Monday, 3 June 2013
Australian Education Bill 2012; Second Reading
I continue my remarks from 13 March on the Australian Education Bill 2012 and welcome the opportunity as so much has moved on since then—or has it? Before my speech was interrupted 10 weeks ago and then put off by legislation that the government thought more important, I was talking about education and how devoid of detail the bill and the government's plans were. The lack of detail remains disappointing—yet typical of the big-talking, over-promising and under-delivering Gillard government.
This Labor government like to talk about how they are implementing Gonski, with their National Plan for School Improvement. It sounds grand. It sounds impressive. The name 'Gonski' is something like a symbol that some see as a panacea for education. 'Just say 'Gonski' and all will be good,' they say. Under this Labor government our OECD standing in education has been on a slide—but, again, just say 'Gonski' and all will be good again! Gonski is therefore somewhat messianic in how it is viewed.
I look now at the detail that is available. The government claim they are implementing Gonski, but it is not Gonski—nothing like it. If it were Gonski, where is the $6.6 billion of new money each year for the next six years that was required by Gonski? This is an illusion by an over-promising and under-delivering government, and the teachers and the principals in every school across this country should not be taken in by the charade. Over six years there should be more than $36 billion extra for education. So this is therefore not Gonski but the illusion I spoke of.
The budget papers indicate $2.8 billion of additional money for the National Plan for School Improvement, yet at the same time we can see in the coming years redirections from other programs—$258.5 million out of the National Partnership for Low Socio-economic Status School Communities; $411.9 million out of Empowering Local Schools; $405 million out of literacy and numeracy; $665 million out of the Reward for Great Teachers program; $203.2 million out of the Reward for School Improvements program; and the reduction of $1.182 billion in recurrent funding for non-government schools when comparing parameters under the Schools Assistance Act 2008. So this represents a reduction of $325.1 million. A cut is what this government stands for—way less than the $6.6 billion a year that Gonski requires. I would like to highlight the fact that Minister Garrett has not refuted the $325.1 million cut to other programs. For Western Australia the reduction through redirections or just cuts over the period out to financial year 2015-16 is $229.2 million less in federal funding. It really is a con, and it is typical of a government that talks big but achieves small. The only thing they are good at are grand announcements coupled with cliches and spin lines. Of course, people are on to it. I saw in TheAustralian today that the Gillard government's favourite catchword has been 'Gonski' for a long time and then it was switched to the far less catchy 'national schools improvement plan'. We await what question time today will bring from this government.
However, I was talking about Labor plans for the next three years. The government's plan is to redirect or cut existing spending so that they do not have to do much of the hard work in the budget. All the big money is out at 2018 and 2019, but of course nothing like the $6 billion a year required under Gonski. But the bigger money is beyond their time and beyond their responsibility to find the money for it—again, all promise, no delivery. Right now the federal government has cut school funding and requires the states to spend more. Labor promises to spend $9.8 billion on the National School Improvement Plan. Almost all of that money comes in 2018-19 and before that Labor delivers less money than now. Schools will not see any of the promised new federal funding until 2017, which is two federal elections away. Not only has school performance declined under this government, but the government's performance on education has also declined. The Labor government does not understand that the key to making better schools is better teachers, better teaching, higher academic standards, more community engagement and more principal autonomy.
The empty promises of this government will not achieve this and neither will this legislation. For this reason we are introducing an amendment to the bill which looks at all aspects of the education system. We understand that all children must have the opportunity to have a good, quality education and that families must have the right to choose a school that fits their child. If parents wish to make a private contribution towards the cost of their child's education they should not be penalised for it. In an effort to fundraise and encourage private investment, schools should not be penalised either. This ties in with our belief that as many decisions as possible should be made locally by parents, communities, principals, teachers, schools and school systems. Furthermore, schools, school sectors and school systems must be accountable to their community, families and students. When it comes to funding, the coalition wants to ensure that every Australian student must be entitled to a basic grant from the Commonwealth government.
This country has had enough of this Labor government's failures. Education standards have fallen over the term of this Labor government and the way ahead is through a different approach. One of the first things we will do is to extend the current recurrent funding model for both government and non-government schools so that planning can continue through funding certainty. Another two years of existing funding arrangements will see indexation and National Partnership funding continue which will see that no school is worse off. Then we will negotiate and work with the states and territories. This will ensure that any agreement on a common per student funding benchmark takes account of the fiscal capacity of each state and territory. This will ensure that governments like Western Australia are not punished for their strong support for schools while also allowing others to reach benchmarks as and when circumstances allow. Our approach will also ensure that schools are not punished for taking steps to obtain alternative funding sources.
