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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 2012


Mr RUDDOCK (Attorney-General) (9:43 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The government is concerned about the fact that boys' education outcomes are below girls' education outcomes in Australia, and is committed to achieving the best education outcomes for male and female students in schools throughout Australia.

I introduced a Sex Discrimination Amendment (Teaching Profession) Bill 2004 into the parliament on 10 March 2004 for that very reason.

The purpose of that bill was to help address the increasing imbalance of men and women in teaching, and in particular, the effect of that imbalance on education outcomes for boys in schools.

A House of Representatives inquiry report on the education of boys in June 2003, Boys—getting it right, identified the need to address the imbalance in the number of male and female teachers in schools in order to achieve the best education outcomes for boys in schools.

The figures show a significant imbalance in the number of male and female teachers in schools in Australia.

Only 20.9 percent of primary school teachers in Australia are men.

In 2003, male teachers constituted 24 per cent of the 55,577 domestic students enrolled in initial teaching courses in Australia.

Males were only 18.8 per cent of students training to become primary school teachers.

A mere 3.6 per cent of the 7,115 students training to become early childhood teachers in Australia were men.

The purpose of the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Teaching Profession) Bill 2004 was to amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to provide that a person may offer scholarships for persons of a particular gender in respect of participation in a teaching course.

Regrettably, the Senate rejected the bill on 25 June 2004.

Today, I introduce the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Teaching Profession) Bill (No. 2) 2004, which is identical in purpose.

The bill will amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to provide that a person may offer scholarships for a person of particular gender in respect of participation in a teaching course.

The section would apply only if the purpose of doing so is to redress a gender imbalance in teaching—that is, an imbalance in the ratio of male to female teachers in schools in Australia or in a category of schools or in a particular school.

The bill means that educational authorities and others can offer scholarships to encourage male teachers into the profession in a manner consistent with the Sex Discrimination Act 1984.

The bill is drafted in gender-neutral language, which means that the amendments would allow discrimination in favour of females if a gender imbalance in favour of males were to emerge generally or in a region or sector.

The bill complements the government's other major strategies for addressing the particular challenge of increasing educational outcomes for boys. For example, boys' education is a priority area for the $159.2 million in the Australian Government Quality Teacher Program. This includes $6 million committed to the Boys' Education Lighthouse Schools Program to identify best practice in boys' education, with a further $500,000 committed to research.

I know that all sides of politics will agree that students will benefit from both male and female teachers and role models in their schools. Hopefully, that will encourage them on this occasion to support the bill.

I commend the bill to the House and I table the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Cox) adjourned.