Schools will get "the same quantum of funding", says Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
The Coalition's pre-election pledge that ''every single school in Australia will receive, dollar for dollar, the same federal funding over the next four years whether there is a Liberal or Labor government'' seemed pretty unequivocal.
People who didn’t know who Christopher Pyne was before the election know who he is now and they hate him.
But Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Sunday there was confusion in the community about the exact shape of his Gonski-related promise.
Mr Abbott stuck firm to the government's position that schools as a whole would get the ''same quantum of funding'' under the Coalition but would not reaffirm the pre-election promise that every individual school would be no worse off under his government.
Appearing on Channel Ten's The Bolt Report, Mr Abbott was played a clip in which Education Minister Christopher Pyne said: ''You can vote Liberal or Labor and you will get exactly the same amount of funding for your school.''
''I think Christopher said, 'Schools would get the same amount of money'. And schools, plural, will get the same amount of money. The quantum will be the same,'' Mr Abbott said.
Pressed on the apparent clear-cut promise to individual schools, Mr Abbott suggested there was confusion. ''We are going to keep the promise that we made, not the promise that some people thought we made or the promise that some people might have liked us to make. We are going to keep the promise that we actually made,'' he said.
The promise, according to Mr Pyne's official website on Sunday, was that ''every single school'' would get what they would have under Labor's model.
Mr Pyne invited a widespread backlash, including from state education ministers, when he announced a new funding formula would be introduced in 2015, with the same ''funding envelope'' but no detail on whether there would be winners and losers.
After a meeting with Mr Pyne and fellow state ministers on Friday, NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said there would be losers and they would be public schools. ''The government made a commitment that there would be no broken promises … and unfortunately that has not come to pass,'' he said.
Opposition education spokeswoman Kate Ellis savaged Mr Abbott's ''clever words''. ''A promise is a promise,'' she said. ''They were very specific in their words before the election … a promise they have now walked away from.''
The Australian Education Union said it was an ''insult to parents'' that Mr Abbott was muddying the waters on such an unequivocal pre-election position.
Labor frontbencher Jason Clare, who says his western Sydney electorate will be hit hard by the Coalition’s backflip, said Christopher Pyne had lied.
‘‘He said one thing before the election and he’s saying another thing now. Put Christopher Pyne on a polygraph and it would blow up.’’
The community was increasingly angry about the Coalition’s stance, he said.
‘‘People who didn’t know who Christopher Pyne was before the election know who he is now and they hate him.’’
Lower house Greens MP Adam Bandt also called Mr Pyne and Prime Minister Tony Abbott liars on schools funding.
‘‘A very, very clear promise was made to people. And when you break a promise it’s a lie.’’