By way of contrast, the government as usual cannot be trusted to deliver what they promise or to tell the truth about policies. I say again that what the government offers is not Gonski: there is no extra $26 billion over the next four years under Gonski's plan; it is not in the forward estimates; it just is not true. Of the $9.8 billion it is not until 2018-19 that most of it flows, and that is two elections away. For the next three years there is a cut of $325 million. This therefore is a facade, an illusion, and everyone should look at the figures in the budget to see it. What makes it worse is that the Labor government has also made false claims that schools would be worse off under the coalition by $6.4 billion because of a politically-driven and fanciful government assumption about the likely indexation rate for school funding. The key benchmark is known as the average government school recurrent cost and that has averaged 5.8 per cent per year over the last 10 years. The Labor government mendaciously makes the assumption that we would allow the AGSRC to fall to three per cent. As usual nothing they say is true. Clearly, with recent funding announcements by states the AGSRC will return to almost six per cent.
In every respect, what the government says is wrong, and what the government delivers is not what it suggests. It outlines the spending in the distant future but do not outline the way to pay for it. It looks to me that the Labor Party has acknowledged that it cannot find the $26 billion over four years, and cannot even finance what it is talking about in the forward estimates.
We should not forget that Gonski handed down his review two years ago. There are now just 12 sitting days in the House and eight in the Senate in this parliament. How are schools meant to plan for next year when this government plans only for politics? This government is a fiasco in education and across all portfolios. The Prime Minister has established a 30 June deadline for all states and territories to sign up, so that she can have just one success story to campaign on in the election. But this is not a success; this is a demonstration of the driven pursuit of political success, and not educational outcomes. The government has intentionally delayed this to take the focus away from the figures and instead try to panic stakeholders into accepting its plan. The government's dodgy numbers and cuts to education in the next three years relate to its claim about a future Labor surplus. This is what it is all about—a government pursuing politics, driven by catchwords, with no idea of the ramifications for schools and school communities.
The government has failed to bring forth the detail. The government is just trying to push stakeholders into accepting what it says. Scrutiny of the figures reveals that this government is not about Gonski and is not about education—only politics.
I am very happy to stand on this side of the parliament and support the Australian Education Bill 2012. One of my favourite things to do as a local member is to visit and spend time at schools in my electorate. Whether it is standing in a classroom and talking to students about the parliament, attending a musical performance, celebrating the induction of new school leaders or congratulating students as they graduate, it is always a pleasure and an important insight into the challenges and possibilities of our education system.
The most obvious observation to make as I take part in those activities is the differences between schools, and the differences within schools. In the space of a week I might be at Mistake Creek State School, which is an hour's drive on a dirt road from the nearest town, with just a handful of students, and at Lakes Creek State School in Rockhampton, where the children of migrant meatworkers get the help they need to learn English. We also have the Rockhampton Grammar School, a P-to-12 boarding school renowned for its academic and sporting achievements. Then there is the Hall State School, which has a high proportion of students with special needs and which engages staff and students alike with an award-winning environmental education program. And, of course, there is Crescent Lagoon State School—the school my children attend and the one that I know as a parent rather than as an MP. This small snapshot of schools, which would be familiar to MPs right across the country, goes to illustrate that we ask a lot of our education system to meet the needs of students from vastly different places and backgrounds, and to overcome disparities in size, remoteness and so many other factors.
With so much at stake for individual students and our national wellbeing and prosperity, we need to know that our education systems in Australia can deliver on our expectations and the demands of the global economy. This is especially the case at this time of transition. Australia is on the threshold of a new era of prosperity, but we cannot assume that it will look like those times that have gone before. As set out in the Australia in the Asian century white paper, and core to the government's policy agenda, there is the promise of opportunities ahead of us, but not a guarantee.
Our future is not predetermined. It will be the product of how successful we are at converting our current advantages into the human capacity, adaptability and innovation that will be the currency we will need to prosper in the coming century. All those things start with education, and that is why the bill we are debating today is so important. It is important because it says to the community that this government gets it. We understand that our education system is not meeting the needs of today's students, let alone the generations that will be making their way in the world beyond this time of mining-generated wealth.
