| 14.07,09. 04:41 PM |
O'Farrell backflip on league tables leaves Libs fuming
Barry O'Farrell ... did not consult colleagues about policy change.
July 14, 2009
ONE of the most controversial decisions of Barry O'Farrell's two years as NSW Opposition Leader - the decision to impose $55,000 fines for the publication of school league tables - was not taken to the shadow cabinet or the Coalition party room.
The move has angered some Liberal MPs as Mr O'Farrell had argued that parents be given information at the only shadow cabinet discussion on the issue.
News of disquiet within Liberal ranks follows the NSW Teachers Federation decision yesterday to block national literacy and numeracy tests if the federal and state governments allow the publication of league tables this year.
The Premier, Nathan Rees, has said that when Parliament returns in September he will move to repeal the amendments passed by the Opposition and the Greens that imposed fines on newspapers that publish the tables.
The Herald has learnt the Opposition education spokesman, Adrian Piccoli, went to shadow cabinet last month with a proposal to block Government legislation allowing the provision of literacy and numeracy information to the Commonwealth. Mr O'Farrell vacated the chair to argue against this, sources have revealed. "He was coming from the strong position that information for parents is crucial," one Liberal MP said.
Mr Piccoli's proposal was voted down but he later went to Mr O'Farrell and his "leadership group" with a proposal from the Greens MP John Kaye. This was to amend the legislation to impose fines if the tables were published.
Mr O'Farrell agreed without consulting his colleagues. "A lot of backbenchers are pretty pissed off," a Liberal MP said.
The MP said the party-room strategy had been to "support the legislation" but "express concerns about simplistic league tables and seek a guarantee from [the Education Minister] Verity Firth that simplistic leagues tables would not be published".
The plan was that she would give a guarantee "which she couldn't deliver" and become the focus if league tables were published. Mr O'Farrell had instead made himself the focus by supporting the fines.
Mr O'Farrell said yesterday that the comments he had made about providing information to parents were in relation to "like comparisons" of schools in similar areas which he supported as opposed to statewide "league tables" which he opposed.
The NSW Teachers Federation annual conference at Darling Harbour voted yesterday to ban the implementation of the 2010 National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy tests if league tables were allowed.