Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (15:22): I too rise to take note of Minister Birmingham’s answers at question time today. I think the appropriate place to start with any commentary on this is where it should be focused in this chamber at all times—on the best interests of all of Australian students. Sadly, listening to those opposite on this debate, clearly that is not where their best interests in the arguments lie. It is a tragedy for Australia and Australia’s children that, instead of focusing on their best interests, they are focusing on their political needs. It comes down to this, quite clearly: you say you give a Gonski, but you cannot stand the fact that it is those on this side of the chamber who are actually delivering Gonski in full—fully funded, truly needs based, and without the 27 special deals that you concocted, which completely distorted the process.
That is not just my opinion. Let us have a look at what those who were on the original Gonski review and co-authored the report said. Last night, Kathryn Greiner, a Gonski review panel member, spoke on ABC. She was asked about her assessment of the political debate on Gonski 2.0. This is what the member of the Gonski review said:
I am very surprised about the Labor Party. They are behaving like naughty school children at the moment. They should be sat in the corner and given lines because they are behaving like children in that if they’re not going to be the ones to implement the Gonski reforms when they had their opportunity—
They blew it—
then they seem to be spoiling it for anyone else to do that.
As I said, they cannot stand the fact that this side of the House is actually delivering the Gonski report and the intentions of the report. She also said:
… at the end of the day, my attitude and I think the attitude of any of us who were involved in the Gonski reforms, this is about the children.
Not those acting like children on the other side, but the actual children of Australia. Her advice to the Labor Party was:
Stop playing the political games and just get on with it.
She said, ‘My gut feeling is that they want to spoil it, because they cannot be the ones to bring it to fruition.’ I think Kathryn Greiner’s comments are absolutely correct, and it has been absolutely evident in everything that we have heard from those opposite. I think it is a national disgrace that the interests of Australian children are being held hostage to the petty feelings of those on the other side—hurt feelings that they were not the ones to implement the report that they commissioned.
Let’s have a look at not just what we are saying but what other members of the Gonski review panel have said recently, in addition to Kathryn Greiner’s comments. Ken Boston, a Gonski review member and also a leader in education policy, said this month that it is a ‘new deal of historic national importance’. He went on to say:
There are no grounds for opposition to the schools funding bill in principle …
It will be a tragedy if the school funding bill is voted down in the Senate—
by those opposite. That is Ken Boston, the second member of the Gonski review. What did Bill Scales, an original Gonski review member, also say last month? He said:
I think these concerns are not necessarily well-founded.
… … …
If those systems are educating children of great need, then they have nothing to fear.
He also said:
This has to be de-politicised. This is not a political issue … And we shouldn’t make that a political issue.
They are three members of the Gonski review panel. Let’s have a look to see what Mr David Gonski himself said recently about this bill and about these amendments. After everything that those opposite have said and are still saying here today, hysterically and very stridently, against this bill—they have signs in their windows saying, ‘I give a Gonski’—let’s hear what Mr Gonski himself says about this bill and these reforms:
I’m very pleased to hear that the Turnbull Government has accepted the fundamental recommendations of our 2011 report, and particularly regarding a needs-based situation.
… … …
I’m very pleased that there is substantial additional money, even over indexation and in the foreseeable future.
If Gonski gives a Gonski then those opposite should stand up, be counted and deliver for the children of Australia. (Time expired)