Labor’s recycled pledge to Catholic schools from weeks and months ago is a desperate attempt by Bill Shorten to ingratiate himself with Catholic Church leaders at the expense of consistent, needs-based school funding.


Catholic school parents and educators should see through Mr Shorten’s hollow promise of money for two years with no detail for his plans for the years following an election.


The sum total of Labor’s funding plan is a vague reference to tipping in extra “billions” on top of the Turnbull Government’s plan – which already grows funding for Catholic schools from $6.3 billion last year to $6.6 billion this year and to $9.8 billion by 2027. That’s around an extra 3.7 per cent extra per Catholic school student each year.


The Turnbull Government has welcomed the constructive engagement of many Catholic school leaders in our Review of the Socio-Economic Status methodology, which will further strengthen our needs based school funding model, based on David Gonski’s recommendations.


Mr Shorten says, in one breath, that Labor will review the Review’s results, but in the next he’s pre-empted those results with a promise of special deals and carve outs for certain school sectors.


Bill Shorten should release the letters he’s sent the education unions about public school funding, to independent schools and to other school systems so everyone can see all the promises he’s making. This is just like Adani where Bill Shorten says one thing to one group of voters and something completely different to another


Mr Shorten’s Deputy and Education Spokesperson Tanya Plibersek couldn’t even bring herself to defend the Opposition Leader’s letter in an interview on Sky News on Thursday. Ms Plibersek chose to focus on funding for public schools and lies about cuts rather than repeat Mr Shorten’s commitments to Catholic schools.


Maiden:           OK, I also want to ask you about this letter that Sky News has obtained that Bill Shorten has written to the Catholic schools sector. This is a letter from Bill Shorten to Archbishop Dennis Hart where he outlines obviously that the Labor Party wants to address what they see as a shortfall of funding to Catholic schools in the lead up to the next election. Now, they talk about the fact that in this letter that they, Mr Shorten, criticises the abolition of the system weighted average. Is that something that you plan to reinstate?


Plibersek:        The first thing to say is the $17 billion of cuts to all schools have really hit school systems hard. The hardest hit school system is the public school system. 86 per cent of the cuts come from public schools, 12 per cent of the cuts come from Catholic schools, but just 2 per cent come from independent schools. So yes of course we will be increasing funding to Catholic systemic schools but the biggest increases in the shortest time will go to the neediest schools, and most of them are in the public system. It’s no – what’s in the letter is nothing different to what we’ve been saying the whole way through – that we will restore funding, we will restore every dollar of the $17 billion that the Federal Government has cut from our schools, and that will mean much better funding for public schools.


(Sky News, Interview with Samantha Maiden, 8/3/2018)


Bill Shorten is trying to avoid any scrutiny and still won’t tell Catholic schools or taxpayers whether Labor would reinstate special treatment that meant funding was determined based on who ran a school rather than the students who studied in it.


Ultimately, this is just another case of Mr Shorten trying to buy and trick his way into The Lodge by making $17 billion in unnecessary spending promises coupled with plans for higher taxes that will threaten Australian jobs.


The Turnbull Government has a fully funded plan for schools funding that is transparent and, according to independent think tanks including the Grattan Institute and the Mitchell Institute, the former head of the Australian Education Union Diane Foggo AM and Gonski Review panellists including Ken Boston, Kathryn Greiner and David Gonski himself, truly needs-based.