An independent MP has blasted both sides of politics for the “catfight” over school funding, lamenting the impact it will have on Australian children.
Andrew Wilkie told parliament on Monday that David Gonski’s plan for education reform had become a political plaything for Labor and the coalition.
Neither had offered up anything close to the $5 billion a year extra Gonski believed was needed to lift the national standard – now $6.5 billion with inflation.
“This place is letting our kids down and I’m appalled,” Mr Wilkie said.
The Tasmanian scolded MPs from the major parties for the “sanctimonious claptrap” during debate on the legislation, which passed the lower house after some squabble on Monday night.
“It’s disingenuous for both the government and the opposition to come in here and be so sanctimonious and have this catfight about who’s delivering the real Gonski,” he said.
“Frankly, no one is delivering the real Gonski.”
Mr Wilkie argued that if Australia could afford to double its submarine fleet, it could afford to better fund education.
“The community want the politics taken out of this.”
Fellow crossbencher Rebekha Sharkie echoed Mr Wilkie’s sentiments, saying debate on the issue had been full of half-truths.
“There’s been so much spin on this matter that it’s enough to make the most seasoned follower of politics giddy,” the Nick Xenophon Team MP said.
Ms Sharkie, however, believes the Turnbull government’s plan is a step in the right direction.
She voted in favour of the draft laws but indicated her party colleagues will await more details from a Senate inquiry before finalising their stance.
It remains to be seen whether the government will have the numbers to get the proposal through parliament, with the Greens also not firm on a position.
Party leader Richard Di Natale said the legislation, as it stands, has far too many problems and was not supported by Greens MP Adam Bant in the lower house.
Asked whether he was open to negotiation in the Senate, he told Sky News on Monday: “Unless you … take this back to the original Gonski funding formula we can’t support it.”
Labor argues the funding model represents a $22 billion cut, while the government claims it’s a $18.6 billion increase over 10 years.
“This is real funding, not those fantasy figures that have been bandied around by the other side,” junior minister Michael Sukkar told parliament.