OPPOSITION seniors spokeswoman Bronwyn Bishop has refused to back down from claims Gonski reforms would ``dumb down'' mainland schools to a Tasmanian standard.
Addressing a community forum on Monday in wealthy northern Sydney electorate MacKeller, Ms Bishop reportedly asked voters if they wanted their schools to be of the same standard as Tasmania's.
She answered for them - ``No thanks'' - according to a forum attendee who relayed Ms Bishop's comments to The Sydney Morning Herald .
Ms Bishop yesterday clarified her position.
``There's no denying that under Labor and the Greens, Tasmania's education standards are among the worst in the country, and the point I was clearly making was that we need to ensure that all education standards are increased,'' she said.
Tasmanian Education Minister Nick McKim hit back at Ms Bishop.
``It's a myth that Tasmania's literacy and numeracy results are the worst in the country,'' he said.
``In fact, Tasmania's performance is comparable with Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia.
``This was an extremely offensive comment and an insult to the many hardworking students, teachers, parents and support staff that work tirelessly in our education system.''
Federal Education Minister Bill Shorten jumped to Tasmania's defence.
``The Liberal Party doesn't believe Tasmanian children deserve a world class education . . . Bronwyn Bishop should apologise to Tasmanians for her comment,'' he said.
Mr McKim urged state opposition education spokesman Michael Ferguson to distance himself from Ms Bishop's claims.
However, Mr Ferguson supported his federal colleague.
``I know that Mr McKim wants to distance himself from the appalling literacy, numeracy and year 12 completion rates which have occurred under his watch, but the Liberals will not,'' he said.