Wednesday 19 November 2014

Hansard of the Legislative Council


Mr FINCH – (Rosevears)- Mr President, I am going to move that the debate stand adjourned. I am concerned about what the member for Derwent said - about people going outside and getting further information, and there being further information given to other Wednesday 19 November 2014

members that is not available to all of us. I am going to move the debate stand adjourned for perhaps an updated briefing on the situation. I will leave that in the hands of the House.

Dr Goodwin - Before you progress too far, a couple of members have asked me if we could have a briefing. I am going to put my answers on the record so that people get a bit more information from me. Then if they felt they needed another briefing, I would move the debate stand adjourned. I can still do that if you like, or you can do it your way.

Mr FINCH - I am happy for you to proceed with that. Further information might allay some concerns, and I am happy to proceed along that line.

Ms Forrest - Will you move that the debate stand adjourned at the end to test that?

Dr Goodwin - Yes.

Ms Forrest - As long as there is a commitment to do that, otherwise we have lost the opportunity to go to a vote.

Mr FINCH - There is something I want to put on the record from the information that came to me. This bill abolishes the Schools Registration Board, and replaces it with a registrar for non-government schools in Tasmania, appointed by the minister. The success or otherwise of the amendment will depend on the person who is appointed registrar. The minister, in his second reading speech said:

The position of Registrar, Non-government Schools Tasmania will be a State Service employee who holds the position in conjunction with State Service employment. The appointee to the position will be required to have an educational background to ensure he or she has the expertise necessary to assess the educational program of a school through the registration process.

It implies that the registrar will have the power to hear applications for registration and have the power to refuse applications. In recent years there has been a trend for religious denominations to seek to establish their own educational institutions. The minister, in his zeal to reduce the size and cost of boards, will need to be very careful in his selection, from existing State Service employees, to ensure the appointee has sufficient academic qualifications and is free from bias towards government or non-government schools, and any bias towards or against religious or any other type of school. If there is a rejection of an application for registration, will the unsuccessful applicant have the right to appeal against that rejection?

I am going back over my notes while I am listening to members here, and agreeing with some of the comments that there should be a step back and rethink of the process. Just looking back over my notes from the briefing, the Schools Registration Board representatives regarded the legislation as important but they have concerns. They have been established 20 years and feel they are doing an effective job. They do not necessarily object but the sense I got was it was ridiculous if you displace it without having something to replace it. Where is the cost-effective model? Where do we have more evidence of what is going to be saved and the new cost of having the new registrar in place?

We heard the talk about volunteers and that is a big question mark. Volunteers are called upon enough in our community. They keep our communities ticking over and now they have these extra imposts. These are substantial asks that the Government is going to put upon volunteers. I still cannot see volunteers doing the work without the costs involved to get them from point A to point B, to feed and accommodate them if required. There are still a lot of questions about those expenses of volunteers, who will be the replacement. What is the replacement? There was talk about the independent schools, particularly having good schools and also small schools. The advice that comes from the Schools Registration Board is very important.

It is ludicrous to review the act and eliminate the board beforehand. It is putting the cart before the horse. Have the review and have that highlighted, as this bill and discussion will do. It can be a main focus of that review to see whether the replacement of the board is a good move. If it is a good move, so be it, but I do not agree with the process at this time. I want to listen to what the Leader has to say to see if it can alter my thinking, to see whether a briefing can alter my thinking, but at this stage I am opposing the bill.