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School Requirements Bill needs rethink

The Australian Greens today called on the Government to withdraw the School Requirements Bill, saying that it is poor legislation, lacks an evidence base and contradicts the Governments social inclusion agenda.

"The Greens today tabled a dissenting report in the Senate following the Community Affairs Committee inquiry into the Bill. Evidence to the Committee was overwhelmingly opposed to this punitive approach to school attendance. There is simply no evidence to support this approach," said Senator Siewert.

"This Bill gives Centrelink the power to suspend income support payments for up to 13 weeks or more and even cancel those payments if one of their children is playing truant based on a referral from their school. This is outrageous."

"While the Government has said these measures will only apply to the 8 trial sites and has promised they will be only used as a ‘last resort' there are no such restrictions in the legislation, which will apply immediately to all families on income support across Australia once passed," said Senator Siewert.

"It is a Government responsibility to ensure that the services and support families with children in crisis need - such as family support services, parenting programs, and mental health, drug and alcohol services - are available. Instead of punishing families in trouble the Government should be increasing these types of support services and helping schools work with kids to increase their engagement with school."

"There was a great deal of evidence outlining the causes of non attendance at school and it is these causes that need to be addressed by Government. What is needed is an incentives based approach that aims to support families in need, not making life increasingly more difficult."

"How Julia Gillard, as the Minister for Education and the Minister for Social Inclusion, can juxtapose those two particular parts of her portfolio is beyond me," said Senator Siewert.

"I'm simply horrified that a Labor Government thinks this is a satisfactory way of dealing with this complex issue," she concluded.

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