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Of truants and sweet drinks

By johnboy - 15 September 2010 29

In the Canberra Times the Liberals’ Vicki Dunne has a wonderfully self serving argument that the Human Rights Commissioner disagreeing with Vicki Dunne is proof of a dysfunctional human rights system.

But there’s a broader epic unfolding here.

It began on 7 September when Lanyon High School principal Bill Thompson got his picture in the paper with his campaign to get local shops to stop serving the students of his school who’ve chosen to not attend.

Bill went so far as to indirectly threaten the shops with a parental boycott if they didn’t play ball.

Then on 10 September it appeared that Kingsley’s Chicken had decided they had more to gain by serving the kids than losing parental money.

This was sold as a high moral stand:

School-wagging pupils have ”a right” to be served, says Kingsley Varr, owner of Kingsley’s Chicken.

He says a sweet drink might save a student’s life, even if they are cutting class.

This lead the Human Rights Commission to note that it’s not up to shop owners to discriminate just to make a school principle happy:

In a letter to The Canberra Times, Dr Watchirs and Mr Roy wrote that they supported the decision of the fried chicken outlet to serve children in school uniform.

”We support the action of Kingsley’s Chicken in resisting calls to refuse service to children during school hours, as to not serve school students raises issues of discrimination and human rights, and, as the retailer correctly identified, may actually be unlawful,” Mr Roy and Dr Watchirs wrote.

”The ACT Discrimination Act 1991 makes it unlawful for a provider of goods and services to refuse service based on a number of attributes, such as age, and any retailer considering refusing service should be mindful of these obligations.”

Which is where Vicki Dunne comes in arguing that human rights should be thrown out the window if they’re getting in the way of an anti-truancy drive:

Ms Dunne said the commissioners’ comments showed the human rights system was dysfunctional, ideologically driven and lacking in common sense.

Or maybe we could try running a school the kids want to go to?

UPDATE: VIcki’s media release is now online:

This is yet another example where this legislation is being applied for all the wrong reasons, in all the wrong ways and in all the wrong places,” Mrs Dunne said. “Jon Stanhope has created a human rights system where ideology trumps practicality.

“It’s extraordinary that the resources of the Human Rights Commissioner are going into making comments about a principal’s idea to limit truancy at his school, yet we are being told the Commissioner doesn’t have the resources to make a detailed inspection of the correctional facilities in the ACT to investigate assaults that have occurred.

This also comes after the Human Rights Commissioner issued a nine page report into the human rights implications of the recent shopping trolley legislation.

Shops should

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29 Responses to
Of truants and sweet drinks
PM 2:43 pm 15 Sep 10

The ACT Human Rights Act is severely flawed. For example:

1. It doesn’t include all aspects of the Universal Delcaration of Human Rights, such as the right to property. This means certain rights are automatically afforded greater prominance than others, ergo there’s potentially a lack of balance in the outcomes.

2. In practical terms, the commission is a waste of money as it has little actual power (except to make noise). The statements tabled in the Legislative Assembly with Bills are simply rubber stamps for the Minister to effectively say “Don’t blame, I already checked it with the Commissioner and they said the whole proposal was cool”. It is a further decentralisation of accountability.

3. As a democracy, we should determine the balance of rights, values, etc (either via the Legislative Assembly or without government intervention), not delegating that role to bureaucrats.

When Kingsley’s acts one way or another, the community will decide whether to eat there or not. Common sense will prevail. We don’t need the intervention of the Commissioner, who should be sacked (I hope that’s not contrary to the Commissioner’s human right to sit around and grow a fat arse).

Jim Jones 2:30 pm 15 Sep 10

Aurelius said :

Since when it is a shopkeeper’s role to police truancy?


Stopping truant kids from having access to fried chicken is going to have precisely f$ck-all impact on truancy rates anyway.

lindt 2:24 pm 15 Sep 10

That’s an issue for parents, not for shop keepers. Shop keepers have absolutely no obligation to parent your children!

Thumper 2:14 pm 15 Sep 10

Let them eat Kingsleys, after all, school is over rated.

