Napthine's backpedalling revives Gonski reforms
Less resistant to the Gonski plan: Victorian Premier Denis Napthine. Photo: Justin McManus
The Prime Minister's signature reforms to overhaul school funding could be back from the brink after the new Victorian Premier offered an olive branch.
Julia Gillard placed the $6.5 billion annual boost to school funding at the centre of her election-year agenda, but suffered a major setback last month when the Victorian government warned it would go its own way and drew up an alternative plan.
Queensland then added to the perception the Gonski reforms were dead, with the conservative-led state telling Ms Gillard to ''give up'' and ''butt out of education''.
But newly installed Victorian Premier Denis Napthine, elevated after Ted Baillieu's sudden resignation on Wednesday, has softened his predecessor's resistance to the national plan.
Dr Napthine said he wanted a better working relationship with Canberra and he was prepared to sign up to the Gonski plan, provided no school lost out.
''What we've got to do is have no school being disadvantaged, no family being disadvantaged, no student being disadvantaged - and it's got to be a fair deal. [Then] of course we'd sign up,'' he said.
"But if they say: 'Here's how it's done - we want you to spend 90 per cent of your state budget on education, and you to fund all of these changes, then that's not how it works. It's got to be a significant offer from the federal government."
NSW maintains it supports the Gonski reforms in principle, although it and other states have been calling for greater detail about the funding share.
Federal School Education Minister Peter Garrett said specific funding offers would be made to the states as early as this week.
''That is something which I expect to be happening over this coming week and the following week as well,'' he said.
Mr Garrett said NSW and Victoria had extensive school systems and were crucial to constructive talks on the national plan.
''These are welcome words from the new Victorian Premier, but they must be followed up with welcome action and that means leaving the alternative plan behind and continuing the discussions and deliberations with officials in a collaborative fashion,'' he said.
Ms Gillard has said she is determined to finalise a deal with the states and territories at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in April.
Despite tough-talking about Queensland drawing up its own plan, Queensland Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek has since signalled the state remains open to the Gonski option.
Under the Gonski reforms, a set amount of funding would be allocated for each student and this would be topped up with special ''loadings'' recognising disadvantage and special needs.
Former Victorian premier John Brumby said the Gonski debate was difficult because it involved money and ''everyone's budgets are skinny at the moment''.
But Mr Brumby, now chairman of the COAG Reform Council, said a business-as-usual approach would see Australia slip further behind the region.
''There's going to be a debate about the money, there's going to be a debate about the timing, there's going to be a debate about the specifics, but I don't think anybody would dispute we need to step up,'' he said.
In Western Australia, Premier Colin Barnett was on Saturday expected to hold the state comfortably for the Liberals.
Mr Barnett went into Saturday's election with his Liberal party holding 23 seats, the Nationals five, Labor 27 and four independents.
Opinion polls predicted a big swing towards the Liberal-Nationals Coalition, with the public clearly preferring Mr Barnett to Labor's Mark McGowan.