Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 24 October 2018) . . Page.. 4157 ..
be proactive in our consideration as legislators and leaders in our community to ensure that we make clear statements, that we are thorough in our examination of the territory’s legislation to ensure that these sorts of historical references are removed and that we are clear in our commitment to this equality.
Turning to the specifics of today’s motion, I certainly welcome the text that Ms Orr has spelled out in the motion. When it comes to “calls on the Assembly”, we certainly condemn the potential discrimination against students and staff in our education system on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics. We seek that immediate and formal confirmation from the federal government that it will reject any religious freedoms review recommendation that enshrines or expands discrimination in the provision of education.
I must confess at this point that one of the challenges for this legislature is knowing exactly what the federal government is going to do, but that is not a reason for us not to move to fix our own laws. We should do that. If we find that the moves by the federal government somehow require further action, we can take that as we need to.
Paragraph (c) of Ms Orr’s motion asks for this Assembly to ensure that the ACT will always protect Canberrans from discrimination in our schools. Certainly, I will be working with the Chief Minister, as the minister responsible for the Discrimination Act, to bring those amendments to this place and to guide them through the Assembly in as timely a manner as we can. The Greens are pleased to support this motion today.
MR COE (Yerrabi—Leader of the Opposition) (11.44): I rise again to speak on a motion calling on the federal government to do something, albeit an important issue. I would like to echo the comments made by my colleague Elizabeth Lee, and reiterate that we are, of course, yet to receive this report. We are yet to see this religious freedom report which is the basis of the motion today. It is very difficult to form a considered view on a report from which we have only seen snippets. I accept that those snippets have drawn headlines and drawn a considerable response from many in the community. It is very hard to say with any accuracy what the implications of the recommendations will be or whether these are the final recommendations of the committee that Mr Ruddock has chaired.
The opposition would prefer an approach that ensures that the best interests of all children are put first. Expulsion on the basis of sexuality would not be consistent with this approach.
Of course, religious schools are part of a thriving multicultural community in Canberra, whether they be Catholic, Anglican, Christian, Islamic or of another faith affiliation. Parents who send their children to these schools are aware of the values of these institutions and either explicitly or implicitly support them. As mentioned by Ms Lee in a recent Canberra Times report on this matter, our experience in Canberra is that the cultural attitude of Canberra’s schools is one that is very warm and welcoming of all people. I am not aware of any occasion where a student has been expelled or suspended, or received any form of discipline, on the basis of their sexuality. I certainly hope that remains the case.