Wednesday 19 October 2016
Hansard of the Legislative Council

Education Bill 2016 (No. 55)


Mr FINCH (Rosevears)  - Mr President, information overload - we have had it with this bill and I think appropriately so.  We have a bill of 376 pages and I think this would be the biggest bill in the time that I have been in parliament since 2002.

Ms Rattray - We have had a few bigger ones.

- However it is sizeable and reflects the work that was needed to be done by the education people to make sure our education system is as contemporary as it possibly can be.  We renew legislation every 10 years to bring the system up to speed.

I commend the Education department, the minister and the people, for burrowing into those areas of the education system and the Education Act that needed to be brought together in the one document to represent where we should be in education in contemporary Tasmania.  Well done, and for those people who have been involved in this, a heck of a lot of work.

As far as we are concerned as legislators, these are very exciting debates, particularly through the process of trying to get our heads around the circumstances we have been asked to consider.

For most of us, we are through the system, with my boys 35, 33 and 31.  It is a long time since we had to deal with the system in respect of education.  We are a little divorced from the grandchildren's development because we are in Launceston and they are down here; they are in childcare at a facility in Kingston.  They think they are in school and they were absolutely busting to get there and to be part of that.  They just love going - it is for two days a week - so it is the introduction to their development and they are absolutely thrilled.  We, as grandparents, when we see them and deal with them on a lot of fronts, are really thrilled with their communication skills, their conversation skills, the way they are fascinated with life around them in Tasmania.  I take Mila down to the beach and she is just besotted by exploring, discovering, building sandcastles, looking at stones and plants.  On a personal front, the system they are embracing is working for them and bringing them on as active young people exercising their minds.

The amount of information we have had tips over, doesn't it?  The information is really good, heartfelt and expert advice in respect of many aspects of this bill.  Then it becomes difficult to hone in on the messages; what sits well with you, what does not sit well with you, what you need to question, what you need to change, and then were you comfortable with where we are heading.  That has been a process.

Mr Dean
- A lot of the information has been coming to us three or four times.

- Yes, and the same message is reiterated by different people.  If we talk about the early start, the people from the childcare centres in particular have been mobilised, and rightly so, because of their concern about their future.  The world of uncertainty they live in is not good for those administrators, the staff and the parents and the people who are trying to find a way through this process.  They are jumping at shadows as this is a new area and people are not sure about what it represents in respect of their futures.  People are trying to make sense of it and they are uncertain and concerned about the future, a world in which they have been functioning very well. 

We have not heard any criticism of the operations of the childcare centres.  As businesses, they have been running well.  Of those we have been to see during our investigative process, we have been pleased with what we have seen, with the enjoyment shown by the kids in the space that they are functioning in, and by the people who work there.  They all seem very competent and are doing a great job.

A lot of input to us is coming from the businesspeople who are running good businesses.  They are viable.  They are able to exist in the business sense.  They are not under threat.  These changes are not being made because they are doing things badly.  That is of concern.  They are doing things well and this must be disheartening for them.  To think that they have put all that effort and enterprise -

Ms Rattray
 - And money.

- And money.  People think it is easy.  As if you simply open a business and the money rolls in.  Try running a business.  Have a look at the overheads shooting out the door at a hundred miles an hour and negotiate with your bank to keep your head above water and try to get credit, to prove your case that you can run a good business.  It is a tough existence.  They have come through that stage, they have set up good businesses, they are running it well, they have good staff, and they have been through a heck of a process to get to where they are.  Now, there is a world of uncertainty around their operations.

That has dominated input to us from the community, and rightly so.  Hopefully, we are able to make suggestions or write amendments focused on this situation.  Then we can see, in the fullness of time, whether it is appropriate.

There will be debate about what we do with those parts.  We heard the concerns of people wanting to hold it at the same age, and about parents being the ones who understand their children enough to know when they are ready for school.

In my investigations and discussions with the department, I found that exemptions are available.  If a parent felt that their child at four-and-a-half-years-old, five-years-old, five-and-a-half-years-old is not ready, they may apply to the Education department for an exemption.  If you are solid and strong in your arguments, your case and your observations, I cannot see any reason why the exemption would not be granted.  The opportunity is there for a parent, we were putting the focus back to them, the parents know best.  Here is an opportunity for the parent to make that application for an exemption.  Also, they could go down the path of homeschooling.  You may say, 'I know what is best for my child, I want to homeschool because my child is not going to be ready until six or seven years of age, that is my perception'.  Go to homeschooling and see how you sit at the end.  It is a transition opportunity for that parent, for that child to enter into the system.

If either the child is ready, or the parent feels they have done their best and need to leave it up to the professional educators i.e., go into the public or private school system.  The child then joins the normal system.

There are options available that involve that student, that child, that parent to balance the argument that this compulsory situation is not a good one.  That was a good situation, wasn't it?  Here we are, looking for this new age of starting school.  Then we find the protest, the concern, the information comes in.  To me it was a good signal that the people involved with this legislation were listening to what was going on, and a compromise is put forward.