dollars - we're spending two hundred and thirty million dollars which is more than Labor promised before the election.
QUESTION: Will that funding that's allocated to those signatory states have to be diluted or will you guarantee that that funding stays with those signatory states?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I've just said that nobody should assume that they will get less money over the forward estimates, which was exactly the promise we took to the election.
QUESTION: But can they assume they'll get the same money? Those signatory states, can they assume...
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I said nobody should assume they would get less money, so...
QUESTION: Can you guarantee that they won't get less money?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well those details will be released with the new school funding model is released early next year.
QUESTION: So it may be the case that those signatory states end up getting less money.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Those details will be released when the model is released next year.
QUESTION: If you're in a position to announce this extra funding today, why can't you explain where that money's coming from? Why are you - do we have to wait for MYEFO?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well in the - the way that the government works is obviously the Treasurer is responsible for the announcements of our budgetary matters. That will be in MYEFO. That'll cover a whole range of issues, lots of departments beyond mine. The fact is the money is there, two hundred and thirty million dollars that we are putting on the table today for Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Your viewers and the readers of newspapers will be very happy that the Abbott government is treating every student like a first class student, and quite frankly I doubt that they will be concerned where the other line items in the budget are being reduced.
QUESTION: So given that you knew twelve weeks ago, didn't you, about the one point two billion dollars in cuts, you knew about that twelve weeks ago?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I read it in PEFO, and I was as shocked as anybody...
QUESTION: But twelve weeks ago?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well before - when PEFO was released I noticed that the - there had been a one point two billion dollar reduction...
QUESTION: So why the big deal only yesterday?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I assumed that - I hoped that I'd be able to fix that post-government. But as I said yesterday, Mike, the cupboard is very bare and I've been able to come up with two hundred and thirty million dollars. That is a big win for me as Education Minister and for Queensland, Western Australian and Northern Territory students.
QUESTION: So you didn't think to factor that in in the twelve months - in the twelve weeks between when you first found out and when you announced it?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I spent...
QUESTION: You didn't think gee, I might need to do my sums here and keep the public informed along the way?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I've been working very hard to try and sort out the Shorten shambles that I've been left in school funding. I've discovered that Victoria never signed an agreement with the government. I've discovered Tasmania never signed an agreement with the government. I've discovered that the Catholic Education Commission never signed a heads of agreement with the government. I've discovered that Mr Shorten took one point two billion dollars out as a saving into consolidated revenue before the election, and told the Australian public that there was two point eight billion dollars, which we assumed must be true, only to find that it was one point six...
QUESTION: ...in the twelve weeks between when you first found out and when you announced it?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I spent...
QUESTION: You didn't think gee, I might need to do my sums here and keep the public informed along the way?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I've been working very hard to try and sort out the Shorten shambles that I've been left in school funding. I've discovered that Victoria never signed an agreement with the government. I've discovered Tasmania never signed an agreement with the government. I've discovered that the Catholic Education Commission never signed a heads of agreement with the government. I've discovered that Mr Shorten took one point two billion dollars out as a saving into consolidated revenue before the election, and told the Australian public that there was two point eight billion dollars, which we assumed must be true, only to find that it was one point six billion dollars. I've discovered that there is no national school funding model. Every state and every territory is applying their own model. That's why the national model only applies to nine hundred independent schools around Australia. Even worse, the only state that has so far published the figures for next year, the school funding for next year, is New South Wales, and two hundred schools are going to get less money than they did last year. So in the only state that's applied this new funding model, two hundred schools have gone backwards when Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, Bill Shorten, Peter Garrett all promised that no school would be worse off. So I've discovered a lot of things since the election I didn't know before, and I've been trying to work through each of those. I've got to the point where it's quite clear that the public needs to know that Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory should be treated as first class students, not second class students, that this model is quite incapable of working, and that I have to go back to the drawing board and find a model that is simpler, fairer and equitable and flatter for everyone.
QUESTION: Just in regards to those state cuts, the Western Australia and Northern Territory governments have made cuts - funding cuts to education in those states and there has been some concern among those education - about that. Are you concerned that the federal funding will be going to plug those gaps rather than being additional funding for each of those states' education systems?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well Sarah, that's a good question. I mean the Commonwealth's approach to this is different to Labor's. Labor's approach was we will give the states and territories money with strings attached. We will try and second guess state and territory governments. They infantilised state and territory governments. We want to treat them like adults. They are sovereign governments. They own and operate their state schools. We don't own and operate any schools. So I'm not going to tell the states and territories how to run their responsibilities. We are going to remove the command and control features of the new model. We're going to reduce the restrictive and prescriptive natures of it because I want the states to do their jobs, and their electors will judge them at their election time on whether they're doing a good job or not.
QUESTION: Why then do you think you've had a backlash from state governments about your proposed changes to the funding?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well because a lot of the states and territories believed that they could get five and six year funding agreements out of the Commonwealth Government. But I must have said a thousand times that we would never fund years five and six of these so-called agreements because they're four year funding agreements and they're four year forward estimates. So Labor back-ended all this additional funding in years five and six. I'm sure every state and territory would like to try and hang on to that money, but there is no year five and six under the Coalition. But I wouldn't be surprised if they want to try and hang on to that money. That's what they should do, that's what states and territories do.
