The Turnbull government has secured a major policy win with its Gonski 2.0 overhaul of school funding clearing the Senate.
It followed a marathon debate last night with the Federal Government gaining the 10 crucial crossbench votes needed to get its funding shake-up over the line.
An extra $5 billion has been announced for the reform boosting the package to $23.5 billion to struggling schools over the next decade.
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Labor and the Greens initially voted against the package but the debate over the amended bill wrapped up early this morning.
“This is an historic opportunity for the parliament to now deliver once and for all true needs-based funding for Australian schools,” Education Minister Simon Birmingham told the chamber as the bill reached its final hurdle.
“To do so fairly, consistently across the nation.”
The Gonski 2.0 package will ensure underfunded schools reach funding targets in six years instead of 10.
Opposition frontbencher Jacinta Collins said she gave the plan the green light wryly, since the coalition had spent years attacking Labor’s Gonski plan for being unfunded beyond the four-year forward estimates.
Former Liberal turned independent Cory Bernardi also called out the government for hypocrisy.
“They are robbing from tomorrow to prop up their political perils today,” he told the chamber.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said struggling students had waited far too long.
“It is a relief we finally have some commitment to bring forward the obligations to ensure that our schools right across the country that are underfunded can start to catch up,” she said.
The Greens also secured a win, with the government agreeing to its amendments that empower the new independent national school resourcing board to instigate its own reviews.
The reviews can address whether the commonwealth, states, territories or authorities are not distributing funding on a needs basis, or whether schools are being over or underfunded.
Outgoing Liberal senator Chris Back, who had threatened to vote against the package, gave the green light after the minister agreed to extend existing arrangements for Catholic and independent schools for a year.
The Greens refused to vote for the bill because of this transition package.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the Gonski 2.0 scheme would ensure equal federal funding for students no matter where they lived, providing incentives for states and territories to meet their end of the funding bargain.
The legislation will need approval from the lower house.