IT MIGHT be Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s “national crusade” but there’s little funding detail which surrounds the government’s long-awaited response to the Gonski schools review.
While Ms Gillard has denied she’s looking for a fight with the states, unless there is further information provided about how the funding model works, that’s inevitably what she will get.
That’s the unfortunate conclusion which we hoped would have been avoided through a new approach.
As this newspaper has advocated in the past six months, the government’s response to Gonski was a vital opportunity to stop the blame game and start the focus on improving basic literacy, numeracy and social skills in schools.
Instead, this is what our political leaders served up yesterday:
Julia Gillard: “We will, in the budget, be making changes, there will be tough decisions that some people won’t like.”
Opposition leader Tony Abbott: “I know the prime minister always has one eye on the poll, another eye on (former prime minister) Kevin Rudd – that’s why she’s making announcement after announcement.”
Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey: “Words set goals, what sets outcomes is legislative action backed by real money on the table.”
Finance Minister Penny Wong: “We hope the states and coalition leaders might not be so negative about something as important as our children’s education.”
We know it is naive to think that politicians approach such matters with only policy in mind.
But if we are to have the prime minister’s national crusade, then we need a crusade of ideas and projects which make a difference to the skills of teachers and the learning opportunities for students.
By launching the response this week without the full budget implications, the prime minister left herself open to attacks from the opposition and the states.
Given the government has committed to a budget surplus, those opposed have every right to ask what programs or services will be cut to ensure the large number of government announcements in recent weeks can be implemented.
An opportunity to change the conversation has unfortunately passed the nation by this week. The question is if our politicians can’t deliver the real policy debate then who can, or will?