“Wrong time to break a promise” : Bolt

Herald Sun   |    28 November 2013

Not even Andrew Bolt will sign up to Christopher Pyne’s casuistry over walking away from the “unity ticket” on schools funding.

Andrew BoltI believe Christopher Pyne when he says Labor left its education reforms in an “incomprehensible mess”.

Trouble is, I also believed the Education Minister before the election. I believed Pyne when he said: ”You can vote Liberal or Labor and you’ll get exactly the same amount of funding for your school.”

Now, after several days of Pyne spin, I don’t know if the Government will break its first reckless promise or not. But it had better not.

Here is the issue.  Before the election, Labor signed up some states for a complicated new scheme to fund schools and promised another $2.8 billion over four years. But with WA, Queensland and the Northern Territory refusing to sign, Labor quietly withdrew its $1.2 billion share – something new Treasurer Joe Hockey seemed to notice but Pyne says he didn’t, or not quite.

Pyne says he’d thought “we could make sure that money was put back”, suggesting he now knows he can’t. Not that he’s said that directly. Instead, he’s confused things by saying the funding formula was also unworkable and the deals with the states weren’t actually signed.

So now Pyne says he’s got to replace the Gonski scheme after next year, but don’t worry – the “funding envelope” won’t change. The total money spent will stay the same.

Or will it? The Government says it will top up the education budget next year with $230 million to make good that year’s share of the $1.2 billion Labor pulled out. But after that? No one knows, but Pyne and Abbott refused to repeat their promise that no school would be worse off.

In truth, no school is likely to offer any worse education as a result of any changes Pyne might make. But keeping the pre-election promise is important for another reason. Labor destroyed trust by wilfully breaking so many promises: on the carbon tax, surpluses, boats and poker machines.

Labor and many in the media are desperate to prove Abbott no more trustworthy. For the sake of our political culture and his government, Abbott would probably be better borrowing another billion we don’t have than breaking this promise. Will he?  Next year schools will get what they were promised, but until Abbott says what they’ll get after that, it’s too soon to scream “liar”.

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