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Garrett: Gonski change 'silly'

Education Minister Peter Garrett savages Green plans to change the government's Gonski school reforms.

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Prime Minister Julia Gillard has warned her government will make ''ambitious'' cuts to find money for a new school funding model.

Addressing the Australian Education Union conference in Melbourne, Ms Gillard promised her audience she would deliver her national plan for school improvement.

''We will get this thing done,'' she said.

But she warned she would have to make significant savings to fund her education reforms – based on the recommendations of a panel led by businessman David Gonski – as well as the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

''Since NDIS and Gonski are huge reforms, our savings will be correspondingly ambitious,'' Ms Gillard said.

''They won't be a nip and tuck. They will be a statement of where our priorities lie. That in times of financial stringency, when dollars are scarce, we save from where it is needed least and invest where it is needed most. Without fear, without favour.''

Ms Gillard insisted the education reforms – which have been costed at about $6.5 billion a year – were affordable.

''Our nation spends twice that amount each year on tobacco. We spend twice that amount again on alcohol,'' she said.

''We can't afford not to reform our schools.''

She said state and territory leaders would have to pay their share of the cost of the changes.

''The big test will come at COAG in April,'' she said. ''I hope the Premiers will rise to the challenge. Australia's children are counting on them.''

Earlier School Education Minister Peter Garrett dismissed a threat by the Greens to amend the federal government's school funding reforms as ''silly'', saying it risked hurting students.

Just days after announcing that the formal alliance with Labor, forged in 2010, is over, Greens leader Christine Milne announced on Friday plans to amend the $6 billion Gonski enabling bill in the House of Representatives to ensure any additional Commonwealth funding goes to the poorest schools first.

Senator Milne used her speech to the same conference in Melbourne to build pressure on the government to fix the mining tax, which raised only $126 million in its first six months. It was forecast to raise $2 billion in its first 12 months.

''With the government failing to fix the mining tax we are worried that there will not be enough money to fund the full implementation of Gonski,'' she said.

''If this is the case then the additional funds available must be prioritised to where they are needed and that means they must flow to our most disadvantaged public schools.''

Senator Milne said the Greens had no intention of putting the Gonski reforms at risk, and would vote for them even if their amendment was not supported.

Speaking to Fairfax Media on Friday, Mr Garrett said the Greens bid to have changes made to the mining tax by threatening other measures such as the Gonski education funding model is ''futile''.

Mr Garrett said the Greens were seeking to delay legislation that would provide additional resources to schools.

''This is a particularly pointless gesture on the part of the Greens and seems to miss the point completely that the Gonski reforms and a new national plan for school improvement will see additional resources go to those schools that have got great student need,'' he said.

''We don't want any unnecessary delays and I'm surprised by this rather silly gesture from the Greens.''

Ms Gillard used her speech at the union conference to call on teachers to work for the re-election of her government, predicting ''Mr Abbott's Liberals will always stand in the way of this reform''.

''The only way this major change can be delivered for this nation is by this Labor government this year and by this Labor government in the years beyond. So you as teachers and unionists need to be part of the fight.''

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