The law, which applies to those working with children in detention centers, could see teachers, doctors, nurses face up to two years in gaol for speaking up for the students in their care.
The IEU, which represents 33,000 teachers in NSW and ACT, said that through the law the Abbott Government is “impinging on civil liberties and human rights and indeed, the rule of law itself”.
“From today, teachers face two years gaol if they as much as express concern or speak up about students they are teaching in detention centers,” IEU general secretary, John Quessy, said in a statement.
The Border Force Act Section 42 makes it an offence for an “entrusted person” to “make a record of, or disclose” protected information, an offence which is punishable by up to two years in gaol”.
There is a legal requirement in NSW under the Ombudsman Act 1974 and the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 for teachers to report suspected risks to children in certain circumstances, and they may face penalties for non-compliance.
“Has the government learned nothing from the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse? Would the Prime Minister be happy to accept that those caring for his children were fearful of speaking out about suspected abuse? A consequence of these laws, perhaps unintended, is that abusers will be protected and not exposed,” Quessy said.
“We also condemn the continuing practice of children being kept in detention centers, the denial of rights to asylum as provided for under international covenants and attempts to silence the Human Rights Commission.
“The Abbott Government’s laws and policies foster a climate of fear and intolerance, threaten democratic processes and basic human rights,” said Quessy.
“Basically what the Federal Government is doing with the introduction of this law today is punishing teachers for standing up for their students, whose classrooms happen to be in a detention centers.
“The IEU will continue to inform our 33,000 members throughout NSW and ACT to oppose this law and its intentions. We will join with other teacher organisations and unions across Australia to oppose and expose this government’s sinister Act.”