FEDERAL Education Minister Peter Garrett has been banned from setting foot on the campus of any Queensland school, with the Newman Government claiming that it was taking action to prevent the state’s educational facilities from becoming “the venue for the Gonski media roadshow.”
Queensland Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek’s office confirmed today that Mr Garrett was not welcome at schools in Queensland, beginning with his planned visits to Nyanda State High School and Yeronga State School tomorrow morning. The Labor frontbencher was forced to cancel his flights to Queensland as a result of the ban, which he referred as an example of “outrageous hypocrisy” on the part of Mr Langbroek.
The Queensland state government has been at loggerheads with the federal government over plans to implement the education funding reforms proposed in a report written last year by Australian philanthropist David Gonski. The Newman Government has been reluctant to sign up to the systemic reforms after an internal audit showed that 300 of the state’s schools would be worse off under the program.
A spokeswoman for Mr Langbroek said: “We have had enough of Queensland schoolchildren being used by the Federal Government as props in a political campaign. If the Federal Minister wants to come to Queensland and discuss Gonski, he is welcome to make time to meet Minister Langbroek.”
Mr Garrett said that this was the first occasion in which he had been banned from visiting schools, and alleged that it was Mr Langbroek that was using Queensland schools as a political tool. He claimed that Mr Langbroek’s office had falsely represented the effect that the Gonski reforms would have on schools in an attempt to curb support for the proposed changes.
Mr Garrett said: “As the Federal Minister for School Education, I visit hundreds of schools. It’s my job to explain to principals, teachers, students and parents what our plan means and how it will work in their school. Minister Langbroek used a school visit last week to make a political comment about the Prime Minister to a group of Year 6 students.
“They (the Newman Government) have written to school principals with false claims that schools will lose funding under our National Plan for School Improvement – and they have continued to refuse to confirm whether they support our plan for fairer school funding.”
Mr Langbroek’s decision comes after Ms Gillard used a visit to a Brisbane Catholic school yesterday to call on Premier Campbell Newman to stop playing politics and sign up to the Gonski reform program. Mr Langbroek’s spokeswoman would not comment on whether the ban on Mr Garrett visiting Queensland schools would extend to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, claiming that decisions of that nature were made on a case-by-case basis.
Ms Gillard has recently used school visits as a way of selling the Gonski reforms, which the federal government project will result in funding increases of between 19.4% and 134.5% per student over the next six years. The Queensland government have eighteen days remaining to sign up to the Gonski reforms, or else will face reduced funding as a result of holding out.