CANDIDATES for the seat of New England have made their position on public education clear at a forum held on Monday night.
A mixture of educators, parents and political supporters took to the West Tamworth League Club to hear each candidate discuss their direction for the future of public education.
Teachers’ Federation president Maurie Mulheron opened proceedings with a brief presentation on the importance of the Gonski education reforms, which will see an additional $5.1 billion investment filtered through NSW schools over six years, with country and disadvantaged schools set to benefit the most.
The audience then quizzed the five candidates at the forum on their stance.
Independent Rob Taber and Country Labor’s Stephen Hewitt both supported the full implementation of Gonski, while independent Jamie McIntyre agreed an injection of funding was needed, but gave no commitment either way to the needs-based reforms.
The Greens’ Pat Schultz not only committed to the full, six-year roll-out of the Gonski education reforms, but also called for further funding to expedite the benefits and a $1.2 billion boost to TAFE.
Nationals candidate Barnaby Joyce reiterated opposition leader Tony Abbott’s position, saying the coalition could not guarantee further funding beyond the next fours years.
Mr Abbott backtracked from his longstanding objection to Labor’s better schools plan earlier this month, announcing the coalition would honour Gonski for four of the six years, effectively agreeing to a $1.8 billion investment.
Mr Joyce, who often referred to the country’s level of debt as being troublesome, said it was impossible for any politician worth their salt to promise to deliver beyond the next set of forward estimates.
But the Nationals candidate was left red-faced when he was forced to acknowledge his party has promised to deliver $17 billion for roads over the next 10 years.
An identical public forum with the same candidates will be held at Armidale Bowling Club at 6 o’clock tonight.