Senate passes Government’s education reforms after changes satisfy cross-bench – June 2017
After another marathon sitting on the eve of the winter recess, Parliament has passed the revamped Gonski schools funding package.
The Government won crossbench support for the reforms by adding an extra $5 billion to the plan, boosting it to $23.5 billion over the next decade. (See also Government scores big win as Gonski 2.0 passes but Catholic opposition remains.)
It secured the 10 crucial crossbench Senate votes needed to approve the legislation after Labor and the Greens voted against it.
After clearing the Senate, the amended bill received final approval in the House of Representatives about 2am on Friday, June 23.
Labor has vowed to fight against the package all the way until the next election and to restore every dollar cut by the coalition.
“The government has adopted the rhetoric, but not the investment,” said Opposition frontbencher Anthony Albanese said.
The Government says the Gonski 2.0 package will ensure underfunded schools reach funding targets in six years instead of 10 and $50 million will be spent on a transition fund for Catholic and independent schools over 12 months.
The government also agreed to a new watchdog conducting reviews of the schooling resource standard, which is the basis of the new needs-based funding model, and a guarantee the states won't withdraw their funding as more federal money flows through.
The reviews can address whether the commonwealth, states, territories or authorities are not distributing funding on a needs basis, or whether schools are being over or underfunded.
Retiring Liberal senator Chris Back, who had threatened to vote against the package, changed his mind after the minister agreed to extend existing arrangements for Catholic and independent schools for a year.
The Greens refused to vote for the bill because of this transition package, but the government successfully negotiated instead with the crossbench.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the Gonski 2.0 scheme would ensure equal federal funding for students no matter where they lived, providing incentives for states and territories to meet their end of the funding bargain.
Schools will see changes to the money they receive from 2018.