Australian opposition leader Bill Shorten is causing a stir – after he branded a government senator a ‘homophobe’ for opposing anti-bulling classes.
The Australian Prime Minister recently ordered an ‘investigation’ into an education anti-bullying initiative, after pressure from right-wing backbencher Cory Bernardi.
The Safe Schools program was set up by the former Labor government – but anti-gay Christian groups claim it is “dangerous” and “brainwashing” students on LGBT rights.
Labor leader Bill Shorten was speaking to a TV crew about the right-wing ‘obsession’ on the issue this week when Mr Bernardi himself just happened to walk past.
Mr Shorten had said: “We see this absurd obsession by the right wing of the Liberal party about Safe Schools, we see this ridiculous obsession-“
Mr Bernardi heckled the leader, yelling: “At least I’m honest, Bill. You’re a fraud mate.”
Without missing a beat, Mr Shorten shot back: “No mate, at least I’m not a homophobe either.”
As Mr Bernardi slinked off, the Labor leader continued: “Children have got a right to go to school and not be bullied. If they have questoins about their sexuality, they deserve the right to get answers and be supported and not oppressed.
“Young people who are gay report that 80 percent of the bullying which occurs occurs at school – and we need to make sure kids are safe.
“Senator Bernardi… it’s amazing to me the Liberal caucus yesterday, they had seven speakers worried about the curriculum of kids and their obsessions about whether someone’s sexual identity was going to be changed because of what they’re taught in school.”
Right-wing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had requested the investigation over concerns it is “inappropriate” for young people to learn about lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and/or intersex (LGBTI) issues.
A statement from the program responding to the announcement says: “Safe Schools Coalition Australia welcomes all opportunities to demonstrate the positive impact of this important program and provide the facts and evidence behind it.
“This program was developed in response to requests from Australian teachers and principals looking for advice and resources to better support the diversity and well-being of their students and create safe learning environments.
“Already, close to 500 schools have opted in to the program, with over 15,000 teachers choosing to utilise the training and tools offered so they feel better equipped to support same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, their families and peers.
“All students, staff and families deserve to feel safe, included and valued at school. Ensuring the well-being of all students and their equal access to education is what this program is all about.”
The anti-gay Australian Christian Lobby said: “This is a great first step to getting this program de-funded and taken out of our schools.”
It comes amid tension on LGBT rights in the country, as Turnbull’s government are blocking a free Parliamentary vote on equal marriage – which lobbyists say would likely fall in favour of equality.
The government instead plans to hold a non-binding ‘public vote’ on the issue after the election – which could stall the first marriages until 2018.
The anti-gay marriage lobby has exploited the planned vote to call for the suspension of hate crime laws – under the guise of permitting a “balanced” debate.