Not one of us can afford to ignore the results of international tests and comparisons that show Australia is failing to keep up with the educational achievements of our neighbours and competitors.
Over the past decade the PISA exams—the Program of International Student Assessment—coordinated by the OECD has shown an alarming drop in the comparative performance of Australian students. For example, in that period Australian students have fallen from second to seventh in reading and from fifth to 13th in maths. Another similar statistic that has been quoted often in this debate is that in test results released at the end of last year it was shown that Australian year-4 students were significantly outperformed in reading literacy by 21 countries out of the 45 that took part in the testing.
This government came to office with education as one of its key priorities and we have backed that up with investments to improve teaching and learning, as well as significant upgrading of school infrastructure. The international ranking results I have just quoted, however, demand an even greater national effort aimed at giving Australian students the education they need to secure their place in the world. The question is: what should that greater effort look like? This government understands that for each student to truly get what he or she needs from education and to truly realise their potential we need to do more than simply add more funding to the existing system to do more of what it currently does. Instead, we need a new funding framework built on a set of explicit principles and goals so that we can be sure of getting the maximum value for every extra dollar spent on education.
The Australian Education Bill 2012 lays out the legislative framework which will deliver more funding and resources to every school as part of the implementation of the National Plan for School Improvement, also enshrined within this bill. The purpose of this bill is made very clear in its preamble and it is something I fully subscribe to and wholeheartedly support:
All students in all schools are entitled to an excellent education, allowing each student to reach his or her full potential so that he or she can succeed and contribute fully to his or her community, now and in the future.
The quality of a student’s education should not be limited by where the student lives, the income of his or her family, the school he or she attends, or his or her personal circumstances.
The quality of education should not be limited by a school’s location, particularly those schools in regional Australia.
… … …
… future arrangements will be based on the needs of Australian schools and school students, and on evidence of how to provide an excellent education for school students. These arrangements will build on successful reforms to date.
These are all important statements of the value this government and, one would hope, this parliament places on education and its role in the lives of individual Australians and the prospects of our nation. They should not, however, come as a surprise to anyone because the words in this bill actually reflect the substance of Labor's education policy and programs since we came to office in 2007. In her second reading speech when this bill was introduced to the parliament the Prime Minister outlined the path we have been on, step by step putting in place the foundations for this significant and necessary reform of school education.
We knew when we came to power in 2007 that reform had to be built on evidence of what is happening in schools right now—which students go to which schools; what are the indicators of success or disadvantage within a school population; what is a school contributing to the educational performance of its students and how does that compare to other schools; and, which schools are successful in meeting the needs of their students and getting the best out of them? We could not answer those questions when we first came to government in 2007. So we set about the task of answering those questions and building an education system for the future. My School was developed to gather the information that could answer those questions and guide appropriate responses.
Over the same period our government has made massive investments in delivering extra resources into schools through national partnerships with states and other schooling systems. Schools put those resources to work in new approaches and programs to address poor literacy and numeracy, to lift the quality of teaching and to overcome disadvantage experienced by low-SES students. Using the data from My School and other measures we have worked to identify what works in schools. We can identify the elements of success and where more support is needed if those results are to be achieved in each and every school.
The Gonski review has confirmed that more support, more funding, is needed if we are to replicate the lift in standards and educational results seen in those National Partnership schools around the country. The Gonski review went further in recommending important new characteristics of school funding. Those characteristics are central to the fundamental reform of school funding that this government is committed to and they are given legislative force in this bill. The bill provides assurance that the Commonwealth will introduce a needs-based funding model for future Commonwealth funding. That funding will be provided on the basis of a schooling resource standard which will provide a base amount for all students, according to a formula that accounts for the costs associated with providing a high-quality education and additional loadings that address the costs associated with educational disadvantage. So schools will get the funding they need to meet the needs of their individual students, whether those students face disadvantage because they come to school with a disability or they attend a small, remote school or they experience other barriers linked to lower educational attainment. The Prime Minister explains in her speech that the schooling resource standard will be based on what it costs to educate a student at schools we know already get strong results.
