Bill: Education and Children's Services Bill


(Continued from 27 September 2017.)

Committee Stage

In committee.

Clauses 1 and 2 passed.

Clause 3.

Mr GARDNER: I have a question about clause 3 that we might consider further between the houses. In relation to the definition of non-government schools on page 10, it has been suggested by a stakeholder group that the current definition of a non-government school—that is, a school that is registered under the Education and Early Childhood Services (Registration and Standards) Act that is not a government school—might be slightly broadened to include that a non-government school means a school and an education and care service. I put that on the record, and the minister can answer if she wishes. We could discuss between the houses that a stakeholder group has suggested that amendment, and if the government wishes to comment, then they might.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: You are quite right; we will look at that between the houses.

Clause passed.

Clauses 4 to 6 passed.

Clause 7.

Mr GARDNER: My understanding is that in the original act there were no objects and principles listed as such. I indicate my thanks to the minister for her comprehensive response to questions I raised in the second reading contribution. I think we will get through the committee stage a lot more quickly than we otherwise might have and potentially even be finished by lunchtime today. I apologise if I repeat any questions she has already answered; she was moving at some pace.

We understand that there were no objects and principles in the previous act and the minister's intent, as described, was to establish some. Of course, these objects and principles do not just inform what follows in the act, but I imagine they will be referred to in future when ministers or chief executives of the department are identifying the policies and procedures that the education department will follow. My question is: what process did the minister use to arrive at this set of principles as outlined in the original bill?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: This has been in process since 2009, I understand. A discussion paper was prepared and all the stakeholders were consulted, and then it was included in the consultation that went via YourSAy.

The CHAIR: Another question, member for Morialta?

Mr GARDNER: No, we can move to amendments.

The CHAIR: I am looking at schedule 2, amendment No. 1 in your name, member for Morialta, which I presume you are moving. Are you going to move your amendment No. 1 on schedule 2?

Mr GARDNER: For the sake of clarity, there have been a couple of extra amendments that have just been tabled, so when we get to them I do not want us to get confused. The first—

The CHAIR: Hang on a second. It would be nice if the table knew about the extra amendments.

Mr GARDNER: I think the one the Chair has asked me to deal with is the first of those.

The CHAIR: We could take your word for it—

Mr GARDNER: I think that would be an excellent idea.

The CHAIR: —and do not think me churlish, but the table would like to see the amendments.

The Hon. S.E. Close interjecting:

Mr GARDNER: One of them deals with this clause a bit later on. It is an additional thing to one of your amendments.

The CHAIR: It has been put to me by the table that we could postpone this clause and work on other clauses while we are working out where the amendments are lying.

Mr GARDNER: At the end of the day, we have a couple of amendments that we can deal with quickly on this clause first, and then if we need to we can postpone, or we can postpone to—

The CHAIR: We are old-fashioned here; we have a certain order we like to deal with things. If you do not have clause 7 under control, we can move on to other clauses.

Mr GARDNER: I apologise to the house. We had a look at the amendments that the minister filed early this morning, proposed one further one, and that was requested a little while ago. We will get to it soon, so I move:

That we postpone clause 7.

The CHAIR: Do you know if your new amendments are going to affect anything else in the bill, or is it just clause 7?

Mr GARDNER: They will not.

The CHAIR: So we can move on to other clauses.

Motion carried; clause postponed.

Clauses 8 and 9 passed.

Clause 10.

The CHAIR: Minister, you are going to move your amendment and we are only going to consider it to the end of (a), because your amendment, member for Morialta, does not include anything after that.

Mr GARDNER: I am happy for us to deal with just the minister's amendment and mine will be unnecessary.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I move:

Amendment No 1 [EduChilDev–2]—

Page 15, after line 40—Insert:

(1a) Without limiting the provisions that may be included in a model constitution for governing councils of schools, each such model constitution must contain provisions requiring—

(a) the governing council to participate in a scheme for the resolution of disputes between the governing council and the principal of the school; and

(b) the members of the governing council to comply with a code of practice approved by the Minister.

Mr GARDNER: The previous act had a dispute resolution mechanism required to be included in governing council constitutions. In my second reading, and in discussions with the minister, I indicated that the lack of a dispute resolution model in the new bill was inadequate, from the opposition's point of view. We therefore indicated that we would move an amendment to restore what was in the current bill, and the amendment tabled in my name does that.

The minister's amendment that we are now discussing is, to that point, identical to the one the opposition suggested. The additional point that the minister brings in, though, is that school constitutions must contain provisions requiring that 'the members of the governing council to comply with a code of practice approved by the minister'. There are some other amendments that we will deal with that are consequential to that, which establish further details about the code of practice.

The opposition is open-minded about whether or not this is beneficial. The opposition became aware of the introduction of the code of practice into the school governing council constitutions into the bill last night. That is fine; these things happen, and if there is an issue we can deal with it between the houses. I understand that the minister may have passed over this in her second reading response but, as I said, she was moving at some haste, so at this stage I invite her to explain the benefit, purpose or need for the codes of practice, which the opposition will then consider between the houses.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: The code of practice is currently provided for in section 84 of the Education Act, so we have moved it into this provision to make it straightforward.

Mr GARDNER: That sounds like a reasonable explanation, and we will proceed on that basis.

Amendment carried.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I move:

Amendment No 2 [EduChilDev–2]—

Page 16, line 3 [clause 10(3)]—After 'constitution' insert:

and each code of practice approved by the Minister

This is consequential on the decision we have just made.

Amendment carried; clause as amended passed.

Clauses 11 to 32 passed.

Clause 33.

Mr GARDNER: I think I raised this in my second reading speech; having printed it off, it turns out that speech went to 45 pages, and I have not had time to line up the questions I asked in that and the minister's responses given just 20 minutes ago, but there is the issue of these $20,000 fines. In this case, these are for the offence of a member of a governing council failing to disclose a conflict of interest and so forth.

The issue has been raised that these fines are higher than some others. As I indicated in my second reading contribution, the opposition does not propose to amend these fines but, for the record, can the minister identify the reason for the figure of $20,000 being chosen? My understanding is that it is to enable consistency with other similar offences under similar acts but, given that there are offences that have $5,000 fines or $10,000 fines in other acts, is there a cross-government approach that has been proposed to deal with those further offences as well?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: The fines were set on the advice of parliamentary counsel to be generally consistent. I cannot speak to any further changes the government might make on acts for which I am not responsible, but that is why that figure was chosen.

