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'It's not the full Gonski but it's still Gonski': schools package wins support

Politics

The Turnbull Government looks likely to get its schools funding package through the Senate by the end of this week, after appearing to have rounded up the 10 crossbench votes it needs.

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One Nation will deliver four votes and the Nick Xenophon team three, while independents Derryn Hinch and Jacqui Lambie have indicated their support for legislation now being debated in the upper house.

SA independent Lucy Gichuhi is expected to provide the Government with her vote as well.

Xenophon told parliament today the Government had agreed to shortening the rollout of funds from 10 to six years, an independent watchdog and measures to ensure the states do not withdraw their funding as more commonwealth funding flows into the system.

Senator Xenophon said this would mean $23 billion in extra funding to schools, delivered faster than originally planned by the government.

“It’s not the full Gonski but it’s still Gonski,” he said.

If Labor wanted to continue its insistence that schools will be short-changed by $22 billion it could take it to the next election, he said.

One of the first jobs for the new national schools resourcing body would be to review the methodology of funding, which has been a core concern of Catholic educators and some Liberal MPs including West Australian senator Chris Back.

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, which has four senators, says it will back the Government’s legislation.

But One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts told parliament more debate was needed on amendments dealing with issues of “accountability and choice”.

Crossbencher Derryn Hinch said he would support the legislation, labelling Labor’s $22 billion extra “a lie”.

Senator Hinch said he was “proud” of the changes agreed by the Government.

Fellow crossbencher Jacqui Lambie talked about a lack of consultation, but hinted she would back the bill on the basis of guarantees her state’s schools would not lose out.

The Government will need the vote of Senator Lambie, as well as another out of Lucy Gichuhi and David Leyonhjelm, with Cory Bernardi and Labor opposed to the plan.

Greens senator Janet Rice told parliament as it stood there was not enough money on the table.

“We still don’t quite know where this legislation is going to land,” she said.

Just before meeting with his colleagues this morning, Greens leader Richard Di Natale told ABC Radio: “We need to make sure that whatever we do, it’s in the interests of kids, particularly those kids in our needy public schools, that need to be put before anything else.”

“Unfortunately in this debate, the politics … tends to come first and the policy tends to come second.”

The Australian Education Union changed tack today, calling for a delay in passing the legislation rather than outright blocking it.

And Labor leader Bill Shorten, who visited a Catholic school in Canberra this morning, issued a challenge to the Prime Minister.

“I say to Mr Turnbull as we approach the end of this sitting week of Parliament – scrap your cuts to schools, go back to the drawing board.”

-AAP

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