Latham Inquiry makes a mockery of the committee process

NSWCCL condemns the report of the NSW Legislative Council inquiry into Mark Latham and One Nation’s so-called ‘Parental Rights’ Bill (the Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020) released on the 7th of September. NSWCCL made a submission and gave oral evidence to the inquiry. 

At the time, we said “NSWCCL considers that the Bill should not be passed. Not a single aspect of the Bill improves upon the law as it currently stands in NSW. Moreover, the Bill is an appalling contribution to public debate and education policy in this State.… The Bill:

  1. is plainly bigoted, discriminatory and cruel;
  2. is likely unconstitutional;
  3. is injurious to fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression;
  4. would harm education in NSW;
  5. is unnecessary; and
  6. violates the principle of coherence.

This is a remarkable combination of defects. Residents of NSW deserve better from their lawmakers.”

It appears that the majority report has totally failed to genuinely engage with the substantive criticisms of the Bill by NSWCCL and others. 

NSWCCL also agrees wholeheartedly with David Shoebridge MLC that this inquiry “made a mockery of the committee system in the NSW Parliament”. This assertion can be easily justified by reference to only some of the following:

  • Mr. Latham chaired the inquiry into his own Bill, creating a reasonable apprehension of bias which turned out to be well-deserved;
  • Mr. Latham engaged in political stunts and at times bizarre commentary outside of his sphere of expertise throughout the hearings which demonstrated a lack of impartiality;
  • Witnesses were not accorded proper respect when giving evidence;
  • Initially, only certain invited organisations were allowed to make submissions, though this was later changed (perhaps not without some discouraging effect on would-be submitters);
  • The survey questions appeared to be slanted towards answers which reflected favourably on the Bill; 
  • The majority report does not fairly represent the views of those who made submissions to the inquiry, the overwhelming majority of whom were opposed to the Bill;
  • Inquiry participants were selectively chosen to give evidence in a manner that appeared calculated to give an impression that stakeholder views were in support of the Bill. For example, the Parents and Citizens Association, the peak body representing parents in public schools, was not accommodated in order for it to give evidence to the inquiry – it was opposed to the Bill. The major church and religious groups against the Bill were not invited to give evidence; and
  • There was only one transgender witness and the views of transgender people seem to have been mostly ignored.

NSWCCL encourages readers to skip the majority report and go straight to the dissenting reports of Anthony D’Adam MLC and David Shoebridge MLC.

Unfortunately, the report’s recommendations were entirely predictable when approaching the inquiry with an eye on political expediency. Knowing that the prohibition on the teaching of gender fluidity and attendant amendments were too extreme to achieve passage through Parliament, it seems the Bill’s proponents have found a way to achieve support for the less overtly authoritarian and cruel components of the Bill, namely the so-called ‘parental primacy’ provisions. But make no mistake: if passed, these provisions will be profoundly damaging to the NSW education system, not least because they are fundamentally unworkable. 

And NSWCCL notes that instead of acquiescing to the persecution of gender diverse children through legislative reform, the committee did so by recommending changes to government policy, namely changes to the NSW Government update Bulletin 55: Transgender Students in Schools

To gender diverse people, we want to emphasise that NSWCCL will stand with you against this remarkably ugly Bill and those which may follow it. In relation to this Bill, the real fight begins now. NSWCCL encourages members to write to their MPs and help defeat this Bill. 

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