BILL - EDUCATION AND CHILDREN'S SERVICES BILL SECOND READING


I believe that there was a parliamentary committee that might have involved the former member for MacKillop, Mitch Williams, who talked about it and who reviewed educational legislation during the previous period of the Olsen, Kerin and Brown governments, when Malcolm Buckby was the education minister. Jane Lomax-Smith, who is now helping the people of South Australia as the chair of the Teachers Registration Board, was minister in 2009 when there were proposed legislative changes. Indeed, the member for Bragg, the Attorney-General and Acting Premier, as shadow minister for education after the 2002 election put forward some private members' bills that were in response to the review that was taking place under the Buckby ministry.

Most recently, in the last year of the former government, the member for Port Adelaide as the minister did a substantial body of further work and actually got us closer to having some revised legislation than had any of her predecessors in the 16-year period of the Labor government. I commend her for taking that on. Indeed, if it had been taken on earlier in that period—perhaps if the member for Port Adelaide had been the minister earlier in the period—they might have had a better chance to have a go at it.

I remark briefly on this because there was some commentary in the second reading debate about the timing of the bill, and I advised the house that the member for Port Adelaide was correct when she advised:

The bill went through this house before the last election, but the election intervened before it could be considered in the upper house.

She advised that at the end of the previous parliament there was a big legislative agenda, and she said that the then opposition spokesperson, and now minister—and that would be me—shared her disappointment that that was the case, that the legislative agenda backlog got in the way. She also said:

There was no blame thrown at any political party. It was a circumstance that we lamented but accepted.

I place on the record that that was an accurate reflection. There were, I think, about 14 or 15 bills listed in the Legislative Council in the last sitting week last year. The previous version of this bill was indeed one of them, and probably about half a dozen of them were substantial bills that would have taken significant time in the Legislative Council. I understand that the government, as it was then, prioritised a couple of the others but, obviously, if the previous government in its earlier years had had more than a year to look at this, they might have got there but they did not, so here we are.

I thank the member for Port Adelaide for the speech that she gave and, indeed, I thank all members for their contributions: the members for King, Hurtle Vale, Hammond, Wright, Bragg, Torrens, Finniss, Heysen, Mount Gambier, Light, Colton, Elder and Newland. I thank them all for their contributions, which I have taken the opportunity to reflect on in the last couple of days. I will respond to some of the comments raised, particularly the member for Port Adelaide's contribution as the shadow minister; obviously she raised a number.

Starting with the conversation we had at the end of last year when the bill was not able to be progressed, at that stage I think I informed the member for Port Adelaide that, should the Liberal Party win the election, we would be bringing the bill back. I believe I suggested that we would obviously be including in a Liberal bill the amendments that we had moved unsuccessfully in the House of Assembly during the debate. I do not think that would be of any surprise to anybody in the Liberal Party who reflected on those amendments in the lead-up to the election, and in many of those cases they were explicit election promises identified in other documents. It was no surprise, of course, when we brought the bill back that those amendments should be included in the bill itself.

I will start by addressing some of the issues raised by the member for Port Adelaide in her remarks. She particularly asked about consultation on changes that were in place between now and when the bill was here previously. To be clear, the amendments which were moved in parliament last year were consulted on prior to the debate in 2017. The member for Port Adelaide as minister introduced the bill. I think, from memory, she in fact released it for public consultation on the YourSAy website in the Christmas break prior to the 2017 sitting year commencing.

The opposition took the opportunity at that stage to consult widely as well. We did that. We spoke to a wide range of stakeholders, and the wide range of stakeholders had an opportunity to talk to us in opposition. Of course, that consultation taken from opposition when I was the shadow minister, a long time before I took on ministerial responsibilities, informed the amendments that we moved. There was further consultation on the fact that there was an election. Indeed, the people of South Australia were well aware of the Liberal Party's position on these amendments.

I am 100 per cent certain that members of the South Australian community who were particularly interested in these amendments were pretty strongly aware of our position. I am familiar with campaign materials that were circulated encouraging people to contact the Liberal Party to try to get us to change our position on some of them, particularly related to what I believe the shadow minister is going to be moving amendments on later, and the Liberal Party was able to respond to them prior to the election to advise what our position was.

