Today in Sydney, the NSW Liberal Government’s education minister, Rob Stokes, stood with parents, teachers, principals, Labor, and The Greens Party, to speak about Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to schools.


Here is what he said:


ROB STOKES, NSW LIBERAL EDUCATION MINISTER: Our message here in NSW is very simple, and it’s very clear, and it’s very consistent. It’s been consistent now since 2013, which was when we became the first state to sign a bilateral agreement in support of the national education reform agreement. That agreement is now into its fourth year. The NSW Government has found the funding that we promised to find during the 2013 negotiations. And we remain fully committed to the final two years of funding under the deal we signed. Our simple message is to our colleagues in Federal Parliament to understand that there is a deal, that that deal remains on foot, and it’s our expectation that deal be offered. It’s really very simple. There was an offer. There was an acceptance of that offer. There was consideration paid and we’ve acted in reliance on it. We’ve got a legitimate expectation to receive for the schools in NSW the money that parents, that teachers, that students were promised. We can see the impact it’s having in terms of teaching results and learning results in the classroom. And that’s why we are all passionately committed to call on the Federal Government to honour the deal that still today remains on foot. We’re not asking for special treatment. We’re not asking for a special deal. We’re just asking for the deal that we currently have to be honoured.



JOURNALIST: Simon Birmingham today has just told 7:30 that calls for different deals is not what we're about. Basically saying, this is it. What they've put out is what you're getting. You've got all sides of politics here what can you actually do do you think to make them change their mind?

STOKES: Well simply, we're not calling for a different deal we already have a deal and we are very happy with it. We have acted in accordance with it, all we're asking for and we are asking for it collaboratively across every system of education here in New South Wales and every political stripe here in New South Wales. We have a deal. We just want to see it honoured. 

JOURNALIST: They're not showing any signs of budging, how are you going to get an outcome?

STOKES: Ultimately we are looking at all the options available to us, there is a very powerful audience out there though and that's the public here in New South Wales. We are here representing the well over 7.5 million residents of New South Wales and at every level there is strong support for the Commonwealth Government to meet the obligations that they have already signed up to. 

JOURNALIST: The Federal Government is lagging behind Labor in the polls, do you think that this will really impact with voters and they will be using that against the Federal Government at the next election?

STOKES: I'm not here to comment on the political ramifications for anyone. Simply, our message is very simple: we have a deal. That deal will see hundreds and hundreds of millions, in fact, billions extra into every school across NSW over the next four years, if it is honoured. We expect it to be honoured and that's why we have come together for this purpose. 

JOURNALIST: So are you saying the State Government is going to fund the shortfall?  What do you say to the parents of Dapto whose school is going to lose half a million dollars?

STOKES: We are signed up to the full six years that we committed to. So we have already done the heavy lifting as far as the state budget is concerned, at a time when our state budget was not as healthy as it is today, we went across all areas of Government and found the $1.7 billion that we needed to find to meet our obligations under the Gonski agreement. We recognise that budgeting is a difficult process, and every Government has to consider its priorities.  As a Government we prioritised education, school education, because we see its benefits across every other area of government service.  So the Federal Government really needs to consider what its priorities are in the way that the New South Wales Government already has.

JOURNALIST: Were you hoping it wouldn't come to this, I mean you talked to us a few weeks ago but now you are here standing up with Labor and the Greens.  Were you hoping it wouldn't come to this, because it doesn't look good for the Coalition to be fighting about this money?

STOKES: Look, here in New South Wales we are united as a state.  There is a very clear position, and it's my obligation and my role as state Education Minister to stand up for the schools and the students and the parents and the teachers here in New South Wales, and they need to know that here in New South Wales there is a Government that has their back and we will continue to advocate for the Federal Government to meet its obligations under the deal that remains on foot.

JOURNALIST: Last time you said that the initial legal advice was that you couldn't do anything legally, but that you were going to go back and review that advice.  Is there any update on that?

STOKES: Look, that wasn't exactly the case. It was not the case that there weren't avenues for us to consider.  In fact the advice came back and said that there are further options for us to consider and we are currently reflecting on those.  But look, ultimately, legal battles are not necessarily in anyone's interest.  We will pursue whatever avenue is available to us, but ultimately why I am here today, and why everyone is here today, in a united front, is because we have a deal, we want it honoured.  It's that simple.

JOURNALIST: Can you see, I think everyone can see your frustration...but the problem is it's not going anywhere, they’re doing it, so now are you left with a situation where you're going to have to find the money to pick up the shortfall for those schools in New South Wales?

STOKES: Look, so, I say again, we have already found the money to meet our side of the deal.

JOURNALIST: ...but the $1.8 billion…that extra money has got to come from somewhere doesn’t it?

STOKES: Well, look, and that's what the Federal Government has signed up for. Again, I keep coming back to this because that's the reality of the situation we have right now.  Now a deal remains on foot under its own terms.  There are terms there for the termination of the agreement that have not been activated.  So the deal remains on foot.  We are simply asking for the existing deal to be honoured…


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