Christopher Pyne as the artful dodger

COMMENT

Smiling and chortling as he fought off opposition attacks in Parliament on Monday, Christopher Pyne brought to mind the adage that politics is like sex - you don't have to be good at it to enjoy it.

The federal Education Minister has created an A-grade political botch-up. His Prime Minister has had to intervene to rescue Australian schools from confusion and financial loss and his government from political calamity.

It's hard to see what Pyne was looking so pleased about.

What were the most damning indictments that Tony Abbott made of the two Labor governments that preceded him? That they suffered from ''chaos and dysfunction'' and that they broke a core promise - they ''lied''.

Yet this is exactly what Pyne delivered. He announced three iterations of the one policy in the space of a week. He threw thousands of schools into complete confusion about how much money they would have in a new school year just eight weeks away.

He brought a storm of anger down on his government. All for what? An exercise in bad faith.

No matter their justifications, Abbott and Pyne were breaking faith with the people.

The pair created the very clear impression before the election that they would deliver precisely what Labor was promising. More than an impression, it was a specific pledge: ''You can vote Liberal or Labor and you'll get exactly the same amount of funding for your school,'' Pyne promised eight days before the election.

Yet last week he broke this undertaking. In the face of overwhelming political pressure, his Prime Minister has now intervened to make sure the expected funding will be delivered.

But the government still cannot pledge to deliver on its original undertaking. Why not? Because the states will have the flexibility to withdraw some of their own funding under the Abbott-Pyne model. Some schools could still end up with less money than expected.

The latest Pyne pledge, as of Monday: ''What the Commonwealth is doing means that no school, state or territory can be worse off because of the Commonwealth's actions.''

In other words, this is about evading blame, not guaranteeing funding for schools.

smh.com.au

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