There have been refinements made to some clauses of the bill that are additional to those foreshadowed by the amendments I moved in parliament during debate on the former Labor government's bill. These are technical amendments identified by parliamentary counsel, all based on legal advice provided by the Crown Solicitor's Office in the reconsideration of particular clauses, and there are one or two other changes which I will touch on. Consistent with amendments that I moved during debate in 2017, key changes to the bill are:

removal of the privileged position of the Australian Education Union from selection or panels for promotional level teacher positions and from review committees considering the amalgamation or closure of schools, and instead providing for all staff to have the opportunity to participate in the process;

amendment of references in clause 82 to intercultural and/or religious instruction to religious and cultural activities, and provision for an exemption from participation for students rather than an opt-in scheme. The naming I will get to in a separate explanation. I know that was an issue the shadow minister raised;

removal of regulation-making powers to set expiation fees for offences relating to non-attendance of a child at school and offences relating to the employment of a child at school during school hours or to the extent that they are unfit or unable to attend at school or their approved learning program;

deletion of exceptions to the general rule that parents must form the majority of members appointed to a school governing council;

removal of ministerial powers to direct governing councils to take action in certain circumstances and to suspend or dissolve a governing council in specified disciplinary circumstances. We were also very specific in our commitments about the fund that will be available for members of governing council in dispute with the department in relation to the Debelle recommendations;

additional changes made on the basis of the advice of the Crown Solicitor's Office or parliamentary counsel proposed to include a power for the chief executive to terminate the employment of a member of the teaching service if they are not a registered teacher within the meaning of the Teachers Registration and Standards Act 2004 or they are a prohibited person within the meaning of the Child Safety (Prohibited Persons) Act 2016;

to achieve greater consistency and governance arrangements for stand-alone preschools and children's services centres and those for schools, including the requirement that parents form a majority of members of governing councils, arrangements for the resolution of disputes between a governing council and the department, provision for a code of practice for members of a governing council and removal of ministerial discretion and suspension of councils;

clarify that the term 'misconduct', where it forms grounds for a removal of a member of a governing council of a school, stand-alone preschool or a children's services centre, includes any breach of the code of practice applying to the member;

make a technical minor change to protections for teachers, staff and students to distinguish between prescribed persons and designated persons in relation to the issuing of barring notices; and

inclusion of specific regulation-making powers in respect of suspension, exclusion and expulsion of a student.

I said before that I would talk a little more about the phrase 'cultural and religious activities'. The member for Port Adelaide indicated the opposition will be giving further thought between the houses to clause 82 of the bill, which provides schools with the opportunity to set aside time for religious and cultural activities delivered by prescribed third parties. She also noted there was a difference between the terms used for clause 82 in the government's bill and the bill brought forward by the former Labor government last year.

Under the bill put forward by the previous Labor government, clause 82 made reference to intercultural and/or religious instruction. I note that 'intercultural understanding' is a term used in the Australian Curriculum to mean the way students learn to value their own cultures, languages and beliefs and those of others. The purpose of clause 82 is to permit a school to set aside time for a religious or cultural activity that is provided during school hours by a prescribed third party in relation to a particular religious or cultural practice or belief. This could be, for example, through a play or musical performance or other activity organised by a particular religious or cultural group focused on their particular religious or cultural belief.

The clause is not intended to apply to general intercultural or religious activities organised by teachers of the school as part of the curriculum. Clause 82 refers to religious and cultural activities to further differentiate between the third-party activities facilitated by individuals under the clause who are not registered teachers and the teaching of intercultural and religious matters delivered as part of the school curriculum. The other main difference between the government's proposals and the previous proposal of those opposite is that clause 82 provides that parents must be notified when such activities are to be held by the school and be given an opportunity to request an exemption for their child from participation in the activity.

In relation to the AEU, the role and function of the committee and, in particular, how the choice of staff member will operate, there are a couple of committees here. In respect of representation of the Australian Education Union on panels for promotional positions and committees considering closure or amalgamations of schools, it is the government's position 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.

The government's bill is different from the previous bill. Clause 54(2) in respect of school review committees and clause 106(2) in respect of selection panels for promotional level teaching positions remove this automatic union representation and replace it with an officer of the teaching service selected or nominated by other officers of the teaching service in accordance with regulations.

Under clause 53 of the bill, the minister may commission a review to address the question of whether each government school within a particular area continues to be required and, if not, whether one or more of the schools should be amalgamated or closed. This clause also sets out procedural processes in relation to the conduct of a review to ensure the committee considers all relevant information before making the recommendations.

