Transcript of Interview - ABC News 24 - Gonski school funding reforms
- Minister for School Education
- Minister for Early Childhood and Youth
LYNDAL CURTIS: One of those Ministers who had to go into the chamber to vote was the School Education Minister, Peter Garrett. Now he's also got carriage of the Gonski Reforms. He's joined us in the studio now. Peter Garrett, welcome to News 24.
PETER GARRETT: Thanks, Lyndal.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Now last night, Barry O'Farrell told Lateline that he supports the Gonski Reforms. Have you heard such a statement of support from him before?
PETER GARRETT: Look, we've had indications from NSW that they were positive about Mr Gonski's funding recommendations, Lyndal. But you're right, last night on Lateline, I think the NSW Premier said very clearly that he recognises this is an important piece of work that he's supportive of it and I welcome that support. I think that that's very important for us.
LYNDAL CURTIS: He also said though his concern was that - and this is a quote - is that Gonski seems to be well and truly parked. Have you parked it?
PETER GARRETT: No. The Gonski recommendations are definitely not parked. In fact, I think the only person who's parked them is Christopher Pyne and Tony Abbott. They've said very clearly that they don't want to have anything to do with Gonski, what we've said…
LYNDAL CURTIS: Yeah, but they're not in Government. What is the Government doing to progress them?
PETER GARRETT: And what we've said is, we now need to work through, in a deliberate fashion, those recommendations and see what a proposed funding model would look like. I mean, the fact is that the Gonski funding recommendations were a blueprint but they weren't a complete blueprint. If you take something like Indigenous loading, they recommended a range of somewhere between 40 and 100 per cent on Indigenous loading. We need to work that through with states and education authorities to determine what a future funding model would look like. I'm doing that work and I expect to introduce legislation this year.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Have you actually committed to the principle of the Gonski Reforms which is to have a base rate of funding for each student and then loading for elements of disadvantage?
PETER GARRETT: Look, what we've said is that Gonski has got really, really important insights for us but we need to sit down and work them through and we need…
LYNDAL CURTIS: So you haven't actually committed to the principle that is outlined in the Gonski Report.
PETER GARRETT: Well, I've said very clearly that the principle of a schooling resource standard plus loadings is an extremely positive reform suggestion by Mr Gonski and his panel. But what we need to do properly and carefully is work through with states what a funding model based on those principles would look like and then agree it. I mean, we do want to deliver funding reform on the back of the big investments in education that we've had because we know it's the next step in the wave of reform.
LYNDAL CURTIS: But it won't necessarily look like what was outlined in the Gonski Report or is it more likely than not it will look like that?
PETER GARRETT: Well, I think the key thing about Gonski is that we've said very clearly that we think that the model is very insightful. It provides us with an opportunity to get past the Government, non Government school divide. It also provides us with the opportunity to add those loadings so that kids in disadvantaged school communities get the opportunity to do better. But we do need to agree it with the states and school systems and that's the work that we're doing now.
LYNDAL CURTIS: The work that you're doing now, when will that come to fruition? You want to see legislation this year. There'll obviously have to be an agreed model before that. When are you looking for agreement on the model?
PETER GARRETT: Well, I'd like to see the working groups continue and conclude their work through to June and late June - perhaps early July. We'll then sit down with the states and with stakeholders. We'll look at the work that they've done. We'll see what a proposed model looks like and then we'll seek to reach agreement with them and bring some legislation into the House.
LYNDAL CURTIS: There's been a lot of focus on the funding increase that was recommended in the Gonski Review. You put very little money for Gonski in the Budget. Will the outcome depend on whether or not you can afford to pay for it?
PETER GARRETT: Look, I think the key thing here is that we've already got about a doubling of funding by the Gillard Government into education. We recognise - say, for example, in national partnerships - that investment is needed and we're directing it in the places it counts, like teacher quality, literacy and numeracy. And we've provided funding certainty for the non-Government school sector whilst we look at Gonski and the funding reforms. Once we've done that, we will have a discussion about money. There's no question about that. But we do it on the back of really significant investments up to this point in time and actually recognising, Lyndal, that to get a fair, effective and transparent education funding system in place that meets the needs of all students, is an absolutely important next step for us, one that Mr Abbott's not prepared to take, one that we are.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Just to be clear, at this stage it's more likely than not you'll have a funding model that looks like some of the things that Gonski recommended and more likely than not, you'll commit to increased funding?
PETER GARRETT: Well, on the second question, that's a matter for the Treasurer and the Cabinet and agreement that we reach around a model. On the first part of your question, yes, my expectation is that a great deal of what Mr Gonski and his panel have proposed in terms of a fairer and more effective education system will comprise a model. But, you know what. This is the biggest chance that we've had to look at school funding in this country for nearly 40 years. We've got to get it right and we have to do it in a way which brings together all of the key stakeholders. That's education state departments and the independent school sector. So they have a role to play.
LYNDAL CURTIS: And one final question, Barry O'Farrell announced yesterday a new model to try and address the low rates of retention in Indigenous education, having effectively a super principal who organises, not only the school, but other services around that. What do you think of his model?
PETER GARRETT: Yeah, look, I think that model has merit and certainly we will provide some support to that model and I think NSW are right to be focusing on how you best get intense effort happening in communities where the school is at the centre of the community, so these kids can succeed. And I've announced additional funding for 200 of these schools. We do have to, not wring our hands any longer about the kind of prospects that Aboriginal kids have in our schools, we actually get on with the job of giving them the better support they need and I think this should help.
LYNDAL CURTIS: And will you evaluate what happens in NSW and perhaps look at taking it national, if it works?
PETER GARRETT: Yeah, look, I'm very open to looking at the way this project rolls out. There are some very good things happening around Australia. And we actually had some good results yesterday from the COAG Reform Council in states like Western Australia and Northern Territory, with a high proportion of Indigenous kids, starting to see some general improvements in literacy in the early years of primary school. They're welcome signs but we all know there's more to do and if we can learn from what states are doing, then of course I'd be very interested to see that applied in other places.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Peter Garrett, thank you very much for your time.