Date:THURSDAY, 18 June 1998
Member:Barnett, Mr Colin
Anwyl, Ms Megan
Ripper, Mr Eric
Page:4313 / 1

Mr BARNETT: I do not support corporal punishment in schools, either as an individual or as Education Minister, and neither does the Government support it; and it will not be reintroduced. Regulation 32 put in place in 1960 provides that discipline enforced in schools shall be mild but firm and any degrading or injurious punishment shall be avoided. In 1987 corporal punishment was expressly forbidden in government schools.

Mr Ripper: By administrative order, rather than regulation?

Mr BARNETT: Under a regulation by administrative action it has been forbidden since 1987. As the member for Swan Hills queried, why are we legislating against something that is not practised? Many things are not practised in schools and we do not regulate or pass legislation to prohibit them. I am sure most males got the cuts at some stage along the way for which they showed a sense of bravado and it did not do them any harm. We all recognise that corporal punishment, irrespective of whether it did harm, is a bygone era. Should the cane be used we can imagine the outcry from parents. Although there might be a sense of bravado it would be acceptable to neither the parents concerned nor the student population. It is not sought by teachers or school administrators. The Opposition has accused the Government of provoking debate on similar issues. Why is the Opposition provoking debate on corporal punishment? It has not applied in schools for many years and will not apply in the future. The amendment to prohibit corporal punishment applies to that part of the School Education Bill relating to government schools. If we have a strong moral or ethical position why not propose to ban corporal punishment in all schools?

Mr Ripper: Are you?

Mr BARNETT: No. The member for Belmont's amendment seeks to ban corporal punishment by legislation in government schools but to leave non-government schools untouched. That is discriminatory and unacceptable. A limited number of perhaps fundamentalist Christian schools maintain some elements of corporal punishment; almost all non-government schools do not. Principals of most private boys schools have said that in no way would they introduce corporal punishment. Seeking to ban corporal punishment specifically in government schools but remaining silent about non-government schools is hypocritical. This issue has been handled by regulation. It is not necessary to have the ban in the Bill. We will develop a regulation to replace regulation 32. I do not have the wording now but it will be far stronger and it will prohibit corporal punishment in government schools over which the government has direct jurisdiction. We are not about to legislate in this way for non-government schools which, although it may be inappropriate, may still use some elements of corporal punishment.

Ms ANWYL: I note the member for Joondalup left the Chamber but he raised the issue of the Criminal Code. I listened with some sense of satisfaction I suppose to the comments of the Minister for Education because it is important he make his position known. I accept his position on this issue. Unfortunately some parts of the community would like to see corporal punishment reintroduced into schools as a matter of course. According to my recollection of the summaries of the One Nation Party policy, mention is made of corporal punishment being reintroduced.

In my capacity as Labor spokesman for Family and Children's Services I have heard comment that there should be no government interference in the disciplining of children, not only among parents but also in schools. If we examine the Minister's comments in an objective sense where he says it is not an issue in our current society, the trouble is that section 257 of the Criminal Code refers to it being lawful for a schoolmaster or master - I am not sure where that leaves female principals, but this is the language we have in our laws - to use by way of correction towards a pupil, child or apprentice under his care such force as is reasonable under the circumstances. I accept this may not be occurring and in my time as a member of Parliament I have not had a complaint from a child about the issue. However, it is important to know that the Government's position could be contained in the Act. This debate is whether that should be by way of regulation or by way of the Act. Some segments of our society believe children should be punished in a physical way as a matter of course. I am not sure whether they think that is good for the soul or goodness knows what. Perhaps they think it will help young people find jobs. It is part of the simplistic way of disciplining young people for antisocial behaviour we see in the media from time to time.

I support the comments made by the member for Belmont. It is significant that this issue be covered in the main legislation.

Mr RIPPER: The Minister responded to my amendment with some welcome remarks on the one hand and unwelcome remarks on the other hand. He is opposed to corporal punishment and does not see it having a place in government schools and he assures us that a regulation will implement that policy position.

Mr Barnett: Stronger regulation.

Mr RIPPER: I welcome that assurance. His unwelcome remarks are those in which he accuses the Opposition of being hypocritical because it has moved this amendment in relation to government schools and is silent on the issue in relation to non-government schools. The Minister's position is the same. He is proposing to outlaw corporal