Senior Turnbull government minister Christopher Pyne has accused Catholic schools of mounting a “dishonest” campaign against the Coalition over school funding but predicts it won’t gather much public support.
The Catholic education system is preparing to run a major nationwide campaign against the government over its so-called “Gonski 2.0” education reforms, warning it will result in higher fees and school closures.
The schools are aiming to mobilise thousands of parents to build a grassroots letter and phone campaign to run alongside social and mainstream media ads to force the government to change course.
But Mr Pyne believes the campaign will fail.
“We aren’t getting any heat in my electorate office about it at all,” the former education minister told Sky News on Sunday. “I have not had one email, one phone call, one letter or one visit from a constituent complaining.”
The new funding arrangements would be fairer for all schools and students across the country, Mr Pyne said. The Catholic schools were simply “pretending that they have been dudded”, he said.
“The Turnbull-Birmingham method of dealing with this has fixed it and has fixed it fairly,” he said.
“The Catholic education system really is running a very dishonest campaign. They’re getting an extra $1 billion out of this agreement (over four years).
“If the Catholic church actually does start putting up school fees and closing schools it’s not because they’re getting less money. And that’s why their campaign isn’t taking off and won’t take off.”
Catholic schools were more concerned about how the system would make school funding more transparent, he said.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham also hit back at Catholic schools, accusing them of scaring parents with “falsehoods”. Catholic schools would receive an extra $3.4 billion over the next 10 years, he said.
But the sector has warned MPs to brace for an influx of complaints.
“Catholic education has a history of running grassroots campaigns and that will be the way this ongoing effort to preserve the 200-year history of Catholic education will proceed,” National Catholic Education Commission acting executive director Danielle Cronin said. “MPs and senators should expect the phone calls and letters from parents and principals to continue to roll in.”