JessP 2:09 pm 15 Sep 10

Kids need to be in school. If banning them from buying Kingsleys (or Macca’s or going to any other shop) in school hours helps, then so be it. They should also be banned from the major malls.

PickedANickname 1:38 pm 15 Sep 10

I have never liked Kingsleys but now I really don’t like them. Business owners deserve to make a living but not if the business model is based on serving truant children. I would love it if the whole community boycotted them for their stance on capitalising on the situation where waggers are going to be refused service everywhere else.

However it would make it easy for truancy officers to catch students in the act. Well if the there was an active truancy program.

Australia in general is not serious about truancy and all those parents who call in about school not be engaging are the problem. School is about a million times more engaging than I went to school. Nothing I hate more than parents who keep kids home, usually in early primary, to fill their emotional needs (or laziness about getting the tots off to school. Down the track, those are the kids that wag school.

p1 1:17 pm 15 Sep 10

“Ms Dunne said the commissioners’ comments showed the human rights system was dysfunctional, ideologically driven and lacking in common sense.”

Without agreeing or not with Vicky’s overall statement, I would like to comment on this bit.

Of course it is ideologically driven. It is based on the premise that all humans deserve a certain equal and minimal treatment. That is an ideology.

And what is common sense? Common sense would suggest that after year six (as soon as kids have the basic skills to function in society) they be put to work in the mines and factories to make money so I can own a private jet.

I suggest she should look at the way human rights are defined, the focus on the rights of the individual vrs the rights of society as a group, and where any changes to the current system could lead.

Aurelius 1:16 pm 15 Sep 10

Since when it is a shopkeeper’s role to police truancy?

housebound 12:35 pm 15 Sep 10

I read that letter from Watchirs to the CT editor, and have to agree with some of what Dunne says (and a few responses in today’s CT letters page). Watchirs is basically putting the kids’ right to shop above any legal requirement for them to actually be in school. Time for Barr to step in and show he is serious about his ‘learn or earn’ program now.

BimboGeek 12:12 pm 15 Sep 10

Child rights are more complex than just deserving equal treatment. For example it’s illegal to serve a child who wishes to purchase alcohol or tobacco, two products that are readily available to adults. If I had my way it would be illegal to serve them Kingsleys too.

Wagging school to go to Kingsleys is the worst possible outcome. I remember from my own childhood that sometimes kids need a day or a lesson off and at 14-16 I used to go down to the house of the lady who had been my nanny when I was 4 and have croissants and tea! It would suck if the juice and salad bar refused to serve them leaving them with no choice but Kingsleys for their snack.

Woody Mann-Caruso 12:02 pm 15 Sep 10

Works in Ntaria, NT. Kids not at school? The community stores close until parents get the kids to class.

Waiting For Godot 11:59 am 15 Sep 10

Prior to the redevelopment of Woden Plaza in the late 1990s there was an area called Farmers Market where the food court is now. Coming off that area was a shop called Timezone with pinball machines and other coin-operated amusements. You had to walk through that shop in order to exit that part of the Plaza and it was usually full of schoolkids. After a while the management had to put signs up saying that schoolchildren were not permitted in the shop during school hours. I don’t recall any song and dance about “discrimination” or “childrens’ rights” back then.

cranky 11:59 am 15 Sep 10

I have to admit Ms Dunne has a couple of good points there.

Grail 10:25 am 15 Sep 10

It’s not a matter of running schools the kids want to go to (slippery slope argument -> circuses and ponies) as much as policing truancy and finding ways to motivate kids to want to improve their lot in life.

If kids just go to mum and dad and get their mobile phone recharge any time they want, where’s the motivation for them to get off their lazy arses and get an education or start a business?

Clown Killer 10:13 am 15 Sep 10

In many of the regional areas of WA that I have been to it is a widely adhered to policy that school age children will not be served in shops that have elected to voluntarily participate in a program designed to help kids make the right choice about attending school.

It’s a widely supported program with businesses that have decided not to participate being in the minority – although some may not have a choice, when they are located in a shopping centre and the centre management have decided that school aged kids will not be allowed in during school hours.

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