Clause passed.

Clause 34 passed.

Clause 35.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I move:

Amendment No 3 [EduChilDev–2]—

Page 29, line 32 [clause 35(1)]—Delete 'stand-alone' and substitute 'Government'

Mr GARDNER: I invite the minister to explain the need for replacing 'stand-alone' with 'government'. I am not sure if there are any non-government preschools that would otherwise be captured, but if there were some clarity there that would be helpful.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: This is essentially a drafting decision to create consistency with the next clause.

Mr GARDNER: I cannot imagine that we would have any great objections, but we will have a look at it in more detail between the houses.

Amendment carried; clause as amended passed.

Clause 36 passed.

Clause 37.

Mr GARDNER: I am interested in this provision under clause 37(2):

Subject to this Act, the same body may be the governing council for 2 or more schools.

I am just curious if the minister can articulate in what circumstances that provision is likely to be used. I can think of one where schools might be merging potentially in that process, but other than that are there any other provisions where this would be used?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: My advice is that, although this has not happened, there is an effort for futureproofing in case there is such a need in the future.

Clause passed.

Clause 38.

Mr GARDNER: I move:

Amendment No 3 [Gardner–1]—

Page 31, lines 1 to 10 [clause 38(2)]—Delete subsection (2) and substitute:

(2) Subject to this Act, a majority of the persons appointed under subsection (1)(b) must be persons who are responsible for students enrolled in, or children who are to attend, the school unless the school is wholly or principally for adult students.

I identified the purpose of this in the second reading speech but, to be very clear, this amendment deals with the requirement, which the opposition believes is useful, for there to be a parent majority on school governing councils. The amendment specifically states:

Subject to this Act, a majority of the persons appointed under subsection (1)(b) must be persons who are responsible for students enrolled in, or children who are to attend, the school unless the school is wholly or principally for adult students.

Put simply, we want to maintain what is currently the situation of having a parent majority on governing councils.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: Subclause (2)(b), which is removed by this amendment, is intended to deal with circumstances where a school council is not able to be composed of a majority of parents, which does occasionally happen. To revisit my response to this, we are concerned that we need to be able to address the situation where a council is not able to be composed of a majority of parents. Also, subclause (2)(c), which would be deleted under this amendment, is intended for futureproofing in case there are instances in the future where the minister may wish to declare a school or a class of schools exempt from needing a parent majority on the council.

Ayes 19

Noes 21

Majority 2

AYES
Bell, T.S. Brock, G.G. Chapman, V.A.
Duluk, S. Gardner, J.A.W. (teller) Goldsworthy, R.M.
Griffiths, S.P. Knoll, S.K. Marshall, S.S.
McFetridge, D. Pederick, A.S. Pisoni, D.G.
Sanderson, R. Tarzia, V.A. Treloar, P.A.
van Holst Pellekaan, D.C. Whetstone, T.J. Williams, M.R.
Wingard, C.    
NOES
Bettison, Z.L. Bignell, L.W.K. Caica, P.
Close, S.E. Cook, N.F. Digance, A.F.C.
Hildyard, K.A. Hughes, E.J. Kenyon, T.R. (teller)
Key, S.W. Koutsantonis, A. Mullighan, S.C.
Odenwalder, L.K. Piccolo, A. Picton, C.J.
Rankine, J.M. Rau, J.R. Snelling, J.J.
Vlahos, L.A. Weatherill, J.W. Wortley, D.
PAIRS
Pengilly, M.R. Hamilton-Smith, M.L.J. Redmond, I.M.
Atkinson, M.J. Speirs, D. Gee, J.P.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I move:

Amendment No 4 [EduChilDev–2]—

Page 31, after line 10—Insert:

(2a) The governing council of a school must, in accordance with the governing council's constitution, appoint or elect one of its members to be the presiding member of the governing council, being a person who—

(a) except in the case of a school that is wholly or principally for adult students, is responsible for a student enrolled in, or a child who is to attend, the school; and

(b) is not a member of the staff of the school or a person employed in an administrative unit for which the Minister is responsible,

(however, the governing council may, with the approval of the Chief Executive, disregard the requirement under paragraph (b) if there is no other member willing to be the presiding member).

Mr GARDNER: I indicate that the opposition will supporting this amendment but then moving a further amendment. This amendment builds on what the opposition is proposing in amendment No. 4 in what I assume is schedule 2, which I will be withdrawing. Therefore—

The CHAIR: You will not be proceeding with it.

Mr GARDNER: —I will not be proceeding with it. However, the purpose of this amendment is to enable the chair of the governing council to not be somebody who is responsible to the minister. This is an important amendment that will ensure the independence of governing councils from inappropriate interference, or the perception of interference, or the feeling that they are going to be in a circumstance where the chair is the employee of the minister, as in an example described by Justice Debelle, where you might have some serious issues. It is therefore important to maintain a parental chair. I am pleased that the government has come to the table and is supporting this amendment. I will get to the further improvements that are necessary when we deal with the next amendment.

The CHAIR: Are you happy to respond to those comments before the member for Morialta moves his new amendment No. 1 on his new schedule 4? This is an amendment to your amendment.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I think we are still discussing amendment No. 4, but yes, because I am accepting his new amendment, whichever procedure works for the Chair is fine by me.

Mr GARDNER: I move:

Amendment No 1 [Gardner–3]—

Page 31, after line 10 [inserted subsection (2a)]—After 'executive' insert:

and until such time as a person who is not a person referred to in paragraph (b) is willing to be the presiding member

The minister has, in her version of the amendment, said that the governing council may, with the approval of the chief executive, disregard the requirement that it be a parent rep if there is no other member willing to be the presiding member. That sounds, on the face of it, to be reasonable, but the opposition is very concerned about the circumstance. Sometimes, personality conflicts in these situations can present in a way that a parent representative might be willing to stand but might feel intimidated out of the idea of standing.

For example, if a staff member or somebody else on the council has been the chair for the previous years, these things can sometimes have a culture of dominance, and that parent might feel intimidated out of standing for the position so that the otherwise ineligible person is able to continue. In that circumstance, I want to be abundantly clear that if, in a future meeting, the parent wishes to take up that responsibility, then their right to do so is asserted.

