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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 27 November 2018) . . Page.. 4894 ..


the internal divisions within his own party room on this matter he is seeking to provoke a situation where he finds a reason to oppose the bill. I hope I am wrong. We will not be supporting his amendments, and I encourage the Assembly to support the bill unamended.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (5.48): I have three brief points to make. In his first comments, the Chief Minister spoke about snide comments. I was sitting in the chair for most of the time when Mr Coe was speaking. While there was a murmur of conversation, there were no snide comments. I need to put on the record that there were no snide comments, so that the Chief Minister’s assertions do not go unchallenged. Also an assertion that needs to be challenged is that there is in some sense division in the Canberra Liberals party room on this issue. There is not. There is complete unanimity and cooperation on this issue in the Canberra Liberals party room.

Thirdly, I cannot let the comments made by the Chief Minister in relation to the requirements of attending a Catholic school go uncommented on and uncorrected. I attended Catholic school for all of my school life, and most of my children attended Catholic schools for long periods of time. It is not the case, never has been the case and, I venture to say, will never be the case that a non-Catholic student would be forced to take communion. In fact it is quite the contrary. It would be considered unacceptable in a Catholic school for a non-Catholic student to take communion, because of what the Catholic Church believes and teaches about communion. Simple—end of story. On this occasion the Chief Minister is wrong. He should withdraw the statement because it is so palpably and demonstrably wrong. It shows he has no understanding about the operation of faith schools in this city and in this country.

MS LEE (Kurrajong) (5.51): I thank Mr Coe for bringing forward these important amendments to this bill. In my view they strike the right balance in protecting our children and teachers against discrimination in our schools and protecting religious freedoms in education. All Canberra schools should be places where everyone feels welcome. That has certainly been my experience, whether in a government or in a faith-based school.

When it became clear that the ACT, the jurisdiction with the highest yes vote in the same-sex marriage survey, was one of the few places where, under current legislation, it was possible for a school to expel a student for their sexual orientation, I was surprised. As I have stated before, in my time as shadow minister for education, and on meeting with numerous principals and teachers from a number of Canberra’s religious schools, I have not come across a single religious school in the ACT that has sought to, wishes to or has expressed a desire to have the power to expel a student based on their sexual orientation. Mr Coe has observed that his experience has been the same.

So I was concerned to hear about some of the circumstances that the Chief Minister brought up in tabling his bill last month. I hope that that was an unfortunate one-off. While the power appears not to have been used, certainly in the time when I have had the education portfolio, it is appropriate that the exemption be removed and that religious freedoms in our schools remain protected.


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