Clause 54 provides that a school review committee will consist of a number of members appointed by the minister, one of whom will be a person representing the staff of each school to which the review relates, elected or nominated by the staff of each such school in accordance with the regulations. This clause no longer provides for the AEU to nominate a person to be a member of such a committee. However, it should be noted that there is nothing to preclude an Australian Education Union member from being elected or nominated by other staff of the relevant schools to represent them on a school review committee.

The department has advised that there is no practical barrier to implementing the removal of automatic AEU representation on a review committee. A straightforward process will be set out in the regulations for school staff of relevant schools to elect or nominate a staff nominee to participate on such a committee. It is envisaged that this process would include calling for nominations from the whole staff, followed by a ballot at the site. Alternatively, the nominations could go to the office of the education director and an officer in that office could manage the ballot.

Work to develop those regulations that will underpin the operation of the new legislation will commence following the passage of the bill and, of course, consultation will occur in the drafting of the new regulations with all relevant stakeholders. The government does not foresee that there will be any issues with a staff representative who is not a member of the Australian Education Union being able to appropriately participate and contribute to the deliberations of the committee.

The review process set out in clause 53 is a robust one and the staff representative is one of a number of committee members, which also includes the principal of each school in the review area, who will be considering the question of whether a school or schools are required. The presiding member of a review committee will be a senior officer with extensive experience in education and will provide any necessary guidance to the review committee throughout the process.

From my own experience as a local member of parliament, I reflect on the reviews that took place at Stradbroke School and Athelstone School, which were previously primary and junior primary schools. A review process was set up by the former Labor government when they wanted to close them. Indeed, the review committee itself, at Stradbroke in particular as I recall, reported that the schools did not want to close and did not need to be closed and would not necessarily benefit from it.

The process in the current act enables the government to proceed with the decision. The suggestion made by some of those opposite during the debate that this was a matter that would significantly make the government's opportunity to close schools more flexible, I think is put paid to by the experience in that 2010-11 period. At any rate, the process is still robust.

Additionally, in response to the member for Port Adelaide's comments about teachers on such committees having a view about their own future and what school they would like to go to, I am further advised that the placement of staff who may be affected by the closure or amalgamation of a school or schools would not be considered as part of the review committee discussion. There are established processes for staff placement in these circumstances. The review committee and the individual members would have no input into this.

Clause 106 of the bill, in relation to the promotional level committees, provides for the chief executive to appoint officers of the teaching service to promotional level teaching positions. Where an application for a promotional level position is submitted to a committee established by the chief executive, this committee must include members appointed by the chief executive, at least one of whom must be an officer of the teaching service elected or nominated by other offices of the teaching service to represent them on such committees and in accordance with the regulations. This clause removes the right for a nominee of the AEU to participate in selection committees for promotional level teaching positions, as a nominee of the AEU.

Teachers who have not chosen to be a member of the Australian Education Union should not be excluded from participating on a selection committee in this way. As clarified in my comments about review committees for school closures and amalgamations as drafted, these clauses in no way preclude an Australian Education Union member from being elected or nominated by other teachers within the school or preschool to represent them on a selection committee.

Again, the department has advised that there is no practical barrier to implementing the removal of automatic AEU representation on selection committees. A process will be set out in regulations for officers of the teaching service to elect or nominate another teacher to represent them on such committees. This process already occurs at the site level for short-term promotional selection panels. It is envisaged that this process would include calling for nominations from the whole staff followed by a ballot at the site. As just mentioned, in relation to the placement of teachers on review committees, consultation will occur during the drafting of the new regulations.

It is important to note that selection committees will continue to be conducted in a fair and equitable manner. Merit selection training is mandatory for any departmental employee, including AEU representatives, participating on a selection committee. Currently, the department's merit selection training for Education Act positions is a six-hour face-to-face training session conducted by the department's Ethical Conduct Unit in conjunction with the AEU. This is a longstanding practice. The department will continue to provide merit selection training to ensure that all panel members are appropriately trained.

I have filed government amendments to this bill, which will be considered in the committee stage. They amend the objects and principles in clause 7 to include specific references to children and students. They update clauses 7(4)(e) and 7(4)(f) to clarify that children and students should be involved in the promotion of their education and development and that they should be consulted in respect of decisions under the act that may affect them. These amendments were drafted at the suggestion of the Commissioner for Children and Young People, and I thank her for that.