I am very pleased that the minister has had a look at this and that, in the very brief time she has had to see it, she has seen the potential merit in it. This amendment would ensure that the circumstance where an ineligible person—a staff member, really—takes the chair, they only continue until such a time as a person who is not ineligible is willing to be the presiding member. I think this probably neatly wraps up a solution.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I am willing to accept this amendment. I am not sure that it is abundantly necessary but, in order to reassure anyone who is anxious, I am happy to accept it. What we have done in the amendment that is now being amended is make sure that we are entrenching the requirement for a chair of the governing council to be a parent—someone who is not employed—only allowing the fail-safe that should there be no-one willing to do that, we are still able to have a functional governing council. Of course, as soon as someone is prepared, who is a parent and not an employee, we would revert to that. I am happy to accept this amendment to my amendment.

Amendment to amendment carried; amendment as amended carried.

Mr GARDNER: I move:

Amendment No 5 [Gardner–1]—

Page 31, lines 11 to 18 [clause 38(3)]—Delete subclause (3) and substitute:

(3) If an election of members of the governing council of a school fails because no person nominates for the election, or no votes are cast in the election, then—

(a) the Minister must conduct at least 1 supplementary election in accordance with the governing council's constitution; and

(b) if that election or those elections also fail, the Minister may appoint such persons to the governing council as the Minister thinks fit (and subsection (2) will be taken not to apply in relation to the governing council in such a case).

This amendment deals with the circumstance envisaged in the bill whereby there are insufficient candidates or votes cast for the election of governing council members. The bill provides an opportunity for this circumstance to be dealt with, at the minister's discretion, by either (a) having a supplementary election, or (b) appointing such persons to the governing council as the minister thinks fit.

The opposition understands that there can be circumstances whereby such a mechanism is necessary. I have been to governing council meetings that have failed to make quorum. I have been to governing council AGMs where there has been a frisson of desperation as people try to encourage others around the room to just put their name down so that the meeting can be constitutional. We understand that these circumstances can happen. However, it is important that in the interests of empowered parental engagement in their schools, the priority be given to parental engagement and not ministerial appointment.

I am not suggesting for a moment that this minister would do this, and I am not saying that necessarily about other potential ministers from her party or other past ministers from her party, but at the other end of the spectrum the fact is that sometimes ministers get into disputes and arguments with governing councils and it can all be deeply unpleasant.

In those circumstances, I would hate to think that this would be a get out of gaol clause for a minister who wished to appoint some person from the department to the school council to pursue a certain policy agenda rather than a parent having the opportunity to come on at a subsequent stage. So our amendment requires that, while both of the opportunities to fill those positions are still available to the governing council, the supplementary election must take place first before ministerial appointments.

I realise that there are opportunities where a governing council might identify some people and say to the minister, 'We would like to appoint this person from the school community whom we have identified,' and that is probably the purpose for which the minister might argue that the second section is of benefit. I would say that the same end result can be achieved by just having the supplementary election and nominating that person.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I am happy to support this amendment.

Amendment carried; clause as amended passed.

Clauses 39 to 41 passed.

Clause 42.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I move:

Amendment No 5 [EduChilDev–2]—

Page 33, after line 4 [clause 42(3)]—Insert:

(ab) a provision requiring the governing council to participate in a scheme for the resolution of disputes between the governing council and the principal of the school; and

(ac) a provision requiring the members of the governing council to comply with a code of practice approved by the Minister under section 10(1a)(b); and

We have tried to do very similar things with the two amendments. Mine are slightly broader, taking into account the question of the code of practice, as discussed earlier.

Amendment carried.

The CHAIR: You are not proceeding with your amendment?

Mr GARDNER: We will have a look at the codes of practices between the houses, as indicated. On that basis, the amendment is similar to that of the minister's, so we will not proceed.

Clause as amended passed.

Clauses 43 to 47 passed.

Clause 48.

Mr GARDNER: The minister spent a little bit of time in her response defending the inclusion of clauses 48, 50 and 51. The opposition does not at this stage propose to support those clauses. Without rehashing the whole of the second reading debate, clause 48 as proposed suggests that the minister may direct a governing council or affiliated committee if they are satisfied that the governing council of a school or an affiliated committee has refused or failed to perform a function under this act, or has performed a function or exercised a power in a particular manner that has caused a detriment to the students or a substantial section of the students or persons who are responsible for the students.

My first issue is in relation to this question of 'to the detriment'—the minister has to be satisfied that it is to the detriment of the students. Without rehashing my lengthy comments on the Debelle report in the second reading, my concern is that all that is required is that the minister be satisfied that something is to the detriment of the students. A previous minister seemed to suggest in this house that sexual assaults at school being identified to other parents at the school was to the detriment of those students.

For me, it is not satisfactory that a minister can just be satisfied that some of these activities of a governing council cause detriment. I invite the minister to provide examples of where clause 48 might be so directed. I think the example that she used in her response earlier was to describe the provisions in the current act as a very blunt instrument, giving only an all or nothing type of approach. I have had a quick look at the current act and I am not convinced of that analysis, certainly by comparison with this bill, which gives the minister such expanded powers.

I appreciate the government will be supporting this clause; the opposition will be opposing, but if the minister wishes to put anything on the record identifying an example of how this clause might be useful then I invite her to do so.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: It seems pretty clear in the current act that there are only very blunt instruments for engaging with a council where the minister is satisfied that detriment is being caused to students. I would draw the member's attention to the need for the governing council to refuse to perform any function under the act or perform a function or a power in a particular manner that causes detriment. Short of simply removing the council, there is currently not a lot that a minister is able to do.

An example that has not occurred but could occur, and is conceivable, would be some form of policy that is discriminatory against a particular group of students that the governing council determines is something that they want for their school. Importantly, this decision is appellable under division 2—Appeals to Administrative and Disciplinary Division of the District Court. This action is subject to that; therefore, any minister who acted in a capricious manner and did not have a strong amount of evidence of real detriment to students would be unlikely to make any such decision, which appears to be the opposition's concern.

This is not about exercising harsher control on governing councils; it is in fact about allowing for a more subtle relationship should there be matters that arise. The vast majority of the time in the vast majority of schools this will never, ever be an issue. What we want is to not be in a position of having to say, 'We are going to dissolve the entire council because you have made this decision.' What we want is to be able to work through that decision, and this enables that degree of subtlety for a future minister.

