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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 22 September 2010) . . Page.. 4279 ..

I think this is a principal who is acting in good faith and who is acting with the community. Seeing this as a community issue, these shop owners acted in good faith. They said they would do something, and they have now been undermined. They have been undermined by the human rights commissioner, they have been undermined by the Attorney-General, they have been undermined by this government and today they have been undermined by the education minister and by the Greens. We endorse the principal. We will stand with the principal, whether the Labor Party or the Greens do or not. We will back him.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (12.04): I congratulate Mr Doszpot on bringing forward this important motion today. There is nothing frivolous about truancy in our community, and there is nothing frivolous about members of this Assembly being called to support a principal when he takes a firm stand and tries to work with his community to uphold education standards and reinforce the prospects of young people in his community to get on in the world.

The problem of truancy is one that we need to be constantly vigilant about, and when a principal takes a stand and goes to his community and says, “Can we work together as a community,” we should take notice. We know of shopkeepers who complain to us about children who are truant—who come to shops in shopping centres during the day. They would prefer that that did not happen. But what we have seen today and what we have seen in the last couple of weeks as a result of this action is that every one of those shopkeepers—not just the shopkeepers in Lanyon, but the shopkeepers in my electorate as well—who might want to do something about this has been undermined by the people who are supposed to be supporting them.

What we have here today is a discussion about whether we stand by our school principals. School principals are people who, according to the minister, are capable people. We pay them substantial amounts of money. They have incredible responsibility. They run budgets. They run complex staffing structures. They run timetables. They run and look after the welfare of hundreds of children in their care. And, when they are confronted with really difficult problems, they go to their communities.

For years and years, we have been talking about programs that try to integrate our schools more into our communities. We have “schools as community” programs, but that rings pretty hollow for the people of Lanyon. That rings pretty hollow for the principal of Lanyon high school, when both his minister and the convenor of the Greens essentially undermine him here, publicly, today, in the same way as he was undermined publicly in the pages of the Canberra Times and on the airwaves by the human rights commissioner.

The intervention of the human rights commissioner, as I have said before, basically challenges common sense. It makes us question the priorities of this government if it is possible for the human rights commissioner to undermine a principal who is working for the benefit of his students in such a way. And I do question the intervention—not just the issues raised but the manner in which they were raised. If the human rights commissioner thought this was an important issue, why did she not raise these issues with the principal and say, “Perhaps we need to talk about this”?

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