Senate debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2022


Australian Education Legislation Amendment (Prohibiting the Indoctrination of Children) Bill 2020; Second Reading

9:23 am

Photo of Don FarrellDon Farrell (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Trade and Tourism) Share this | Hansard source

This is the reintroduction of a bill that Senator Hanson introduced two years ago. At that time, Labor opposed this bill, which does not support evidence based teaching. There remains a question of constitutionality and Commonwealth overreach. The version of the curriculum signed off by the former government in April this year supports evidence based teaching of literacy and numeracy. The bill that has been presented to the Senate today does not do anything to enhance the teaching or learning of the foundational skills parents want for their children.

At the time of the initial introduction of the bill, the then Department of Education, Skills and Employment made a submission to the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee as part of the committee's inquiry into the bill. The department's submission detailed the operational challenges posed if the bill were to be enacted, citing a lack of clarity about core issues, potential legal risks and overreach by the Commonwealth in directing the way that states and territories provide education to students. I quote from the conclusion of the department's submission:

The broad scope of the amendments set out in the Bill, and the limited definition of key terms, presents several issues. The requirements of the Bill may present unintended consequence …

The Senate committee, chaired by Senator McGrath at the time, went on to recommend that the Senate not pass the bill. The committee report says:

The committee is concerned that the lack of specificity in the bill could increase the risk of legal challenges and may result in unintended consequences in areas beyond the original intent.

…   …   …

The committee is also concerned that the bill would result in significant overreach by the Commonwealth Government into the day-to-day operation of schools which, under constitutional arrangements, are the responsibility of the states and territories.

We would prefer that the Senate spend its time doing useful work rather than reconsidering a bill that has already been found to present significant legal and operational issues.


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