Mr GARDNER: I indicate that we will be proceeding with the amendment, but we will take on board the minister's example and give it further thought between the houses. However, at this stage I remain unconvinced, and I suspect that my colleagues in the opposition will also be unconvinced.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: May I ask, given that I sense a division coming, whether we are going to put the amendments together, because my objections are—

Mr GARDNER: We have to deal with them clause by clause, but we do not need to debate everything.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: Okay, I understand. Thank you.

The CHAIR: You could have asked us that bit, too. We are interested observers—we just want to be in the loop if we could be.

Ayes 22

Noes 19

Majority 3

AYES
Bettison, Z.L. Bignell, L.W.K. Brock, G.G.
Caica, P. Close, S.E. Cook, N.F.
Digance, A.F.C. Hildyard, K.A. Hughes, E.J.
Kenyon, T.R. (teller) Key, S.W. Koutsantonis, A.
Mullighan, S.C. Odenwalder, L.K. Piccolo, A.
Picton, C.J. Rankine, J.M. Rau, J.R.
Snelling, J.J. Vlahos, L.A. Weatherill, J.W.
Wortley, D.    
NOES
Bell, T.S. Chapman, V.A. Duluk, S.
Gardner, J.A.W. (teller) Goldsworthy, R.M. Griffiths, S.P.
Knoll, S.K. Marshall, S.S. McFetridge, D.
Pederick, A.S. Pengilly, M.R. Pisoni, D.G.
Sanderson, R. Tarzia, V.A. Treloar, P.A.
van Holst Pellekaan, D.C. Whetstone, T.J. Williams, M.R.
Wingard, C.    
PAIRS
Gee, J.P. Redmond, I.M. Hamilton-Smith, M.L.J.
Speirs, D.    

Clause 49 passed.

Clause 50.

Mr GARDNER: The opposition will be opposing clause 50, for the same reasons as described in clause 48; we would prefer if the minister’s powers were not expanded.

The committee divided on the clause:

Ayes 23

Noes 19

Majority 4

AYES
Atkinson, M.J. Bettison, Z.L. Bignell, L.W.K.
Brock, G.G. Caica, P. Close, S.E.
Cook, N.F. Digance, A.F.C. Hildyard, K.A.
Hughes, E.J. Kenyon, T.R. (teller) Key, S.W.
Koutsantonis, A. Mullighan, S.C. Odenwalder, L.K.
Piccolo, A. Picton, C.J. Rankine, J.M.
Rau, J.R. Snelling, J.J. Vlahos, L.A.
Weatherill, J.W. Wortley, D.  
NOES
Bell, T.S. Chapman, V.A. Duluk, S.
Gardner, J.A.W. (teller) Goldsworthy, R.M. Griffiths, S.P.
Knoll, S.K. Marshall, S.S. McFetridge, D.
Pederick, A.S. Pengilly, M.R. Pisoni, D.G.
Sanderson, R. Tarzia, V.A. Treloar, P.A.
van Holst Pellekaan, D.C. Whetstone, T.J. Williams, M.R.
Wingard, C.    
PAIRS
Gee, J.P. Redmond, I.M. Hamilton-Smith, M.L.J.
Speirs, D.    

Clause thus passed.

The CHAIR: I ask members to stay in their chair as there will be a division on the next clause.

Clause 51.

Mr GARDNER: What protections are there—the minister outlined a process for how these—actually, do you know what? I am going to deal with that at the next clause. Let's just vote against this one.

The committee divided on the clause:

While the division bells were ringing:

The CHAIR: I will just point out to the VIEW ladies that you are getting three divisions in one, which is very unusual. I hope you are enjoying it!

Ayes 23

Noes 19

Majority 4

AYES
Atkinson, M.J. Bettison, Z.L. Bignell, L.W.K.
Brock, G.G. Caica, P. Close, S.E.
Cook, N.F. Digance, A.F.C. Hildyard, K.A.
Hughes, E.J. Kenyon, T.R. (teller) Key, S.W.
Koutsantonis, A. Mullighan, S.C. Odenwalder, L.K.
Piccolo, A. Picton, C.J. Rankine, J.M.
Rau, J.R. Snelling, J.J. Vlahos, L.A.
Weatherill, J.W. Wortley, D.  
NOES
Bell, T.S. Chapman, V.A. Duluk, S.
Gardner, J.A.W. (teller) Goldsworthy, R.M. Griffiths, S.P.
Knoll, S.K. Marshall, S.S. McFetridge, D.
Pederick, A.S. Pengilly, M.R. Pisoni, D.G.
Sanderson, R. Tarzia, V.A. Treloar, P.A.
van Holst Pellekaan, D.C. Whetstone, T.J. Williams, M.R.
Wingard, C.    
PAIRS
Gee, J.P. Speirs, D. Hamilton-Smith, M.L.J.
Redmond, I.M.    

Clause thus passed.

New clauses 51A, 51B, 51C, 51D and 51E.

Mr GARDNER: I move:

Amendment No 10 [Gardner–1]—

Page 38, after line 39—Insert:

Subdivision 6—Governing Councils Legal Fund

51A—Interpretation

In this Subdivision—

Crown Solicitor has the same meaning as in the Crown Proceedings Act 1992;

Fund means the Governing Councils Legal Fund established under section 51B.

51B—Governing Councils Legal Fund

(1) There will be a fund kept in a separate account at the Treasury to be called the Governing Councils Legal Fund.

(2) The Fund consists of—

(a) the money provided by Parliament for the purposes of the Fund; and

(b) any money paid into the Fund under any other Act.

(3) Any money standing to the credit of the Fund that is not for the time being required for the purposes of this Act may be invested by the Treasurer.

(4) Income from investment of the Fund will, at the direction of the Treasurer, be paid into the Fund or into the Consolidated Account.

(5) A deficiency in the Fund will be met from the Consolidated Account.

51C—Payments from Fund

(1) The Fund is to be applied as follows:

(a) as payment for the costs of independent legal advice incurred, or to be incurred, by the governing council of a school in relation to a dispute between the governing council and the Department;

(b) as may otherwise be authorised by or under this or any other Act.

(2) A payment may only be made from the Fund under subsection (1)(a) with the approval of the Crown Solicitor.

(3) The governing council of a school may, in a manner and form determined by the Crown Solicitor, apply to the Crown Solicitor for approval of a payment from the Fund under subsection (1)(a).

