It comes as no surprise that Prime Minister Rudd has flagged (The Australian, 2013) that the legislative timetable to implement Gonski reforms outlined in the recently passed Australian Education Bill 2013 may be shelved for perhaps 12 months to allow 'extended negotiations' to take place with the non-government school sector to 'help the smooth introduction of the huge changes' involved.
Will a gullible public accept such base political rhetoric on the grounds that the new prime minister will be seen in a more conciliatory light?
By delaying the Bill's consequences will this assure that its legislative implications will not adversely affect the non-government sector and the estimated 550,000 families whose children attend such schools?
Will the delay provide much needed electoral breathing space for the ALP leading into the next election?
The newspaper reported that the delay announcement was made by 'senior government sources' and not the Prime Minister nor the newly minted schools minister Bill Shorten.
Potentially politically damaging news concerning delayed government policy cannot be ascribed to any key party leader pending the forthcoming election leaving adequate wriggle room for politicians responsible for policy determination to more readily manage changed circumstances when and if they arrive.
Delaying implementation of the legislation clearly indicates Prime Minister Rudd has quickly realised that the entire development, implementation procedure, aborted negotiation processes and ultimately the pre-emptive presentation of Gonski-based educational changes as a legislative bill into the Parliament have been nothing short of a political catastrophe.
Let's examine the clear facts behind this delaying decision, its implications for the ALP and ultimately its significance for schools and students who seem to have been entirely forgotten as the forlorn recipients of this flawed and fractured policy program.
The ALP is adamant that the two centre pieces of policy critical to its re-election are the national disability care program and school education reform.
Disability care commenced on 1 July 2013 with a series of five trial programs whose cost is financed by a 0.5% Medicare levy intended to raise $3.3 billion in 2014-15. Productivity Council estimates indicate a fully-blown disability care scheme will cost nearly $15 billion annually. The five trial regional locations will initially cater for 10,000 disabled/carer recipients although there are an estimated 460,000 Australians with significant ongoing disability.
While the program was always going to engage bipartisan political support it merely represents a starting point in what constitutes a massive future fiscal outlay for the economy. Ms Gillard should be rightly acknowledged as initiating the program which will remain a lasting personal, party and 43rd parliamentary legacy compared to many other political shortcomings over the past three years.
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