PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has hit back at the Newman government’s ban on federal Education Minister Peter Garrett visiting schools in the state by ordering all Labor MPs to stand outside school gates and push the Gonski reforms to parents that are dropping off and collecting their children.
The “national school gates blitz” directive was sent to Labor MPs and senators on Tuesday night after news broke that Mr Garrett had been banned from Queensland schools due to the Liberal-National Party government’s belief that the Gillard government were using schools and students as political tools. Mr Garrett was forced to cancel planned visits to two schools as a result of the ban in an embarrassing continuation of the ongoing feud between Ms Gillard and Queensland Premier Campbell Newman.
In an e-mail sent by the Labor Caucus Communications Team – and obtained by News Limited — party officers encouraged MPs to tell parents that their children would suffer if state governments’ failed to sign up to the proposed education funding reforms.
The e-mail read: “The blitz will highlight what is at risk for schools and students if state premiers and chief ministers fail to sign up to the deal. On June 14, all MPs and senators are encouraged to visit a school gate around school drop-off or pick-up, hold a mobile office and talk to parents and teachers about the importance of the National Plan.”
Ms Gillard held a teleconference with two hundred Australian school principals last night to discuss the benefits of the Gonski reforms, and will visit schools around the country this week as a way of pressuring state governments to adopt the reforms. The Prime Minister told reporters yesterday that it would be a shame if Queensland students missed out on vital funding while their neighbours in New South Wales reaped the benefits.
Ms Gillard said: “It would be a tragedy for Queensland if Queenslanders could look across the border and see schools in NSW that were better resourced and getting better results because Premier Newman had put the politics first.”
Ms Gillard has faced opposition to the Gonski reforms from several of the country’s conservative state governments, with only New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory signing up to the federal government’s plan so far. Holdout governments have been given until 30 June to sign on to the reforms or else risk having their education funding considerably reduced.
The Gillard government’s inability to convince their state counterparts to support the reforms has become a serious political liability for an embattled federal ALP, which polling suggests will face decimation in this year’s federal election unless drastic action is taken. Even an offer to triple Gonski funding to Western Australia to $920 million failed to convince Premier Colin Barnett, who said that he did not “think that WA would be signing up to Gonski before the federal election.”
The federal government claims that implementing the Gonski reforms to education will result in funding increases of between 19.4% and 134.5% per student over the next six years. The Queensland government disputes this claim, arguing that their own internal modelling showed that many students would be worse off under the plan.