(4) An application must be accompanied by such information or documents as may reasonably be required by the Crown Solicitor

(5) The Crown Solicitor must approve the payment from the Fund under subsection (1)(a) if the Crown Solicitor is satisfied that—

(a) there is a genuine dispute between the governing council and the Department that is not trivial, frivolous or vexatious; and

(b) it is necessary or appropriate that the governing council seek independent legal advice in relation to the dispute.

(6) In performing a function under this section, the Crown Solicitor is, despite the Public Sector Act 2009 or any other Act or law, independent of direction or control by the Crown or any Minister or officer of the Crown.

(7) Nothing in this section prevents a governing council from seeking any legal advice it thinks fit.

51D—Accounts

The Minister must cause proper accounts to be kept of money paid to and from the Fund.

51E—Audit

The Auditor-General may at any time, and must at least once in each year, audit the accounts of the Fund.

We would like to introduce new clauses 51A, 51B, 51C, 51D and 51E. I described this at length in the second reading, but we will proceed again to describe it briefly here. Justice Debelle recommended that this fund be established—a governing councils legal fund—so that when governing councils need to seek legal advice there is a fund established for them to do so because, of course, the Debelle case identified an example of where a governing council sought to undertake certain actions and was advised by the department that they could not do so, and that was wrong advice. The department provided them with advice of a legal nature that was incorrect.

If that governing council had had access to this fund, as has been pointed out, they might have been able to access advice, provided their advice to the government and the government might not have got itself into such a jam on that occasion. That is why Debelle said that it was a good idea to have this legal fund. What was the government's response to this? They agreed to it. They said, 'Yes, we will have this legal fund to be administered by the Crown Solicitor.' The process for establishing that is set out in proposed new clauses 51A, 51B, 51C, 51D and 51E.

Let me summarise the minister's argument, and if she disagrees with me she can say so. Her argument, as I understand it, was that they agreed to the Debelle recommendation, but they thought they were better than that. They thought they could do something cleverer: they will have an administrative officer of the department that schools' governing councils that want to have advice can get advice from. They can apply to this administrative officer of the department for permission to get some education department money to then go forward to the Crown Solicitor, and the Crown Solicitor will determine if they have a case to make and get some advice after that.

The whole purpose of Debelle's recommendation was that this fund be available and independent from a decision of government. In the minister's comments before, when she outlined the process for how matters are currently dealt with, what I failed to hear clearly—and I invite the minister to respond if she would like—was what protections there are for a governing council so the department will not nobble an approach by that governing council for funds. The minister said that it is not the department's purpose to determine the merits of their request, only whether it is compliant with the governing council's duties under the act.

Again, I go back to the Debelle case. I am not convinced that if the current situation were in place and the governing council in question in the Debelle case had gone to the department, when the department had a clear view at that time that there was supposed to be no notification to parents given and that it was not going to be a good idea for the school to proceed down that way, that the department in that case would, under these current arrangements, have allowed the governing council to proceed to receive legal advice. That is why Debelle thought that it should be an independent fund and not administered by the education department, and that is what the opposition proposes to put into the legislation on this occasion.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I indicate that we will not be supporting this at this time but, as I have already stated off the record to the member for Morialta, we will take this under serious consideration between the houses. The initial concern is the difference in the scheme that is articulated here from that which is set out in our administrative instructions, in particular the form in which the request for assistance is made. We will do some detailed analysis and then make a decision prior to the vote in the other place about whether or not we can allow this to go through.

Mr GARDNER: On the basis that the minister has indicated that there will be further consideration between the houses, the opposition is not inclined potentially to divide on the matter today. We have just had divisions on similar issues. However, I urge the government to reconsider its position on this amendment. Acknowledging that the government is voting against it on this occasion, the opposition is certainly voting in favour of it. We hope that between the houses the government will see reason on this.

New clauses negatived.

Clause 52.

Mr GARDNER: Can the minister identify if there are any amalgamations currently on the books, currently planned or currently going through processes?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: Not that we are aware of. We will take that on notice and provide the information between the houses.

Mr GARDNER: When providing that information between the houses, I invite the minister to identify, if it turns out that there are some, whether it is likely that the provisions in this act will apply—given that it is going to come into effect on a date to be set by proclamation, assuming that this act passes before the end of this year—or would it be the current act?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: It will be under the existing act. We still have regulations to draft in relation to amalgamations, so it will not be relevant to any amalgamations that are currently in process, if indeed there are any.

Clause passed.

Clauses 53 and 54 passed.

Clause 55.

Mr GARDNER: I move:

Amendment No 11 [Gardner–1]—

Page 41, lines 31 and 32 [clause 55(2)(d)]—Delete '(not being a teacher at a school that is subject to the review) nominated by the Australian Education Union (SA Branch)' and substitute:

representing the staff of each school to which the review relates, nominated by the staff of each such school

This is of a similar nature to amendments the member for Unley and the Hon. Rob Lucas moved in relation to a previous bill when we were debating some changes to the TAFE SA Act a couple of years ago, and I referenced it in my second reading contribution.

There are several places in the act where the Australian Education Union is identified to provide particular representation. The opposition contended then and contends now that, while representation of staff in these matters is tremendously important, the very fact of somebody's membership or otherwise of an individual body should not determine their eligibility to represent their fellow staff members.

Therefore, the opposition suggests an amendment at this clause, that if there is a review committee the reference in the composition of the committee to there being a nominee of the Australian Education Union should instead be a person representing the staff of each school to which the review relates nominated by the staff of each such school. It is a common-sense and perfectly sensible amendment.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: We will be opposing this amendment.

Amendment negatived; clause passed.

Clauses 56 to 62 passed.

Clause 63.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I move:

Amendment No 6 [EduChilDev–2]—

Page 45, after line 12—Insert:

(1a) Before giving a direction under this section, the Chief Executive must take reasonable steps to consult with—

(a) each person who is responsible for the child; and

(b) any other person or body prescribed by the regulations,

and may consult with such other persons or bodies as the Chief Executive thinks fit.

The member for Morialta and I are trying to do a very similar thing in making sure that we enable and require consultation with parents or caregivers who are responsible for a child in making a decision about direction of enrolment. This amendment is slightly broader than the one from the member for Morialta that is yet to be considered in that it does allow for the consultation and is consistent with the current arrangements in section 75A.

