AN online petition calling for support on the Safe Schools Coalition collected 20,000 signatures in two days, beating far right Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi’s petition against the program which received only 9499 signatures.

South Australian Greens Senator Robert Simms, who initiated the pro-Safe Schools petition, said it was “no surprise” Australians supported the program which promotes inclusiveness in schools for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students.

“While Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull bends to the will of his conservative back bench, Australians have shown formidable support for inclusiveness and diversity,” Simms said.

“Thank you to everyone who signed this petition, more than doubling Senator Bernardi’s efforts – sending a clear message to the government.”

Speaking in parliament, Melbourne federal Greens MP Adam Bandt addressed Turnbull’s decision to review the Safe Schools program and that Bernardi, along with fellow far right Liberal Senator Eric Abetz, “should be ashamed” of themselves.

“How dare you use your platform as elected representatives to tell young people who aren’t like you that somehow they’re not okay, that they don’t belong, and that they deserve to have abuse hurled at them,” Bandt said.

“And if you want an indication about why we don’t need a plebiscite on marriage equality… just look no further than what we have seen so far.”

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Labor Senator Joe Bollock has also publicly criticised the Safe Schools program, claiming it is too “focused on homosexuals”.

“This program is so narrowly focused on homosexual issues that it doesn’t provide the sort of balance one would hope,” he said.

The inquiry into Safe Schools – which receives $8 million in federal funding compared to $243.8 million in federal funding for the School Chaplaincy program – also provoked Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to indirectly call Bernardi a homophobe during a media doorstop yesterday.

In response to this, South Australian Labor Senator Penny Wong stopped short of calling her Liberal counterpart a homophobe as well on Radio National:

Several state Premiers and state education ministers have publicly declared their support for the Safe Schools program since Turnbull announced the inquiry.

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