Government amendments also expand the list of exceptions to the general prohibition of disclosure of personal information received under clauses 14, 67 and 137. These clauses respectively provide for the sharing of information between particular persons and bodies, require the transfer of information between the principal of the school at which a child is enrolling and the principal of their previous school and set out confidentiality arrangements for people engaged in the administration of the act.

On the recommendation of the Crown Solicitor's Office, the circumstances under which information can be disclosed will be broadened to bring them in line with the Information Privacy Principles and the Information Sharing Guidelines. The amendments to each of these clauses will allow the disclosure of information to lessen or prevent a serious threat to the life, health or safety of a child or other person; the disclosure of information required by an order of a court or tribunal; and the disclosure of information with the consent of the person to whom it relates.

The amendments to these clauses also clarify that information disclosed under the clause can be used for purposes related to the health, safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or class of children. A regulation-making power will also be added to each clause, providing for regulations to be made to prescribe additional circumstances under which the information may be used for a purpose other than that for which it was disclosed.

An additional amendment to clause 67 directly supports recommendations 8.13 and 8.14 of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It allows the principal of the school in which a child is to be enrolled to require information from the principal of the child's previous school which relates to the safety and wellbeing of that child or which may be relevant to the safety and wellbeing of other children or persons at the school.

I think that covers all the proposed amendments. With the indulgence of the house, when we get to the committee stage where those amendments are to be moved, I might refrain from reading all that again. Consider the argument for those amendments as read. This is a very important bill. This is the most substantial reform of education legislation in this state since 1972. It has been in the parliament for a little while. As it has turned out, I think that some useful amendments have been put forward by the children's commissioner and by the Crown Solicitor's Office, so it is good that we have had a couple of months to consider the bill since it was introduced earlier this year.

I am very excited that the bill looks headed towards passage during this term of government, where previously we have not been able to achieve what we are looking to achieve today. Whether or not we finish the debate in the House of Assembly today, we will see, but I very much hope that the passage of the bill will be swift through the Legislative Council once it reaches that venue. I look forward to seeing the debate progress, and I look forward to the committee stage of the debate. I commend the bill to the house.

Bill read a second time.

Committee Stage

In committee.

Clause 1.

Dr CLOSE: I appreciate what was said in the closing second reading speech. However, I would like some more clarification on whether any consultation occurred with any stakeholder groups on the changes between last year's bill and this. Specifically, I am interested in any discussions that may have been held with the union about the changes in their role and also with the two principals' associations on general changes that have been made to the governing councils, the role of the union and also the religious activities from instruction to activities.

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: There were a couple of questions in there, so if I miss any of the specifics, then I am happy to come back to them. The first point I would make is that the bodies the member has asked about were all consulted prior to the amendments being drafted last year when I was the shadow minister prior to their first public ventilation, if you like. Of course, they were amendments that were moved by the then opposition.

It was our commitment in many public fora before the election that we would be reintroducing the bill, and I indicated in a number of those speeches at events that the member for Port Adelaide and I enjoyed attending during the election period that we would be introducing the bill with such amendments. So the opportunity for people to be aware that the opposition would be reintroducing this bill in the amended form as identified was very clear before the election and the election itself is of course the ultimate form of consultation.

The member specifically asks about the period since the election—or that was what I took from the question—particularly in relation to certain organisations. I can indicate to the member that the Australian Education Union and representatives and I have met on several occasions since the election and we have discussed this matter. I think it would be fair to characterise their position as being against the changes having been made and I think that is a point they have made publicly and in emails to their members and in emails to members of the government. That is a difference of opinion that we have agreed that we will have. It is a principled difference of opinion. The AEU believes they should have a privileged position in the act on these positions and the government does not share that view, and we can have a vote on those amendments later if the member would like.

In relation to the principals' organisations, I have certainly met with SASPA and SAPPA, which I assume are the two that the member was referring to when she identified two. I have certainly advised them either in those meetings or when I have met them at events, and I have spoken at both of their conferences recently and met with their presidents at different times. We have certainly advised them that the bill was coming back, and it would not have been any surprise to them that the government was amending it in the way proposed. I believe that we further indicated to the stakeholder groups when the bill was reintroduced, letting them know the form the bill was taking, but I will double-check on that.