Mr GARDNER: I was thinking about letting that through, but I have to call the minister's attention to the fact that, when she says her amendment is broader than the opposition's, they are in fact exactly the same words.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I take that back. I must have read that from another comment and I brought it in, so I withdraw the remark that this one is broader.

Mr GARDNER: Very gracious, minister, thank you. The opposition wholeheartedly supports this amendment. I acknowledge that when I drew the minister's attention to the issue at stake here during the briefings prior to the second reading debate in the parliament, the minister immediately acknowledged on that occasion that she would be open to an amendment.

We have both gone to parliamentary counsel presumably with similar instructions, and parliamentary counsel have done their excellent work as always. I thank Mr Herbst for his readiness to support the government and the opposition in getting the best possible legislation on this occasion. The opposition supports the government's amendment and I indicate that I will therefore be withdrawing my amendment which, as I have said, was exactly the same.

Amendment carried.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I move:

Amendment No 7 [EduChilDev–2]—

Page 45, lines 18 and 19 [clause 63(4)]—Delete 'requiring the Chief Executive to consult with specified persons before giving a direction, or' and substitute 'provisions'

This is consequential on the previous agreement.

Amendment carried; clause as amended passed.

Clause 64 passed.

Clause 65.

Mr GARDNER: Clause 65 deals with the enrolment of adult students. An adult must not be enrolled in a school if they are a prohibited person under the child safety act and must not be enrolled at a school unless a working with children check has been conducted in relation to the person within the preceding five years. A number of stakeholders have asked the question of me, and presumably of the minister as well, how this deals with children who turn 18 while in year 12.

In the current draft bill, the provision at subclause (3) might not have been there but for the sake of clarity, I know that some people following this debate have been asking about this. There is a provision in this bill that those sections did not apply to the continuing enrolment in a school of a student who turns 18 while enrolled at the school.

It does raise the broader and more challenging question dealt with in the child protection portfolio. In relation to adults in our schools who have reached the age of majority while at school, we do not ask them to take a working with children check but we do know if they would be a prohibited person under the Child Safety (Prohibited Persons) Act. Are there any adults in our schools who are prohibited people under the Child Safety(Prohibited Persons) Act but who are able to stay in our schools because they turned 18 while at school?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: Because young people who turn 18 in the course of their study are not required to have an assessment, it cannot be known what their status would be if they were required to undertake an assessment. I think we just have to apply common sense. We are always working through risk mitigation of course, but there is also a degree of common sense that a young person at 17 years and 11 months and a young person at 18 years and one month is the same human being who is still at school and completing their study.

I am not sure if you were asking me to inform you about how many young people who have turned 18 there are in our school system, because there would be quite a few. I would probably be able to find out at least an estimation of that, if that is what you are looking for. It is self-evident that by not asking young people to obtain a working with children check on the day they turn 18, if they are still at school, we are unable to know the counterfactual of what would happen if we did ask them to.

Mr GARDNER: I accept the minister's response, but I think under provision 1, an adult person must not be enrolled in a school if they are a prohibited person under the Child Safety (Prohibited Persons) Act, which I imagine is slightly different from just failing a working safely with children check. Perhaps the minister, between the houses, could check if there are any of those in our schools and what we are doing to ensure that other children at those schools are kept safe.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: Yes, I will endeavour to determine what information we do have.

Clause passed.

Clauses 66 to 81 passed.

Clause 82.

Mr GARDNER: I move:

Amendment No 14 [Gardner–1]—

Page 56, lines 35 to 37 [clause 82(2)]—Delete subclause (2) and substitute:

(2) If a person responsible for a student who is a child seeks, in writing, permission of the principal of the school for the student to be exempted from attendance at intercultural instruction or religious instruction on conscientious grounds, the student will be exempted from attendance at such instruction.

Amendment No 15 [Gardner–1]—

Page 57, line 1 [clause 82(3)]—Delete 'does not have consent to participate in' and substitute 'is exempt from attendance at'

Amendment No 16 [Gardner–1]—

Page 57, line 2 [clause 82(3)(a)]—Delete 'participating in' and substitute 'attending'

I suspect we have probably fleshed this out at some length. Just to put it very simply, the opposition believes that the current arrangement, which is that it is satisfactory to give parents the opportunity to have exemption from participation in religious or intercultural instruction and that the opt-out provision is something that has not caused great mischief. Changing it to an opt-in provision, as the government has done, I think does not have great merit. Therefore, the opposition proceeds with these amendments as suggested. We urge the government to support them and maintain the status quo in relation to religious and intercultural instruction.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: The reason I do not support the amendments is that in practice at school, having gone through this with both of my children, you are sent a form and asked to say whether or not you allow the child to attend. So opt-in or opt-out is meaningless in the sense of the use of the form.

I am disturbed, though, by the way in which clause 82(2) has been rewritten so that the parent is seeking permission from the principal for the child not to attend. I would have thought it is entirely up to the parent to exercise a right, whether we describe it as opt-in or opt-out, rather than to seek permission from the principal to allow that child not to attend.

We are dealing with highly sensitive matters when we talk about religious instruction. I believe that we have a very common-sense approach to recognising that there is a diversity of views about religions and about individual faiths within our community and therefore within our government schools, and we do not seek to impose any religious beliefs or any instruction on particular religious beliefs on any individual child that their parents may find to be problematic for their family. We do not impose that because that is not the kind of schooling system we have. We give the power to the parents—and this bill further strengthens that—to make a justifiable and reasonable decision about what they want for their children in their understanding of the world.

Let's be very clear: this is not about what occurs within a school and is run by the school. Teachers teach information relating to religious beliefs and cultural ceremonies all the time. What we are talking about is people outside the school who are not teachers who are coming into the school or inviting students onto their property specifically to give them instruction and information about their faith, their belief or their culture. I think it is extremely important within a balanced multicultural society that we respect parents' capacity to make a decision about that. That is what our amendments to the existing act have done through this bill, and that is why I will not support the opposition's position.

Mr GARDNER: The minister raises the question about the use of the word 'permission'. For the minister's benefit or, indeed, for anyone else who is interested, the current act provides:

(2) The regulations shall include provision for permission to be granted for exemption from religious education on conscientious grounds.

