Federal Politics

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Vital questions unanswered in PM's ambitious plan

All moral crusade aside, Julia Gillard's schools announcement fell short of giving full satisfaction.

The government has endorsed the Gonski report's bottom line — that an extra $6.5 billion annually, in today's dollars, should be put into Australian schools.

But Ms Gillard hasn't revealed how much of this it wants the states to provide. This split is absolutely vital, but the PM essentially suggested she was holding back that information as a negotiating tactic.

Secondly, Ms Gillard did not answer when asked how she saw the funding would be spread across the transition period of 2014 to 2020. This too is crucial to any judgment of what the government is proposing, especially when there is a wider argument going on about affordable promises.

The Gillard speech was big on high-flown rhetoric: the identification of a ''moral wrong'' (some kids being denied a great education), and an exhortation to join her ''crusade'' for an excellent school system that would be in the world's top five.

It was long on ambition, as she sketched a system where students would need to be top of their class to get into a university teaching course,  and schools would have ''breakfast clubs'' so eager children could spend longer in them each day.

Education is heartland political territory for Labor.  Tony Abbott is already facing difficulties as he defends the status quo funding system. His cosying up to the independent sector will win him some friends, but will not go down so well with many voters whose children are struggling in the state school system.

No wonder Gillard — ambitiously — wants to keep the talk for as long as possible on the aspiration of Gonski, rather than the messy and difficult detail of the road map for implementation.

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