None . . Page.. 351 ..
Mr Berry: I am surprised that you would miss the opportunity.
MR MOORE: Mr Berry says that he is surprised that I missed the opportunity. He is not as surprised as I am.
It seems to me, Mr Speaker, that this would form part of the education of young people about how our democracy works and the sorts of rights that young people actually have, and should have, in our system. Before those who would scream “interference in autonomy of schools” jump up and down, I must add that I do understand that some expulsions are necessary. This action is sometimes the only one left to schools in a situation that has become untenable. The schools, as a last resort, having tried a whole host of positive disciplinary actions, are left with expulsion as the only logical choice of action. These schools would find, if a student lodged a complaint, that the proposed board of review would ratify the decision made by the school, and would do so publicly. However, if a school expels a student without going through procedures that are deemed by any reasonable person to be fair, the board of review would just as publicly set aside the decision and remit the decision for reconsideration by the school.
Under this legislation, although the name of the school and the date of the decision would be identified when published for public information, the name of the student would not be. The intention underlying the provisions in the Bill allowing this action is that the prospect of publicity should encourage schools to make decisions in as fair a manner as possible. On the other hand, it also protects the young from the ramifications of a range of publicity. Mr Speaker, notions of fairness vary from person to person. This Bill, therefore, lays down guidelines that the board of review must take into account. It is not acceptable for any school to set itself above the normal law and legal processes. In the past, students from independent schools have been expelled without any recourse and were denied their right to what I consider natural justice and a fair hearing. Indeed, Mr Speaker, it was a particular situation in one of the schools in Canberra in 1992 that motivated this particular Bill in the initial instance. They were entitled to reasonable punishment consistent with the general community's sense of justice. More importantly, they were entitled to be taught that their behaviour was unacceptable and to be encouraged to behave more positively.
It is appropriate that young people recognise that there are consequences to their actions. At no stage, Mr Speaker, does this Bill take away the need for young people to recognise that they are always responsible for their own actions. Parents have the right to test evidence used to determine whether it was gained under duress and to examine the disciplinary procedures that were put into action before the decision to expel was made. This Bill will have the effect of ensuring that schools adhere to procedures that are fair and that can stand up to scrutiny by an independent board. It is my sincere hope that this board of review will not have to be convened; that the possibility of a review will ensure a just approach to a disciplinary problem. In fact, Mr Speaker, it has been the case that, since this legislation was tabled in 1992, not a single situation of unfair dismissal of a student from a school in the ACT has been drawn to my attention. I am aware that there were a number of dismissals in the period; but, quite clearly, they had gone through an appropriate process.