So that is the basis for the use of the word 'permission' in the proposed amendment. The opposition is simply seeking to maintain the status quo that our minister just articulated, namely, that our schools provide a safe, welcoming environment for people from all sorts of multicultural backgrounds and different faith backgrounds and are able to operate in that way. In my experience, it is more often parents who have no religion, rather than parents who have a different religion, who tend to prefer to exercise their power in this. I say that it is the parents' decision entirely and must remain the parents' decision entirely. The minister and I are as one on this; however, the opposition believes that the current arrangements are working well and proposes to maintain our amendment.

Ayes 18

Noes 22

Majority 4

AYES
Bell, T.S. Chapman, V.A. Duluk, S.
Gardner, J.A.W. (teller) Goldsworthy, R.M. Griffiths, S.P.
Knoll, S.K. McFetridge, D. Pederick, A.S.
Pengilly, M.R. Pisoni, D.G. Sanderson, R.
Tarzia, V.A. Treloar, P.A. van Holst Pellekaan, D.C.
Whetstone, T.J. Williams, M.R. Wingard, C.
NOES
Atkinson, M.J. Bettison, Z.L. Bignell, L.W.K.
Brock, G.G. Caica, P. Close, S.E.
Cook, N.F. Digance, A.F.C. Hildyard, K.A.
Hughes, E.J. Kenyon, T.R. (teller) Key, S.W.
Koutsantonis, A. Mullighan, S.C. Odenwalder, L.K.
Piccolo, A. Picton, C.J. Rankine, J.M.
Rau, J.R. Snelling, J.J. Vlahos, L.A.
Wortley, D.    
PAIRS
Marshall, S.S. Gee, J.P. Redmond, I.M.
Weatherill, J.W. Speirs, D. Hamilton-Smith, M.L.J.

Clauses 83 to 105 passed.

Clause 106.

Mr GARDNER: I move:

Amendment No 17 [Gardner–1]—

Page 68, lines 23 to 25 [clause 106(2)(b)]—Delete 'with the agreement of the Australian Education Union (SA Branch) (1 or more of whom must be nominees of the Australian Education Union (SA Branch))' and substitute:

(at least 1 of whom must be a person elected by officers of the teaching service to represent them on committees established under this paragraph)

Earlier, I described some of the matters in relation to the appointment of staff to various bodies and the position of the Australian Education Union in the current act. This is another example of that. In relation to appointment to promotional level positions, an application for a position in the teaching service classified at a promotional level is to be submitted in accordance with the regulations to either the chief executive, or to a committee established by the chief executive consisting of members appointed by the chief executive with the agreement of the Australian Education Union (SA Branch), one or more of whom must be nominees of the Australian Education Union (SA Branch).

The opposition takes the view that identifying the Australian Education Union singularly in this case is contrary to our preferred model, which is that at least one of those people on the committee must be a person elected by officers of the teaching service to represent them on committees established under this paragraph. It may well be the case that a significant majority of people working in our schools are members of the Australian Education Union, and good luck to them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that at all. There are, however, teachers who do not choose to be, and I do not see why they should be excluded from participating in this service in this way. The opposition therefore puts this amendment to the house.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I indicate that we will not support the removal of the union from this—

The CHAIR: You will not be supporting?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: No.

Amendment negatived; clause passed.

Clauses 107 to 109 passed.

Clause 110.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I move:

Amendment No 8 [EduChilDev–2]—

Page 71, line 31 [clause 110(2)]—Delete 'dismissal' and substitute 'termination'

Amendment No 9 [EduChilDev–2]—

Page 72, line 2 [clause 110(5)]—Delete 'dismissal' and substitute 'termination'

These are technical in terms of consistency and terminology.

Mr GARDNER: I will take the minister's word for it. We will reserve our position until we have had a chance to look at it further between the houses.

Amendments carried; clause as amended passed.

Clauses 111 to 124 passed.

Clause 125.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I move:

Amendment No 10 [EduChilDev–2]—

Page 80, lines 24 to 26 [clause 125(5), definition of prescribed action, (a)]—Delete '(other than a direction relating to the closure of a stand-alone preschool or children's services centre under Division 5 of that Part)'

Amendment No 11 [EduChilDev–2]—

Page 80, lines 27 and 28 [clause 125(5), definition of prescribed action, (b)]—Delete '(other than a direction relating to the closure or amalgamation of a school under Division 3 of that Part)'

These amendments are technical. It has been identified that part 4, division 5 and part 5, division 3 do not provide for a direction to be made or other decisions or actions to be taken under these divisions. Parliamentary counsel has agreed with this assessment and removed the brackets accordingly.

Mr GARDNER: Once again, I will take the minister's word for it and note the nodding of those whose opinions I trust and value. We will probably be supporting this.

Amendments carried; clause as amended passed.

Clauses 126 to 135 passed.

New clause 135A.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I move:

Amendment No 12 [EduChilDev–2]—

Page 86, after line 19—Insert:

135A—Commencement of prosecution for offence against Act

(1) Proceedings for an offence against this Act must be commenced within 2 years of the date on which the offence is alleged to have been committed.

(2) Section 52(1)(a) of the Criminal Procedure Act 1921 does not apply to proceedings for an offence against this Act.

This has been included further to legal advice that indicated that any offence expiable must be prosecuted within six months. This will, instead, enable the two-year period for proceedings to commence. That is particularly important when it comes to being able to have a prosecution on attendance which may be building up for some time. We need to make sure that we are able to pay full attention to all the evidence over a period of time.

Mr GARDNER: I had a look at this amendment last night and this morning and, rather than going into detail and holding up the committee further on this occasion, I request that the minister flesh out that argument between the houses so that we can give it full consideration before it goes to the Legislative Council.

New clause inserted.

Clauses 136 to 139 passed.

Clause 140.

Mr GARDNER: I move:

Amendment No 18 [Gardner–1]—

Page 90, line 26 [clause 140(2)(y)]—After 'regulations' insert:

(other than an offence against Subdivisions 1 or 3 of Part 7 Division 2 of this Act)

In my second reading contribution the opposition set out, at great length, our objection to the idea of expiation notices, that these offences of truancy be expiable. The minister, in her response earlier, stated why she was in favour of truancy offences being expiable.

This amendment sets out the long-argued position of the Liberal Party for over a year since the minister and others first floated the idea of expiation notices for truancy offences. Put simply, the opposition supports the expansion of the family conference provision in this act. We identified that it was a particularly useful thing that our truancy officers can do, and that is why the opposition has pledged, if elected, to expand the number of truancy officers by 50 per cent, so that they can get those family conferences working.