At the very least, certainly, we have promoted publicly that the bill was being reintroduced. Prior to the bill's reintroduction, I do not know that there was any specific consultation between the election and the bill's reintroduction on the form in which the specific clause is taken. The reason is as I have outlined: that they were exactly in the form that the Liberal Party committed to reintroducing the bill prior to the election, so we were delivering on an election commitment, and of course the election is the ultimate form of consultation.

Clause passed.

Clauses 2 to 6 passed.

Clause 7.

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: I move:

Amendment No 1 [Education–1]—

Page 14, line 26 [clause 7(4)(e)]—After 'involvement of' insert 'children, students,'

Amendment No 2 [Education–1]—

Page 14, line 29 [clause 7(4)(f)]—Before 'stakeholders' insert 'children, students,'

Dr CLOSE: I would like the minister to place on record the reasons for the amendments.

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: I am very happy to. Clause 7 is in relation to the objects and principles of the act. We are talking about subclause (4), which provides:

(4) The following principles must be taken into account in relation to the operation, administration and enforcement of the act:

Paragraph (e) currently provides:

(e) the involvement of parents, persons other than parents who are responsible for children and other members of the community in relation to the education and development of children and students should be promoted;

The Commissioner for Children and Young People suggested to the government that it would be useful to be explicit that the involvement of children and students should be identified specifically. The government took the view that that was a reasonable suggestion.

Of course, the member for Elder, in her speech that we had the opportunity to hear immediately prior to resuming debate on the education bill, I think argued this point extremely well, although she was talking about another matter, when she said that the voice of children and young people, when it is heard within families, when it is heard within school environments and when it is heard within communities leads to better outcomes for those children and young people.

Last Friday, I was at Stradbroke primary school—or Stradbroke School, as the former government had us rename it when they forced them to merge with Stradbroke junior primary school—and I was talking to the combined year 5 students at Stradbroke School for half an hour. It was an absolutely delightful session. They were kind enough to paint a picture of me, which they presented to me and now forms my Facebook profile picture.

The CHAIR: Flattering, I am sure, minister.

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: People are welcome to have a look. The Stradbroke students spoke to me for half an hour, raising a number of questions, and one of their questions was, 'When you were at school, did you have student voice?' Of course, when I was at school—as the member for Lee would remember—we did not really have student voice. It was not that long ago; it was only about 50 or 70 years ago. We did not have student voice.

We had an innovation in my last year at school where it was not just teachers who chose prefects but the student body got a vote in that, and it was weighted 3:1 in favour of the teachers. That was a reasonably new innovation at that time. Student voice is important and it is something that has not always been taken that seriously. It is taken seriously now, so having student voice specifically referenced in the objects of a bill such as this is relevant. The other amendment is to subclause (4)(f), which currently provides:

(4) The following principles must be taken into account in relation to the operation, administration and enforcement of this Act…

(f) stakeholders and communities should be consulted in respect of decisions 30 under this Act that may affect them;

'Stakeholders and communities' does include children and students, yet when the children's commissioner suggested that children and students should be explicitly identified here for the same reason as in with (e) the government took the view that, yes, that was a wise a suggestion and a suggestion that we have taken. I therefore commend the amendments to the house.

Amendments carried; clause as amended passed.

Clauses 8 to 13 passed.

Clause 14.

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: I move:

Amendment No 3 [Education–1]—

Page 19, after line 4 [clause 14(6)]—After paragraph (b) insert:

(ba) is reasonably required to lessen or prevent a serious threat to the life, health or safety of a child or other persons; or

This deals with the section of the clause that deals with:

A person or body who receives information or documents under this section must not (unless the information or documents are otherwise provided to a person or body to which this section applies under this section) disclose or communicate the information or documents to another person or body except where the disclosure or communication—

Then it goes on with some subclauses and they are, indeed, the exceptions. The Crown Solicitor's Office has pointed out that it would be useful here to have an exception in a case where the disclosure is reasonably required to lessen or prevent a serious threat to the life, health or safety of a child or other persons, so we thought we would add that, at the suggestion of the Crown Solicitor, as I described earlier.

Amendment carried.

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: I move:

Amendment No 4 [Education–1]—

Page 19, after line 5 [clause 14(6)]—After paragraph (c) insert:

(ca) is required or authorised by an order of a court or tribunal; or

This amendment describes, as described previously, an increase to the disclosure subcategories in the circumstance where the disclosure is required or authorised by an order of a court or tribunal. This was suggested by the Crown Solicitor's Office. We thought this was a sensible suggestion. Effectively, what these amendments are doing is ensuring that the existing practice and policy that has been in place I think for a couple of years—I am sure the member for Enfield will advise me if I am wrong—continues and is consistent and is not confused by the operation of the new act.

