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Speech: Teachers Registration & Standards Bill Support

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:31): I rise on behalf of the Greens to indicate our general support for the Teachers Registration and Standards (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2020. This bill modifies the size and the composition of the Teachers Registration Board. It expands its functions and supports the implementation of relevant recommendations from the national reviews that have been related to teacher registration, as well as improving oversight of persons granted those special authorities to teach. Indeed, it is not just an essential profession but one where our best and brightest should be.

The bill also addresses various other technical and operational issues. It provides the following functions for the board and codifies some existing activities that are undertaken by the board: it will accredit initial teacher education programs, undertake or support reviews of research and data collection, develop and maintain a code of conduct for registered teachers, and recognise quality teaching and leadership in the teaching profession.

The bill amends the act to provide that the welfare and best interests of children are the paramount consideration in relation to the operation, administration and enforcement of this act. This certainly reflects the developments of recent years and the current standards expected, not only by the community but, in a welcome way, by this parliament.

The bill clarifies current arrangements for the employment of staff on the board. It also extends the term of registration from three years to five years and provides an option for the annual payment of fees for registration for the longer period. It improves the oversight of persons who are granted a special authority to teach. It increases powers to deal with unprofessional conduct, incompetence, incapacity and issues of fitness and propriety.

I think those are probably the areas where we most understand there is a real need for registration boards such as this. Certainly, industries where we put either vulnerable or young people in the hands of professionals should be regulated through these registration schemes. I am going to say that I hope we will shortly be reporting back on the social work registration bill that I previously moved in this place, which has been the subject of a joint committee of the houses.

I note that in the other place the Labor opposition moved some amendments that were accepted but also others that were not. When this bill was introduced in the other place, it had removed any requirement for practising teachers to be members of the board, and successful amendments from the opposition changed this. The Greens welcome that, and we indicate our strong support for that position.

I also note that amendments that did not find favour in the other place will be reintroduced by the Labor opposition, and these include a requirement to consult and receive submissions from unions and other key stakeholders when adopting a code of conduct or professional standard. I note that both the Labor opposition and the Hon. Connie Bonaros from SA-Best have amendments with regard to the composition of the board and related matters, which have been filed.

The Greens support the bill in a general way, and we welcome the debate on the detail of who is on the board. We note that in the past, where the Liberal then opposition and now government has made attempts to diminish the role of unions in these sorts of boards, the Greens have always stood strong in the face of that attack on what is a voice of advocacy, a voice of membership and a voice of a profession. The AEU and the IEU have made strong submissions not only to the Greens and other members of this parliament but to their own members and to the community, and I think they have extraordinary support within the community, based particularly on their fine history of representation and advocacy for their membership.

Individuals do not have the corporate memory or the collegiate advocacy that a union in its representation brings to these discussions. Stakeholders are many and varied, but to continue ideological attacks on unions will not be tolerated by the Greens in this parliament whenever and wherever a Marshall Liberal government puts them up.

I thank Jane Lomax-Smith for her briefing in late May. She was ably assisted by Cheryl Bauer and Joanna Blake from the Department for Education. We will be engaging in the debate on those amendments foreshadowed, but I indicate that we have strong support for the Labor opposition amendments to this bill to ensure that that advocacy role for teachers is kept as strong as possible, and that we respect the voices of unions in representing their members and in forwarding the noble profession of teaching.

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