It is important that the threat of significant court action be there for those parents who are not willing to engage. We do not see a benefit in providing a $750 fine, or whatever other level of fine might be set out by regulation, on this occasion. Therefore we move this amendment, which removes the truancy offences from the expiation provision.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I will be opposing this amendment for the reason that was, essentially, set out in my second reading reply speech. Let us be very clear: although lack of attendance is not a widespread problem, in terms of numbers for chronic and unexplained absences, where it occurs it is a complete disaster for children. Not having access to school is the worst thing a parent can do, not making sure kids are turning up to school is the worst thing parents can do for their children's future.

We have been listening to the experts who are involved in working with these families, and what we need is a range of ways to manage the decisions being made by the parents. One of those ways, which has been supported by the opposition, is to introduce family conferences. This is a very, very useful mechanism. Another measure is to make sure the prosecution is more straightforward and more likely to succeed. Although we have had two successful prosecutions, we need to not be complacent about the likelihood of other prosecutions being successful, and I again appreciate the opposition's support on those changes.

To introduce another tool can only be helpful for the people who are working with families. They understand that there are different signals and messages that families who do not send their kids to school will receive and respond to. We have determined that expiation notices are another tool that will be useful for them; hence, we are supporting it. It does not stop having family conferences and it certainly does not stop prosecutions, but it gives the attendance officers and the department another opportunity for engaging with the family in a way that will make a difference to their choices about whether or not they send their child to school.

The committee divided on the amendment:

Ayes 18

Noes 22

Majority 4

AYES
Bell, T.S. Chapman, V.A. Duluk, S.
Gardner, J.A.W. (teller) Goldsworthy, R.M. Griffiths, S.P.
Knoll, S.K. McFetridge, D. Pederick, A.S.
Pengilly, M.R. Pisoni, D.G. Sanderson, R.
Tarzia, V.A. Treloar, P.A. van Holst Pellekaan, D.C.
Whetstone, T.J. Williams, M.R. Wingard, C.
NOES
Atkinson, M.J. Bettison, Z.L. Bignell, L.W.K.
Brock, G.G. Caica, P. Close, S.E.
Cook, N.F. Digance, A.F.C. Hildyard, K.A.
Hughes, E.J. Kenyon, T.R. (teller) Key, S.W.
Koutsantonis, A. Mullighan, S.C. Odenwalder, L.K.
Piccolo, A. Picton, C.J. Rankine, J.M.
Rau, J.R. Snelling, J.J. Vlahos, L.A.
Wortley, D.    
PAIRS
Marshall, S.S. Weatherill, J.W. Redmond, I.M.
Gee, J.P. Speirs, D. Hamilton-Smith, M.L.J.

Progress reported; committee to sit again.

Sitting suspended from 13:00 to 14:00.

In committee (resumed on motion).

Clause 7.

Mr GARDNER: I move:

Amendment No 1 [Gardner–1]—

Page 13, line 32 [clause 7(1)]—Delete 'State.' and substitute:

State,

and, in the course of achieving those objects, it is an object of this Act to continuously improve the wellbeing and safety of children in this State.

From memory, the minister advised in her previous answer to my question—I am sure Hansard can confirm—that the process by which we arrived at these objects and principles involved a discussion paper going back to 2009, back and forth, and a draft bill that went out for consultation, and here we are.

The opposition notes that there are many things in these objects and principles that that process turned up, some of which are straightforward and sensible and some of which are very good indeed. What is not mentioned at any point in the objects and principles is students' safety and wellbeing. I think that is certainly something we strive for in the application of our education acts. The opposition feels that it is important that the objects of this act include a reference to our desire to continuously improve the wellbeing and safety of children in this state, and therefore I commend the amendment to the house.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I am happy to support the amendment.

Amendment carried.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I move:

Amendment No 1 [EduChilDev–1]—

Page 13, after line 37—Insert:

(2a) It is a further object of this Act to recognise the diversity of the student body in this State.

Amendment carried.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I move:

Amendment No 2 [EduChilDev–1]—

Page 14, after line 17 [clause 7(3)]—Insert:

(h) subject to this and any other Act or law, schools, preschools and children's services centres are free to celebrate events that are of significance to their communities.

When we are talking about the fact that there is a very diverse student body and also that our schools are secular in nature, I wish to add a reference for clarity that schools, preschools and children's centres are free to celebrate events that are of significance to their communities.

Mr GARDNER: I move an amendment to the minister's amendment:

Amendment No 1 [Gardner–2]—

Page 14, after line 17 [inserted paragraph (h)]—After 'communities' insert:

(including, for example, by singing Christmas carols)

In identifying and referring to this amendment she has just moved, in the journal of record in South Australia, The Advertiser, in a piece by Mr Tim Williams in relation to issues to do with religious instruction and things we were debating earlier in relation to clause 82, the minister said:

These provisions do not apply to in-school celebrations of significant events such as Christmas and Easter and the Government has filed an amendment to make this unambiguously clear.

The amendment the minister has just moved is worthy, but it does not, as the minister suggested, make clear the critical question that has been confronting the community of South Australia for the last four or five months—Christmas carols and whether or not it is unambiguously clear that they are to remain possible in our public schools.

The opposition believes that the minister will welcome the amendment we have suggested because it does in fact make it unambiguously clear that Christmas carols are to be allowed to be maintained. I know that she herself enjoys a Christmas carol and I commend her for that. It is good for the voice. The minister's amendment inserts this subclause:

(h) subject to this and any other Act or law, schools, preschools and children's services centres are free to celebrate events that are of significance to their communities.

My amendment inserts, after the word 'communities', the words '(including, for example, by singing Christmas carols)' thereby guaranteeing that Christmas carols will be protected under the act.

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: We will accept this amendment because quite clearly if we were not to, it would be argued that we were opposed to Christmas carols, which we never have been and never will be. I think it is a pity to bring that into a piece of legislation because there are a number of events that are significant to schools, and they are not only those that are associated with a traditionally Christian celebration, but I have had enough of the politicking over Christmas carols. It has been absurd from start to end, and I will accept this in order not to prolong that kind of game playing with our schools.

Amendment to amendment carried; amendment as amended carried; clause as amended passed.

Schedule and title passed.

Bill reported with amendment.

Third Reading

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (16:00): I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

Bill read a third time and passed.