Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 02 Hansard (Thursday, 10 March 2011) . . Page.. 730 ..
local shops, so he wanted to work with local shop owners to say, “Let’s work together. Let’s not have kids hanging out. Let’s not give them any more incentives than they would otherwise need to wag school. Let’s work together to keep them in school”. I think we would all agree that that is a very good aim from a principal. He was thinking laterally, and he got some agreement.
The initiative was reported at the time, and some businesses chose not to cooperate. That is their choice as business owners; no-one was being conscripted into such an arrangement. But many businesses joined the initiative. Then we had a response from the human rights commissioner, backed by the Labor Party and the Greens in this place, saying, “Well, this is against the Discrimination Act. This is potentially denying the right of a child or young person to shop at a store. They are being discriminated against on the basis of their age”. Common sense tells us they are not being discriminated against on the basis of their age; they are being discriminated against on the basis that there is a legal obligation for them to be at school during those hours. That is a completely different proposition and quite a sensible proposition. In fact, this situation is now being followed in other places.
It was reported earlier this year that the Hungry Jack’s store in Fremantle, at the request of the police, will not serve kids during school hours as a method to battle truancy. They have done that without the fear of being told by a human rights commissioner that they are somehow breaching the law. In many cases it would not be in the personal interests of small business to refuse to serve people; they are potentially losing some business. Some might say it is a good business decision; some will see it as a bad business decision. But those that make that decision should be free from the threat that they are somehow breaching the law. If that is the law, then the law should be changed.
We get into a situation where we pit human rights—and an odd interpretation of human rights, it must be said—against what most people would see as common sense. School communities should be able to work with local businesses and with their local communities to try and fight truancy.
That is a really stark example of where these things can go wrong and where we will be critical of how these things operate. I think the treatment of Bill Thompson is a stark reminder that sometimes the Human Rights Act, its operations and all the arms that come from it have not had a good impact. In that case, they had a negative impact and undermined the ability of a school community and a principal trying to do their job, part of which is keeping kids at school.
Mr Corbell: It was not the Human Rights Act; it was the Discrimination Act.
MR SESELJA: Well, again we have the interjection from Simon Corbell, who has been the chief cheerleader for this approach by the human rights commissioner. He is saying that the comments from the human rights commissioner are irrelevant, that businesses can just ignore them—
Mr Corbell interjecting—
MR SPEAKER: Mr Corbell, you will have your chance in a minute.