Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (20 June) . . Page.. 2272 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

I note that Ms Tucker has circulated an amendment. I do not think she is going to move it now, which is good. It would concern me if we restricted Mr Berry's bill to make it effectively just the principal. Quite clearly the principal often will not be in a position to give directions. It is very sensible, I feel, for other people to be authorised by the principal to give directions. Certainly, in the government school system, that often has been indicated to me as something which schools would like to have in terms of general powers to overcome potential troublemakers or troublemakers who occasionally come to school premise. There are such instances.

Ex-students or unruly people go to school premises because of some perceived grievance with students at the school or other people or the school itself. There are unwarranted trespasses there by people who might be up to some sort of nefarious purpose. Sometimes, I suppose, people go there and try to sell drugs or some other illegal goods. Any number of people might, on occasions, need to be directed to leave the premises, and might behave in an offensive or disorderly way. We need provisions whereby those persons can be dealt with.

Accordingly, well done, Mr Berry. This is a good bill. I hope we debate and pass the education bill in August of this year, but I think it is sensible to have this provision in place. It is something that I think will benefit schools, both government and non-government. The government is happy to support it.

MS TUCKER (11.25): The Greens will be supporting this bill which extends to the wider school community the right of school principals to direct people off school premises if they are behaving in an offensive or disorderly way. This is not a clear cut issue though, as there are issues of safety. It would be preferable in most instances for police to take such action. The social policy inquiry which I chaired in the last Assembly made exactly that point. The reality is, however, that situations can often be defused if acted upon promptly. There may not always be the time to deal effectively with the situation by calling in the police. We are supporting this initiative because it has proved reasonable and advisable to bestow such a power on school principals.

I am aware that the education department has authorised all principals of ACT government schools to use these powers. That being the case, it seems appropriate to ensure that principals of non-government schools have the same power vested in them.

We are concerned about the provision in this bill for principals to authorise any other person to exercise this same power. I was thinking about moving an amendment to make that only if the principal was absent. I have talked to members here, and we did talk to some of the principals, but it appears from what Mr Stefaniak says that they want to have that ability to delegate pretty widely. I will not move that amendment today, but I want to have a look at how this works, because you do not want a situation where people who work in the schools are endangering themselves.

If someone is going to take the responsibility of trying to tell someone to leave, then, depending on the person, it can become a difficult situation, so I do not think this should be taken lightly. That is the point. If the feeling in a school is that anyone can tell a person or trespasser to get off, and it is just as basic as that, then that could be quite ill-advised. I think there should be some kind of support for the teachers or personnel who may do this in terms of how to resolve tense situations and so on. A little bit of training,

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .