Wednesday 26 June 2013
Hansard of the
ANTI-DISCRIMINATION AMENDMENT BILL 2012 (No. 45)
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, as we
have heard, this bill comes after a fairly long process to review the 1998 act.
It has been a particularly thorough process and I am comfortable with the
I believe we
all agree that conduct which offends, humiliates, intimidates, insults or
ridicules our fellows is tantamount to bullying and is to be condemned in any
just and civilised society. I reject the notion that prohibiting conduct that
offends, humiliates, intimidates, insults or ridicules another person on the
basis of their religion is a restriction of free speech. I believe it is no
more a restriction on free speech than prohibiting such offensive action
against a person on the grounds of their race or their sex.
we seem to be going through a period where public insults are common, where
bullying in schools and work places is rife. We have heard about cyber-bullying
and where public offensiveness and vilification is material for the media on an
almost daily basis. I find that depressing and offensive. In respect of some
other people's comments, I believe it is up to governments to demonstrate to
the public that it is unacceptable in whatever way they can. Sure, I hear about
the opportunity for education - haven't we been along that path? - as well as
the government trying to set the standard and to say that this is unacceptable.
several parts of this bill that make for greater consistency and how the act
may be applied, including the foreshadowed amendment to section 55 in reference
to section 17. I feel it is vital, for example, that fair reporting of a public
act does not contravene section 17. Likewise, a public act done in good faith
for purposes including in the public interest.
bill sought to give limited exemptions from the Anti‑Discrimination Act for
religious schools regarding admission. That did not pass in the lower House but
I see no reason why it cannot be reinserted by us if that is what members want.
I want to read into Hansard a letter I received from Erik Hofsink, who
is a highly-regarded principal of the Launceston Christian School in my
electorate which I regard, in an education sense, as a huge success story. I
say that because of the way that parents and the community have responded to
what they are trying to achieve at the school. I remember some time ago, 10 to
12 years ago, there were something like 80 pupils, just a very small number of
pupils and it is now up to 650. It is very impressive when I go to the school
assemblies, and I am involved with the school to a certain extent. I quote Erik
Hofsink's letter -
As a school we
respectfully ask that you provide assurance to faith-based schools such as ours
to continue receiving strong support in operating within our own faith
community as a matter of freedom of religion.
society, faith communities which build and establish good schools should
probably not be instructed by Government to go beyond their interests unless
these schools are comfortable to do so. Some schools similar to us have 'open'
enrolment policies; whereas schools such as ours appreciate the freedom to
operate enrolment based on a partnership between home and school supporting
families' common values and beliefs. Even if those beliefs are not shared, it
doesn't give license to freedom of religion to be undermined or threatened.
As you are
well aware, Launceston Christian School has always contributed well to the community.
We are respectful and appreciative of the privileges that we enjoy and we don't
take them for granted. We respect what others believe and in return are keen
for others to respect our alignment between home and school in terms of our
beliefs. Even though we are not an exclusive school, we have for many years
sustained the preference for a partnership platform with those from the
Christian faith. Our curriculum and world view is based on the Christian faith
and that has nothing to do with 'excluding outsiders'. Rather, it is based on
the assumption that in Australia we should permit, for example, a Christian (or
Buddhist, Hindu or Islamic community) to establish, build and take
responsibility for the education of their own children.
Kerry, I am
sure you will agree that this is the simplest manifestation of religious
the role of the state government to ensure an acceptable standard of education,
ensure proper qualifications of teachers and oversee the safety of students
etc? If so, I believe that a decision for faith-based schools to be given their
due right to freely associate in associating with and practising their faith,
as well as providing their children with quality (and faith-based) education is
in the best interest of the freedom that we as Tasmanians are entitled to.
from Erik Hofsink was well considered. I am a supporter of the way the
Launceston Christian School conduct themselves in my community.
I believe it
is wholly appropriate that the commission may directly bring to attention a
case of discrimination even though a person may not have come forward for
various reasons. I am in agreement with that. I also fully support the concept
of early resolution. Let us not muck around with these things, let us find the
easiest and quickest course to make sure we bring these issues to be
behaviour that offends, humiliates, intimidates, insults or ridicules another
person on grounds stated in this bill is bullying and is to be condemned in a
civilised society. I certainly support the thrust of this bill.