Amendment carried.

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: I move:

Amendment No 5 [Education–1]—

Page 19, lines 6 and 7 [clause 14(6)(d)]—Delete paragraph (d) and substitute:

(d) is with the consent of—

(i) in the case of information or documents that relate to a child—a person responsible for the child to whom it relates; or

(ii) in any other case—the person to whom the information or documents relate; or

This adds further along the same theme, but we have in fact a deletion and an increase. We are deleting paragraph (d) which is 'with the consent of a person responsible for the child to whom the information relates', and we are replacing it with a new and improved paragraph (d), which states with the consent of either (d)(i), 'in the case of information or documents that relate to a child—a person responsible for the child to whom it relates', or (ii) 'in any other case—the person to whom the information or documents relate'. I commend the amendment to the house.

Amendment carried.

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: I move:

Amendment No 6 [Education–1]—

Page 19, after line 16 [clause 14(7)]—After line 16 insert:

unless—

(c) it relates to the health, safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or class of children; or

(d) it is in circumstances or for a purpose prescribed by the regulations.

Amendment No. 6 amends clause 14(7) to permit information disclosed under the clause to be used for a purpose other than the purpose for which it was disclosed where that secondary purpose relates to the health, safety, the welfare or indeed the wellbeing of a child or a class of children.

The amendment also provides for regulations to be made to prescribe additional circumstances under which the information may be used for a purpose other than that for which it was disclosed. I should say that this series of amendments ensures clarity, as I said before, but also ensures consistency with other government policies such as the Information Privacy Principles Instruction and the Information Sharing Guidelines. Take those comments as read for the past four amendments and the next bunch as well.

Amendment carried; clause as amended passed.

Clauses 15 to 19 passed.

Clause 20.

Dr CLOSE: I am operating from a version that contrasts the bill that I brought in with the current one. I appreciate that the minister may or may not have access to that kind of version. This clause relates to the composition of governing councils of stand-alone preschools and children's centres. I think there is a mirrored alteration for schools later on. I appreciate that there is different wording, but I am unable to see what the different import is. Could the minister explain the intent of this clause and, if possible—and I appreciate that it may be an unreasonable question—explain how it differs from what had been brought forward in the previous version?

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: I thank the member for the question. My officer, who is sitting with me, is extremely well prepared, as are my staff, who enabled us to have a copy of the old bill also, so we may be able to deal with some of these things here in the chamber rather than taking too much on notice.

The short answer is that the member would be very familiar with amendments that we moved last year and have incorporated into this bill this year in relation to school governing councils. Last year, the preschool governing council clauses mirrored the previous government's version of the school governing councils. Similarly, we have updated the preschool governing council clauses here to mirror the changes that we have spoken about in debate and in amendments last year with the school governing councils.

Last year, I do not believe that we moved amendments to the nature of preschool governing councils. We focused on talking about school governing councils. Obviously, the changes to school governing councils were well ventilated, but part of the purpose of the bill is to bring consistency in the application for preschools and schools, so it seemed very sensible to update the issues with the preschool governing councils as well.

Dr CLOSE: Nonetheless, I can see that the previous version and this version deal with the challenge that besets a preschool—or children's centre governing council in this case, but later it will be the school council—when there is no-one who wants to be the presiding member or there are not enough people who want to be on it. The only change that I can see of significance is that it seems that the minister must conduct at least one supplementary election, instead of just one. Is there a particular reason why conducting two, three or four is seen to be an appropriate use of resources? This refers, for instance, to 20(4)(a) in the new bill.

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: The 2017 bill said that the minister may, at the minister's discretion, conduct a supplementary election. The 2018 bill says that, in these circumstances where there are not enough people or whatever it might be, the minister must conduct at least one supplementary election. This is reflective of the point of principal difference that we were arguing about last year. Potentially, the member may or may not argue that it is more relevant in the case of a school. It is up to her.

In the Liberal Party, we felt that it was critical that governing council bodies gave every opportunity for parents to be the voice on the governing council, in addition to staff who were working there, and that parents were preferably filling those positions made available for parents. Sometimes, people cannot make it to a meeting to be there to volunteer and we felt that it was reasonable that they be given at least one opportunity to do so.

