Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 8 Hansard (5 August) . . Page.. 3568..
MR PRATT (continuing):
Non-relational attitudes towards sexuality (Australian Secondary Principals'
These are eight good reasons why students need to have good male role models in schools so they can dispense with those sorts of developments. There are powerful arguments for having more male teachers-first, in primary schools, where boys aged seven, eight, nine and 10 are beginning to formulate their characters and need to see male role models; and, later, in high school, where male teachers can assist female teachers maintain good behaviour and a good teaching and learning environment.
I think that, if a school principal-and the department, if it is visionary-sees that certain schools need to have their teacher make-up rebalanced, they ought to be able to recruit particularly male, or female, teachers, depending on the needs of that school. Right now I fear they cannot do that under legislation. Therefore, I must support this amendment bill, particularly in relation to education, so that flexibility can be put back in place and sensible decisions can be made to improve teaching capability where it is needed, if necessary by recruiting male or female indigenous teachers, or teachers from other backgrounds, to add value to those schools. I support Mr Stefaniak's amendment bill.
MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Community Affairs) (6.24): I will close the debate, Mr Speaker. The government opposes the Discrimination Amendment Bill 2004. The amendment is discriminatory, unnecessary, unjustified and contrary to the Human Rights Act 2004. Although it is couched in more general terms, the immediate purpose of the amendment, as stated by Mr Stefaniak, is to increase the number of males in the teaching profession for the purpose of providing children with more positive male role models, especially during the formative years in primary school.
The bill is presumably based on the premise that boys increasingly underachieving at school can be remedied by the provision of more male teachers. There is no doubt that more male teachers can provide children with positive male role models, that there are not enough of them at present and that we should increase the number of males entering the profession. But passing legislation like this is not the way to do it. The first issue that arises is what effect such an amendment can have. Firstly, it could only have a limited effect, if any.
The Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984 applies throughout Australia and renders ineffective any inconsistent ACT legislation. It does not apply to discrimination in employment by a body or authority established for a public purpose by a law of the ACT, including an institution of technical and further education. ACT legislation has no effect to the extent that it is inconsistent with the Commonwealth law. If Mr Stefaniak's amendment is contrary to the Sex Discrimination Act, as it seems to be, it would appear that it would apply in some cases, such as employment in government schools, but would not apply in just about every other case.
What about the amendment proposed by the bill, even if it were to apply in the ACT? The amendment is discriminatory. It permits an employer to discriminate against someone by denying them employment or employment benefits because of their sex. It permits an employer to discontinue an employee's contract because of their sex. It does this simply to have more employees of the opposite sex where it is considered "in the