I am proud to say that at least one of those benchmark schools is in my electorate of Capricornia, and it is the evidence I have seen at that school that makes me such a strong supporter of the Gonski model and this bill. Berserker Street State School has been on a remarkable journey in the time I have been the local member and especially since this government came to power. Most of that improvement in transformation has occurred since the special needs of the school's students and community were recognised and the school was allocated significant extra funding as part of the national partnership for low SES schools. Under the leadership of the Berserker principal, Rebecca Hack, and with the help of those extra resources, the school has been able to employ additional staff to support programs in literacy, numeracy and Indigenous engagement as well as special staff such as a social worker. There has been room in the budget for innovative teaching programs, including targeted diagnostic screening for things like oral-language skills and professional development for teachers and teachers' aides.
I have probably spoken about it in the House before but it would be no surprise to members to know that I have visited Berserker Street State School many times and seen for myself the commitment of the staff and the way students are responding to the efforts that are made to meet their individual educational and personal needs. You can actually sense the focus, engagement and enthusiasm of the students as you move from class to class, and I have got to say that it is not something I could have said about Berserker school 10 or 12 years ago. I visited the school just in the last couple of months with Senator Jacinta Collins and during that visit we were both invited to sit-in on a grade 1 reading group. A number of students jumped up to read aloud to us and one in particular, named Josh, was put on the spot and asked to read to us while being filmed for the local news bulletin and photographed by the local newspaper photographer. Josh did not skip a beat and he confidently treated us to a couple of pages of the book he was reading. It was only later that his proud teacher pulled us aside and told us that when Josh started prep a year earlier he had been identified as having almost no oral language skills, to the point where he could only put one or two words together. Poor oral-language skills are closely linked to difficulties in learning to read.
The support and specialised interventions that Berserker has had the resources to provide, thanks to its extra funding, have resulted in the progress we saw that day and the people of Rockhampton saw that night when Josh read to all of them on the evening news. This is all reflected more broadly in Berserker's data and is the reason that Berserker is amongst those excellent schools identified to formulate the schooling resource standard. Berserker school is the schooling resource standard and the national plan for school improvement in action and the results are truly inspirational. The point of the Berserker example is that every school needs to be resourced to respond to its students' needs and the community's expectations.
I have given that example because it means that we have seen in Rockhampton what can be achieved with extra investment in schools towards lifting standards of leadership, teaching and learning.
I was very disappointed to see today that the Premier of Queensland is rejecting the federal government's offer of the extra investment that has seen those results achieved at schools like Berserker, and others in my electorate and right around Queensland. Instead, what is being offered by the Queensland government—if it fails to sign up to the national school improvement plan, and if we go into the next election without the national school improvement plan having passed through this parliament and being on its way to being implemented as the funding model for Australian schools—will see cuts to schools in the state of Queensland, cuts to each and every school, at a time when there needs to be more investment in education.
Every student deserves to have an excellent education. These have always been core Labor beliefs, but now they are also national imperatives. That is why this bill commits the government to goals for the excellence, equity and international competitiveness of our schooling system and sets the framework for school funding to achieve those goals. I commend the bill to the House.
In my electorate of Swan we have a wide range of schools. I see a former member for Swan in the chamber; he is now the member for Canning. I know he has an education background and was a teacher in my electorate as well. So I know how important education is to him.
It is good to see the member for Braddon is awake today. I think the member for Braddon is trying to make the point that he was a teacher as well. The reality is: most schools have an element of public and private funding. As the shadow minister said, in the current Schools Assistance Act there are over 70 definitions relating to schooling. This bill before the House has only five definitions. The issue here is the government trying to make broad generalisations that simply do not fit with the detailed picture on the ground.
What we are debating today is a statement of principles—not a bill. It has no financial impact and it is not even legally enforceable. Perhaps this has something to do with the manner in which it was introduced—rapidly, at the end of last year, to try to convince the Australian people that there is an agenda for this government.
What the government has put out would be better put in a press release than a bill. It is an empty shell in a number of respects. For example, it lacks details on funding; it contains no details at all as to how much money will be available, or which level of government will be required to stump up for additional funding.
Too often, Labor's approach has led to politicisation of an important policy area which ought to be above politics, and I fear this will only worsen in the lead-up to their deadline of 30 June 2013. The politicisation has the potential to colour an appropriate and rational consideration of Labor's current offers to the state and territory governments.
I refer the House to comments in The Australian on 25 February:
WA Premier Colin Barnett said he believed the federal government was a 'small player'' in education and heavily criticised Ms Gillard's style of negotiation with the states.
