Tuesday, 25 June 2013
Questions without Notice
My question is to Senator Lundy, representing the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth. Are the comments today by Minister Garrett—that there are still high levels of bullying in Australian schools and that legalising same-sex marriage could spare some Australian teenagers from bullying on the basis of sexual orientation—based on a recognition that improving policy protections and setting an example through federal laws is a way to reduce these young people's risk of homophobic bullying?
We are of course committed to the highest possible standards of education in Australia. This is reflected in our National Plan for School Improvement. I know that the minister has made several statements to this effect across a range of topics such as those described in your question. Whilst I do not have a specific brief on the issues that you have raised, I am able to say that, through the National Plan for School Improvement, the additional resources provided to schools will allow for a range of improved resources in individual schools to allow these kinds of issues to be addressed.
Improving the ability of each school to take on issues beyond just the curriculum and provide a standard of care and education that is as yet unseen in our generation is something I am extremely proud of. In fact, one of the motivations behind our National Plan for School Improvement is that we as a Labor government have to take what is effectively a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the face of education. We understand that, by investing in our young people, we are preparing this nation for the future in a way that is unable to be compared with any previous investment—so much so that our National Plan for School Improvement is the single largest investment in school education Australia has ever seen. By making that investment we show up those opposite as far as our respective policies go. They are yet, at least in this place, to get behind the vision of our National Plan for School Improvement, despite the fact that we have several premiers backing— (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given that there are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex students in every education system in Australia, including in religious schools, does the government agree that the way to reduce bullying against LGBTI youth, no matter which school they are enrolled in, would be to require all schools which receive public moneys to comply with federal anti-discrimination law?
With respect to the application of the anti-discrimination laws, I would certainly defer to my colleagues in the House—the respective ministers, the Attorney-General and the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth—for specific policy statements in that regard. I do not have them in my brief before me but I am, again, incredibly proud of the fact that I am part of a government that has taken substantial steps in removing discrimination against gay and lesbian people—the discrimination they face within the Australian community. In fact, it has been the Labor government that has taken the most substantive steps in this regard with several pieces of legislation to remove this discrimination.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Does the government agree with the shadow Attorney-General's statement last night that anti-discrimination laws should not be universal because freedom of religion supersedes freedom from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation? If not, will the government join with the Australian Greens in standing up for the human rights of our students and support our amendment to the Australian Education Act—that all schools receiving public funding must comply with federal anti-discrimination laws?
In response to that question I do not think I can add any more to my initial answers. I think it is clearly a specific policy in relation to the Attorney-General and discrimination. I will say that in terms of our general approach, the fight against discrimination in all its forms—whether it is on the basis of sexual orientation, on the basis of race or on the basis of religion—is incredibly well developed, and something we are very proud of.