The Australian Financial Review (Financial Review, 2013) seems to have discovered truths that have been apparent to most astute commentators on school improvement for many months. Four main inferences are raised by the Financial Review article, but they are more complex than they look.
1. Prime Minister Rudd is discovering that education is central to the ALP's re-election chances.
During the course of his first prime ministership Mr Rudd conveniently left much of the running on education to his capable and extremely passionate deputy Julia Gillard. Any leadership role is generally complacent to bask in their underling's achievements so in this regard Kevin Rudd was no exception.
After being axed Mr Rudd enthusiastically adopted his ultimate political goal to stride a much wider international stage through the foreign affairs portfolio leaving school reform to the more experienced but no less diminished passion of Prime Minister Gillard.
Following her axing Mr Rudd was quick to endorse Ms Gillard's efforts to seek state/territory consensus for Gonski funding outcomes although, as before, Mr Rudd is more political show that policy go. His sole contribution to the school improvement debate was to rebadge Gonski to assume a more politically neutral epithet – Better Schools.
While some Gonski recommendations remain effective schooling reform has subverted to a variety of individual financial deals with states/territories to secure their agreement to the federal government's intentions which remain primarily politically motivated. How can the ALP secure state/territory agreement - and supposed national consensus - by offering more money to sign on to whatever remains of the Gonski proposals?
Three governments remained sidelined to signing – Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory – while Victoria only signed at the eleventh hour after the federal government backed down on some of its earlier prerequisites concerning increased federal domination of schools if states were to receive additional federal funding.
Because differing deals have been presumably signed with the earlier agreeing constituents – NSW, SA, ACT and Tasmania – it is expedient to ask what national consensus on school funding now exists between the states/territories and the federal government?
If differing states/territories have gained pre-emptive funding advantages won't states not so advantaged have every right to challenge constitutionally the entire funding package?
If non-signatory WA, Qld and NT governments fail to receive commensurate future increased funding won't they seek restoration of funding equality through a constitutional challenge?
Mr Rudd likes to be photographed beaming widely in front of adoring school children as if such news photos or 'selfie' exposure gives him electoral credibility for schooling reform.
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