'We have never indicated we would sign up to Gonski,' Mr Barnett told reporters in Perth.
'If the federal government has some proposal, they are very much the small player in education.
'We are not going to sit back and suddenly let the commonwealth take over the running of our schools.''
These concerns are shared by the schools themselves. We had the CSA state:
CSA supports the general principles of a Gonski-style approach. We cannot however give our full support to any proposal that has not fully been modelled and released for consultation.
… … …
We must express however our serious concern at the lack of detail about the achievement of this promise.
Should data modelling, and funding commitments not be provided to fulfil this undertaking our support would immediately be withdrawn.
I note Dennis Shanahan's piece on the front page of The Australian newspaper today, which says that the Queensland Premier has virtually ruled out the Queensland government's agreement to the Gonski funding by the Prime Minister's deadline. Furthermore, the article goes on to quote Mr Newman's letter to the Prime Minister, in which he refers to officials in her Treasury department as being intransigent, failing to negotiate constructively and unable to set out base education funding for the 2014 education year. The Queensland Premier told the Prime Minister that because of the intransigence of the federal government, even if agreement could be reached on the starting point, the flow-on effects would require substantial revision of the federal government's funding offer.
I notethat the Victorian government has described the negotiations as 'a farce' and 'puerile'. Even the South Australian Labor government has warned of concerns about funding for independent schools. Further to this, it has been reported by The Australian that:
Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon excoriated the commonwealth over its handling of the Gonski negotiations, claiming the reforms amounted to nothing more than a slogan.
In unusually strong language, Mr Dixon said he no longer trusted the federal government over the way it had conducted the negotiations.
He said that he was being forced to read in the media about key developments in what were meant to be confidential negotiations about the future of billions of dollars worth of education funding.
"This process has been a farce and it's been a sham," Mr Dixon told parliament.
We are not going to sign up to a slogan. We want a real funding deal. We are going to sign up to what's best for every student, school, family and taxpayer.
Senior government sources said Victoria would only now sign up to the Gonski reforms if there was a "deal breaking" offer by Canberra.
Mr Dixon, Catholic Education Commission Victoria executive director Stephen Elder and Independent Schools Victoria chief executive Michelle Green have written to the Gillard government asking for four-way negotiations to address funding proposals. This is believed to be due to existing discussions having collapsed.
"The current bilateral negotiations have not achieved results we would have liked," the trio wrote in a letter to School Education Minister Peter Garrett.
Mr Dixon's outburst makes it increasingly unlikely that Ms Gillard will be able to broker a truly national approach to the Gonski reforms. While Mr Dixon has not ruled out signing up to the reforms, he has sent the clearest possible message that Victoria's support is highly conditional.
Queensland is still holding out on the reforms while Western Australia says it is not signing.
The South Australian Premier, who took on Treasury in his January frontbench reshuffle, yesterday hosed down any expectation he was about to sign up to Gonski and was just waiting for the right time to announce it with the Prime Minister before next Thursday's state budget.
And rightly so—the recent budget confirmed a number of suspicion long held by the coalition. In short, the total amount of federal Commonwealth money devoted to education over the forward estimates period to 2016-17 has been reduced by approximately $1.5 billion.
While Budget Paper No. 21 indicates that $2.8 billion of additional money will be available over four years for the National Plan for School Improvement, NPSI, that spending is offset by concurrent reductions, redirections and savings of approximately $3.283 billion. Their total exceeds the additional amount that had been set aside for the NPSI by some $484 million. This means the Labor government will not contribute any additional money for education between now and 2016-17. In fact, it will contribute less over the same period than it otherwise would have. In addition, an examination of the relevant portfolio budget statement confirms further reductions to school-specific spending under the Schools Assistance Act 2008 by approximately $1 billion until 2016-17. The cumulative effect of these changes shows an intention to reduce spending over the forward estimates period by $1.5 billion from that which would otherwise have been spent absent of the NPSI.
What has become clear is that even if it manages to be re-elected for another two terms, the Labor government is not introducing Gonski. If it were, it would have committed the extra money Gonski called for. Far from increasing funding, the government has handed out a budget last month which reveals that Labor will reduce spending on schools by $325 million over the forward estimates from was forecast in the 2012-13 budget. What the government is doing is robbing Peter to pay Paul—except they are paying Paul a lesser amount. Overall, the government will spend $4.7 billion less on education, including higher education and vocational training, in the four years to 2016 than was budgeted last year.
