The Liberal Party of Western Australia has vowed to scrap Safe Schools and redirect its funding towards rural education if elected.
Speaking at the party’s state conference, WA Opposition Leader Mike Nahan committed to defunding the program so as to keep regional schools in the state open, ABC News reported.
“It was used to fund the Safe School program, a Labor program.”
Speaking to the media afterwards, Nahan said the cutback was because there were other anti-bullying programs already in place and not due to personal or party opposition to Safe Schools.
“We noticed a new program — there are very few new programs that the Labor Government has come up with, one of them is Safe Schools — and it’s $1.2 million dollars additional money [that] went into Safe Schools,”
When asked if the pledge was a play to the party’s religious conservative base, Nahan said, “No people have come and lobbied me against that.”
There has been repeated anti-Safe Schools messaging from the Australian Christian Lobby over its continued funding, and its WA Director Dahlia Messiha has publicly criticised the program.
Nahan’s predecessor as leader of the WA Liberal Party, Colin Barnett, had said that Safe Schools “encourages experimentation, promiscuity, to very young children getting down into primary school.”
Barnett led the WA Liberals to the worst election loss suffered by a sitting government in the state’s history in March 2017.
“The Government has come and cut a whole range of programs to fund Safe Schools. My statement is — the better allocation is going back to the programs they cut, rather than Safe Schools,” Nahan said.
“I’m making a decision about priorities for spending.”
Nahan is a former executive director of conservative think tank the Institute of Public Affairs. He was supportive of the legalisation of marriage equality last year.
Current WA Premier Mark McGowan committed to funding Safe Schools for four years after federal funding was slashed from the program.
Speaking to the Star Observer last year, McGowan said the program “saves lives and it saves anguish, it’s hard enough being a young person without having to go through bullying about your sexuality.”