The previous version of the bill said that the minister 'might' conduct a supplementary election. We believe that it was important to say that the minister 'must' conduct a supplementary election. In relation to 'at least one', I would not imagine that there would be too many occasions when there would be more than one, but I also did not see any reason why that opportunity to have more than one should be declined.

I did not think that we should limit it to just one necessarily in the circumstance where somebody might potentially want to have a second go at having a supplementary election. An example might be if the chair had an indication from somebody. Having had the AGM and having had a supplementary election, there might later be a parent who indicates, 'Yes, I would have a crack at that, too.'

Dr CLOSE: I will ask this in this section, but it is just as relevant for the other one. It just means that we only have to do it once. So, with your forbearance in the way in which you answer, has the minister had any discussions since the election with the two principals' associations and the Preschool Directors Association about whether they are comfortable with this specific change that slightly alters the way in which they would have to manage their governing councils in the event that there is no-one willing to be a presiding member?

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: I met with the Preschool Directors Association. I do not recall this being a topic of conversation, other than that I am fairly sure it was raised with them. The bill had either just been or was about to be reintroduced to the house, and we have not had an in-depth discussion about it.

In relation to SASPA and SAPPA, meetings have taken place. I have spoken to people informally as well, but not in relation to the detail of this measure of the bill. Obviously, the member has asked about it in relation to this clause and also the later clause, which is more relevant to schools. Clearly, the change in the schools clause was moved before the last election, when we last discussed the previous version of this bill in the House of Assembly.

The election period provided many opportunities for people to reflect on this. I note that there were organisations, and certainly the parents' group SAASSO were very enthusiastic about ensuring that parents had the opportunity to continue in their position on governing councils. There are certain other amendments that we moved last year that they were very encouraging of. In relation to ensuring that parents have every opportunity to participate in governing councils, that is the position that the Liberal Party unapologetically supports.

Clause passed.

Clauses 21 to 26 passed.

Clause 27.

Dr CLOSE: As I understand this—and, again, I believe we are still in the world of early childhood but identical changes are made at school level—the title for division 4, which is the heading going into clause 27, had been 'The direction, suspension and dissolving of governing councils' and it is now simply 'Removal of members of governing councils'. Can I clarify that this will mean, should this become law, that it will be impossible for the minister to dissolve a governing council? It is a question: will it be the case, if this goes through, that all that can be done is that individual members are removed but not that a governing council itself for any reason could be dissolved?

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: Again, I will answer the question in relation to its application in both preschools and in schools. It is notable that there is much less in the existing legislation to do with the Children's Services Act than there is in the existing Education Act in relation to the governance arrangements for preschools. One of the virtues of the bill, as it was last year and indeed this year, is to modernise governance of those preschools. Again, this is one that is reflective of the intent of the similar change in relation to school governing councils, and that is why it reflects.

The former government moved a bill that talked about being able to dissolve governing councils, and the Liberal opposition as we were then, and the government as we are now, moved amendments last year, committed in the election and introduced into this bill a version that is more similar to the current arrangements, as I understand it, where you can remove somebody if there is misconduct for failure or incapacity to carry out duties or for any other reasonable cause, and that can be done in relation to an individual member of the governing council.

That was the position which we argued previously and to which we have moved amendments, and that is now the proposition in the bill.

Dr CLOSE: So, predictably, given the pattern of my questions to date, has the minister had specific conversations with SAPPA, SASPA and the Preschool Directors Association on whether they are happy to not be able to have a dissolution mechanism within the legislation?

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: I do not wish to be glib, and I am not intending any reflection on the question, but perhaps the easiest thing is to say that the answer to the previous similar question could word for word I think be reflected here. There have been general discussions but not the specific.

Clause passed.

Clauses 28 to 45 passed.

Clause 46.

Dr CLOSE: The minister talked, I think in the opening address and certainly in his closing second reading speech, about the different construction of the governing council's legal fund. I have no objection to its being constructed this way. It had a version previously. My question is: has there been any evidence that the minister has come across that it is necessary that this construction take place, that there was some deficiency in the actual operation of the previous model, as opposed to an in-principled view and, with that, a question of whether there had been Crown advice that this was a preferable model?

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: Sorry, can I clarify the question. You are asking about this model as opposed to the model proposed in amendments last year, or this model as opposed to the, what I would call, theoretical fund that was operating under the previous government? The second version?