I refer the House to some of the responses the government have received to their proposals. The lack of detail leaves many questions remaining. Where will the at least $6.5 billion per year the government floated come from? What programs will be cut and what taxes will the government increase to pay for it? If the leaked Gonski modelling shows 3,254 schools worse off, how much extra will it cost for every school to receive more funding as Ms Gillard has promised? When will the modelling be available showing the impact of this funding for each school? Will the Prime Minister guarantee no school will have to increase school fees as a result of the changes? Where is the detailed response to the 41 recommendations in the Gonski review? How much indexation will each school and school sector receive? What will be the benchmark funding per primary and secondary school student? How much funding per student will be allocated for students with a disability? Will this funding be portable between the government and non-government sectors? What, if any, future capital funding arrangements will be provided for schools? What new reporting requirements and other conditions will schools have to meet in order to qualify for government funding?
In the Southern Gazette newspaper, in my electorate, on 4 September 2012, in an article written by journalist Susanne Scolt, it was reported that 20 local schools could be faced with a combined funding loss of more than $8 million under federal government education plans. The article states that modelling based on data provided by the department of education to schools and state governments, based on the Gonski review, shows that 688 WA schools could emerge as potential losers, with Belmont City College, in my electorate 22nd on the list, projected to lose over $2.2 million. Other local schools in my electorate are also facing losses according to this news article include Como Secondary College, $975,185; Lathlain Primary School, $466,316; East Victoria Park Primary School, $293,926; Wesley College, $167,969; and Penrhos College, $85,458. In the article, local Kewdale resident Joe Mahon, who sends his children to Lathlain Primary School, was quoted:
"If these figures are true, then I imagine that this would be a substantial part of the school's budget," he said.
"The school is quite well equipped now but if we were to lose that money how would they expect to catch up on the technology of other schools in the area?"
Based on these figures, it is hardly surprising that schools and ministers are asking for more information.
I mentioned earlier the Independent Public Schools initiative from the Liberal government of Western Australia, and it is worth mentioning here as it will be a key plank of coalition education policy going forward. The Independent Public Schools initiative was introduced to give public schools choice, independence and freedom to provide for their communities' diverse education needs. Currently, 255 schools across Western Australia are operating, or are beginning to operate, as independent public schools. The IPS initiative empowers school communities by giving them greater capacity to shape the ethos, priorities and direction of their schools. I am on the board for Bannister Creek Primary School in Lynwood, in my electorate of Swan, which is an independent school. We visited with the shadow minister recently to show how the school would be developing a specialist in languages as a result of being granted independent school status.
In my electorate of Swan, 10 schools have become independent public schools since 2010, with six more electing to become independent in 2013. These schools assume greater responsibility for their own affairs and have greater flexibility to respond to their communities. The Western Australian government has recognised the great importance of government funded schools in our community by allowing very diverse schools to respond to the individual needs of the communities they service. By giving more power to the individual schools, programs can be tailored to meet the student needs of a particular enrolment area. School funding can be more wisely spent in line with the needs of the individual school, avoiding the rampant waste we have seen with the school halls program, Building the Education Revolution.
The standards for schools to become independent public schools are understandably rigorous. Every public school in Western Australia will be given the opportunity to be selected once they meet the high standards required to become an independent public school. This approach recognises that schools perform better, and achieve higher outcomes when granted flexibility to adapt to community and student needs in education. The approach also acknowledges some schools need more support than others when transitioning and provides guidance and expertise to ensure that schools and students around Western Australia are reaching their potential. Importantly as well, the IPS initiative provides parents, students, communities and schools with choice. Choice is incredibly important for schools as no two schools are the same in terms of funding needs, infrastructure needs, and student and staff needs.
The bill before the House today is unclear as to whether or not additional administrative burdens would be placed on schools with regard to funding, creating more red tape and a less efficient school system. While independent public schools are funded on the same basis as all Western Australian public schools, the ongoing funding uncertainty and the lack of a proposed funding model could inhibit some schools in their transition to become independent. All in all, this bill does little or nothing to improve education outcomes, but it has afforded many coalition members the opportunity to expose the hollowness of the government's budget and the hollowness of their commitments to the Gonski report. The focus needs to shift. Differences need to be made in the classroom rather than the bureaucracy. Our schools and children deserve better.