Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 12 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 5101..
drawn the ire of none other than the human rights commissioner, who launched an all-out media assault on the issue.
Dr Watchirs issued a statement saying that such action would be unlawful, that it is illegal to refuse service to someone on the basis of age, race, sex or disability under the Discrimination Act. She is reported as saying:
A shop is a service provider and refusing service is unlawful. There are other ways to do it, including monitoring students' movements between school and out of school grounds.
Obviously, Dr Watchirs had not read the original reports, in which the principal states, "It's sort of a neighbourhood watch concept as we can't see where 640 students are all of the time."Further to this, the human rights commissioner told the public that shopkeepers and Mr Thompson may in fact be aiding and abetting an unlawful act. Aiding and abetting an unlawful act—all for trying to get the community behind an idea to keep kids in school.
Mr Speaker, this is absurd. It is not the intent of the discrimination or human rights legislation that it be used for this sort of purpose—to threaten a school principal who is trying to keep his students in school and local shopkeepers trying to uphold standards for local children.
Indeed, this gulf between common sense and political statutory interpretation led to quite an outcry on talkback radio when it was raised. One memorable caller created a quote that I think is hard to top: "What a crock!"Mr Speaker, that is exactly what it is.
At the time the human rights legislation was introduced we cautioned the government to be alert for unintended consequences. We warned of absurd outcomes if high ideals were not tempered with a cold dose of common sense.
The outcome we saw with the human rights commissioner—with all the issues of the AMC, of Bimberi, of the education gap—was Dr Watchirs putting this principal on notice. Far from being a local hero, he was a law breaker. Enough is enough.
We moved a motion on this topic and did not receive any support from the Labor Party or the Greens. Mr Barr resorted, as he always does, to sneering and sloganeering. Mr Barr loves nothing better than to stand in this place and offer nothing but the same tired lines repeated from the federal Labor handbook of message management which has brought us "moving forward"and "new Julia". With his well-worn slogans, all Mr Barr gives us is repetition for repetition's sake. The Greens, as they all too often do, dodged taking a stance, avoided the hard call and let political correctness get in the way of practical answers.
We have asked questions on this to the minister, again to little avail. We were spared the spin doctor slogans but we did not get any acceptance from the minister. The regime as it stands is not giving the community the outcome it wants or expects. Indeed, the gist of the answer we received is in this quote from Minister Corbell. He said, "If you have a problem with the law, Mr Seselja, change the law."Well, that is what we intend to do about it.