Page 4247 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 21 September 2011

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Amendments agreed to.

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

Discrimination Amendment Bill 2010

Debate resumed from 27 October 2010, on motion by Mr Seselja:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, Minister for Territory and Municipal Services and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (7.38): The government will not be supporting this bill. The bill seeks to insert a statutory exception into the Discrimination Act 1991 that will enable goods, service and access providers to lawfully refuse service to children and young people during school hours if the provider reasonably believes the child or young person is a school student.

The bill follows publicity arising from efforts by the principal of Lanyon high school to address truancy problems at his school by asking that local shop owners in the Lanyon Marketplace refuse service to young people during school hours.

Let me say at the outset that the government does not condone truancy. Empowering school principals to fulfil their legal obligation to ensure the safety of students and their regular attendance at school is a key part of the government’s approach to school autonomy. However, it is one thing to say that children or young people should not be out of school. It is quite another to say that the government should change the law to allow denial of goods and services and access to facilities to people on the basis of their age.

When devising solutions about how to address a social problem, policy makers must carefully assess the efficacy of measures put forward and, in a rights-based jurisdiction like the territory, be mindful of human rights implications of any proposed change to our legal framework.

In Assembly debate, Mr Seselja promoted his bill as an effective anti-truancy measure. He has attempted to justify this on the basis that there are other exceptions in the Discrimination Act and that the proposed exception meets the proportionality test under human rights legislation as it limits the protection only so far as is necessary to achieve the stated ends—that is, “to allow citizens to make a reasonable decision for the purpose of helping children maintain their education and assisting principals in the community in providing a community support system to make it happen”.

The existing exceptions in the Discrimination Act 1991 are not comparable to those being proposed by Mr Seselja. Existing statutory exceptions include exceptions which apply when selecting a person to perform domestic duties in a home, selecting residential care for a child, or employing a person in accordance with an affirmative action program. These exceptions are limited in scope and either respond to the need for flexibility in the selection of services or reflect our society’s social goals.

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