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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 21 September 2011) . . Page.. 4258 ..


had the opportunity to support us he refused. He chose not to. He chose to undermine the principal. He chose to undermine community members.

If you were to listen to Ms Hunter’s speech you could be forgiven for thinking that there are shop owners out there and shopkeepers out there who are just desperate for an excuse not to serve anyone, that they are just looking for an excuse not to serve anyone. Let us make this clear. Those shop owners who agreed to the request of the principal not to serve students during school hours were doing so to their own detriment. They were not doing it for any sort of personal gain. They were not doing it because they got a kick out of not serving people. They were not doing it because they could gain financially—in fact, exactly the opposite. They were giving up something as a contribution to their community, as a sign of good faith. If you were to listen to the Labor Party and the Greens, particularly the Greens, in this debate, you would think the shopkeepers are just itching not to serve anyone.

I tell you what: people do not go into business not to serve anyone. In this case, they made a decision that they believed was a good, community-minded thing to do, to support the principal, to give up a bit of revenue for the greater good. And the Labor Party and the Greens today are saying: “That is not good enough. That is discriminatory. That should not be allowed to happen. You should not be able to make that decision for the good of your community. You should have to serve them, whether they should be in school or not, whether they are in school uniform or not, whether you know that they are wagging school and whether you have been asked by a principal to simply back him or her up.”

The absurdity of this of course is that, quite aside from the Discrimination Act, there are other bits of legislation like the Education Act, which makes it mandatory for kids to be in school during school hours. Failure to do so is an offence. Andrew Barr stated clearly what the requirements under territory law are. The law now requires full-time participation in education, training or employment or a combination of these activities until young people turn 17. As I said at that time, there will be no excuses; everyone will participate and everyone would be responsible. But not under the current system!

We have a situation where we had the opportunity to fix it. We had the opportunity here to take what is an interesting, at best, interpretation of legislation, an interpretation of legislation that does not appear to exist anywhere else in the country, an interpretation of legislation that suggests these shopkeepers are somehow lawbreakers and are somehow doing the wrong thing and are somehow deliberately looking to discriminate when the Discrimination Act gives mountains of exemptions where people can and in fact must discriminate—not just “can”, they must discriminate.

In this case, they would not have to discriminate. They would not be bound to not serve anyone. They would have the option. They are acting in good faith. Kids come in, in their school uniform during school hours, with their mates, the shopkeepers make a reasonable assessment and they say: “I know you. You are meant to be in school. I am not going to serve you today.” When they do that now they are apparently breaking the law.

Mr Corbell: That will stop them wagging, won’t it?


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