COALITION party backbencher George Christensen has come under fire for likening the Safe Schools program to paedophile grooming, prompting calls for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to act.
The Dawson federal Liberal-National MP argued in parliament yesterday that Safe School’s website links to a number of websites that allegedly include adult-only and/or erotic material, the program’s initiative was a ploy to “recruit” children into being gay and was comparable with child grooming.
@GChristensenMP That’s the entire internet dipshit.
— Brendan Maclean (@macleanbrendan) February 25, 2016
A number of community leaders have since publicly criticised Christensen for his comments on the anti-bullying and LGBTI inclusion program for schools, including South Australian Senator and the Green’s sexuality spokesperson Robert Simms.
“To compare a program that’s about helping young people to ‘grooming’ is utterly reprehensible. It’s profoundly offensive and deeply hurtful,” he said.
“The Prime Minister should condemn this homophobia, rather than indulging it through this senseless investigation into safe schools.”
Christensen’s comments comes just days after South Australian Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi gained almost 10,000 signatures that opposed the Safe Schools program, which then led to the PM announcing an inquiry into it on Tuesday.
“I’m concerned this kind of hateful debate is a taste of things to come if we have a plebiscite on marriage equality. We’ve seen in this last few days what can happen when you let the genie out of the bottle and provide a platform for homophobia and bigotry,” Simms said.
A counter-petition initiated by Simms, which supported Safe Schools, attracted twice as many signatures as Bernardi’s in just two days.
Meanwhile, South Australian Labor Senator Penny Wong has slammed fellow Labor Senator Joe Bullock for speaking negatively about Safe Schools.
“This is a Labor program that we funded in government,” she told ABC News.
“It is a program that is designed to address terrifying statistics of self-harm, of abuse, of discrimination.”
Additionally, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has called on the PM to take a stand against the far right members of his party.
“Malcolm Turnbull needs to be the Malcolm Turnbull of old,” he said.
“He needs to get a grip on his party and just say, ‘listen, we are not going to have this right-wing agenda distracting form the big issues of Australia’.”
In a press conference in Canberra today, Turnbull did not respond directly about a question to Christensen’s comments, but said the Safe Schools program needed to be discussed in “very measured language”.
“Every single one of us is absolutely resolutely opposing to bullying of children of any kind,” he said.
Turnbull’s comments were made just as federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham announced the inquiry into Safe Schools will be a full independent review by education experts.
The Terms of Reference for the Safe Schools review is one page: pic.twitter.com/rAGtgMNs8y
— Mark Di Stefano (@MarkDiStef) February 26, 2016