Entertainment TV High school student teaches Education Minister Simon Birmingham a lesson on Q&A
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High school student teaches Education Minister Simon Birmingham a lesson on Q&A

Education Minister Simon Birmingham was taken to task by student Geordie Brown on Q&A.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham was taken to task by student Geordie Brown on Q&A. Photo: ABC
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A teenage schoolboy has taught Simon Birmingham a lesson after the Education Minister played the “blame game” despite being in government.

Senator Birmingham and shadow minister Tanya Plibersek were bickering about the Gonski package on ABC’s Q&A program on Monday night alongside three high school students for the education special.

“I want to interrupt very respectfully,” Geordie Brown, from Tamworth’s Oxley High School said, before schooling Senator Birmingham for picking apart Labor’s proposal.

“I want to put this in perspective for you, because I’m from a rural and remote area,” Geordie said. “I go to a school which has to put really strict conditions on each faculty based on how much paper they can print out of a printer because we don’t have enough funding to print resources on paper.

“It’s not acceptable, from my point of view it’s not acceptable for you to sit there and to say something like, ‘If Labor were in government we’d be in this situation’. Because at the end of the day, the Australian public elected you as the government and you are in a responsible position now to fix these problems but instead all you’re saying is, ‘If we had Labor in, this would be the case’.

“You weren’t elected to play the blame game,” Geordie said, to applause from the audience.

Senator Birmingham responded by referring back to the initial question, which asked why some rural schools would be worse off under the government’s package.

He said funding for government schools would grow faster than non-government schools: “So that’s ensuring that we’re delivering according to need.”

“In terms of should non-government schools actually receive funding at all? Our view is that every Australian student deserves some degree of taxpayer support for their education.

“The level of taxpayer support, when you look at federal funding and state funding that goes into schools, is significantly greater for those in the government school system.

“Every family who chooses to opt out of the government school system enables governments to spend more money on a per student basis on those still in the government school system.

“That’s a choice those families make. We’re not proposing in any way that we should bring non-government school funding up to a par with what government schools receive.”

The student in the audience had initially asked how the government could justify “significant cuts” to the “most vulnerable communities in Australia”.

“As it stands socio-economic background and location is the best indicator of a young person’s likelihood of achieving educational success at school,” the student said.

“For a lot of people, including us kids from northern Sydney, it seems strange that a school like Wilcannia Central School will be receiving only $60,000 over the 2018-2019 period from the Coalition’s Gonski, as opposed to the real Gonski’s $660,000.”

Senator Birmingham had begun answering by pointing to funding reductions in some private schools “unlike what Labor had proposed” when Geordie “respectfully interrupted” and said he was in no place to pass the buck.

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