QUESTION: Premier Weatherill said this morning and in Canberra that Joe Hockey when asked said he would handball the issue to you and good luck for you when you're meeting with education ministers on Friday. Are you intimidated by that?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I am very much looking forward to meeting my education minister counterparts on Friday in Sydney. I know them all very well. I get along with them all very well. I fully understand where they're coming from. They want to get the best deal possible for their state and their territory. I'm the national Education Minister. My job is to make sure that every student in Australia is a first class student, and that's exactly what I intend to do. I'm not intimidated because we're all friends and we're all trying to achieve the same outcome, which is better results for our students. That's why our focus is not just on funding. It's on teacher quality, which is on the agenda on Friday. It's on parental engagement. It's on a robust curriculum, which is on the agenda on Friday. It's on principal autonomy and more local decision making. Our results are going backwards in Australia for our students in spite of spending forty per cent more on schools in the last ten years.
QUESTION: Why couldn't you announce the two hundred and thirty million yesterday? Why - what's been the twenty - the extra two hundred and thirty million, what's been the delay in that?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well there are processes in government, and this two hundred and thirty million dollars, the process for securing that was completed yesterday, so I announced it today.
QUESTION: So why not announce it yesterday?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well it wasn't...
QUESTION: Why not hold off the whole announcement until you can give what you class as the good news as well as the bad news all in one hit?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I'm just going through the normal processes of government, Mike, and that's how it turned out.
QUESTION: What do you say to your critics who claim that this is a worse breach of face to the Australian public than the carbon tax change of policy position of Julia Gillard?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well Sarah, we are keeping our election promise in its entirety. We promised that we would have the same funding envelope as Labor for school funding, and we promised that we would reduce the command and control features of the new model, take away the prescription and restrictions in the model, and that's exactly what we're doing...
QUESTION: But you've also...
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: ...but even better than that, we are putting more money in today to Queensland, Western Australia and Northern Territory to reflect the fact that Labor was treating them as second class citizens. So we are keeping our promises whereas Julia Gillard said there'd be no carbon tax under the government I lead, and then within weeks she introduced a carbon tax.
QUESTION: But you also promised there'd be no difference in substance to the Coalition's education policy to the Labor Government's policy.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Yes, and I said there'd be no difference in school funding, and there won't be a difference. In fact we are putting more money in than Labor was promising. If Labor had been re-elected that two hundred and thirty billion dollars may or may not have been provided. They certainly hadn't promised to provide it. So we are putting more money in than Labor. So we're keeping our election promises in their entirety, which was to have the same funding envelope as Labor, and to reduce the command and control features of the funding model from Canberra, because we don't run any state schools. We want the states and territories to do that themselves.
QUESTION: Before the election you said - you made the comment that whether you voted for Labor or Liberal, schools will get the same amount of money. Can you still guarantee that that's the case?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: We will have exactly the same funding envelope as Labor, but each state and territory applies the model the way they see fit. That's the way Labor set it up. That's the Shorten shambles that I am facing. So it's impossible to ask the Federal Minister for Education to make a commitment that no school will be worse off because the federal minister doesn't decide that. The state governments decide that, and the territory governments decide that. In the only state where it's been applied, New South Wales, more than two hundred schools are worse off.
QUESTION: But you...
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: So all of Julia Gillard's promises - and Kevin Rudd's and Bill Shorten's and Peter Garrett's promises - that no school would be worse off, didn't amount to a hill of beans.
QUESTION: But you matched that commitment before the election.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: We are funding the exactly the same funding envelope as Labor, Sarah.
QUESTION: As Tom said, you said that no school would be worse off. Are you now saying that commitment shouldn’t have been made?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Julia Gillard said no school would be worse off. She couldn’t keep that promise because she nor the Minister for Education, whether it is Labor or Liberal, is responsible for implementation of the model on the ground in states and territories.
QUESTION: So why didn’t we hear that from you before the election?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I couldn’t have been more up front with the Australian people before the election. I said to them we would match Labor’s funding envelope and we would reduce prescriptive nature of Labor’s new funding model and that’s exactly what we are going to do. In fact we are going further, we are putting more money into education. Last question.
QUESTION: When you propose a new school funding model, will you be giving any weight into indigenous disadvantage in schools?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Of course.
QUESTION: But is there any further detail you can provide at this stage?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: The principles of both the Howard Government model and the Gonski report was that there should be funding on a needs basis for student, needs basis for students and students with greater needs should get greater funding. And that’s exactly what we will deliver.
QUESTION: So does that mean that after this initial extra money you have announced today there will be consideration possibly extra funding for those extra states because of their indigenous student populations?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: In the new school funding model that I will announce in the coming months there will be a quite appropriate recognition that indigenous students, children with disabilities, low SES students, children from non-English speaking background, cost more to educate because of their special requirements and therefore there is special support for them as has been for a very long time. Okay, thank you.