Pyne's questionable backflip

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On August 29, with the Federal Election looming, then Shadow Education Minister Christopher Pyne said: “You can vote Liberal or Labor and you’ll get exactly the same amount of funding for your school”.

On Tuesday, the now Education Minister said: “What one government does, another government can undo”.

And there, my friends, is the very large gap between what politicians say when they’re desperate for your vote and what they do once they get it.

Mr Pyne this week said he would bring forward plans to introduce a new education funding model, but the total “funding envelope” would remain the same. The Coalition will stick with the agreed arrangements for 2014 but a new funding model will be introduced for 2015.

Mr Pyne believes that because the total “funding envelope” remains the same, he has not broken an election promise.

Try telling that to the schools who may receive less funding under the Coalition than they had been promised under Labor.

Try telling that to the schools who believed Labor and the Coalition were on a ‘unity ticket’ when it came to education funding.

Mr Pyne lost all credibility on Tuesday when he was directly asked by a reporter at a press conference if he would keep his promise to deliver the same amount of funding for individual schools that Labor had promised.

His response: “We are going to keep our promise, which is that we have exactly the same funding envelope available to us as the Labor Party promised before the election”.

The reporter repeated the question, presuming the smug looking Mr Pyne must have been hard of hearing.

“What I’m saying is that we will have exactly the same funding envelope available… and we will work through with the states and territories to ensure that it is equitably distributed,” Mr Pyne said.

Mr Pyne won’t answer the question, so I’ll give it a go.

The answer is: “No”.

Mr Pyne will not be keeping that pre-election promise and the electorate has been deceived.

It may well be that Mr Pyne’s new approach will be a better one than what Labor offered, but the overall point here is that the Australian people are rightly sick of politicians saying one thing in opposition and doing another in government.

Mr Pyne wouldn’t even meet with the expert panel that devised the so-called Gonski school funding model to discuss how it worked before he discarded it.

The Herald reports that he was too busy to do so.

Too busy to speak to NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, too, who is fuming over the way this has been handled.

Perhaps Barry and the Gonski panel can book a spot on ‘Q&A’ next year – Mr Pyne always has time for that.

Education policy has always been and will always be a difficult, hard to understand, prickly policy debate.

Rarely will governments always get it right and rarely will every school, every teacher and every student win.

But when you start making it even more difficult by playing politics, changing the rules and breaking promises, you are all but guilty of deception.

Forget the Indonesian spying story that we all seem so obsessed about – that will go away quickly once the respective leaders have stopped playing the ‘mine is bigger than yours’ game (i.e. – protecting themselves from ridicule by their respective media packs).

The spying ‘scandal’ will rate barely a mention when the 2016 election comes along.

In 2016, however, we’ll still be talking about education.

Christopher Pyne has one hell of a job to do between now and then to re-gain the trust of the Australian people, and the education sector.

Because he well and truly lost that trust this week.

At the moment, he’s in the same boat (excuse the pun) as Scott Morrison, who needs to prove that his “weekly updates” are better than the more frequent updates on boat arrivals provided by the former Labor Government.

We all know how Scott Morrison would have reacted if Labor changed the policy to weekly updates, essentially updating the public less.

Politics – it’s a muddy, messy game.

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