Liberal senator Cory Bernardi told the partyroom Safe Schools may "indoctrinate kids with Marxist cultural relativism". Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Malcolm Turnbull's image as a moderate leader with a vision to take Australia into a socially progressive future has taken yet another beating today, after he caved in to his party's Christian Right over the Safe Schools program.
The program, designed to foster LGBT inclusion and prevent bullying, has been under attack from the Australian Christian Lobby and other right wing extremist groups for allegedly 'promoting' what they consider to be the 'gay lifestyle'.
In a joint partyroom meeting today, Senator Cory Bernardi called for the program to be defunded for the absolutely comical reason that it might "indoctrinate children into a Marxist agenda of cultural relativism".
Bernardi also said he was worried the program was "sexualising children" too early. No word yet on whether he's against the entire Sex Ed curriculum or just the program that tries to make life easier on kids who identify outside the cisgender, hetero norm.
Despite Education Minister Simon Birmingham noting the program's "perfectly reasonable objectives" just last week, an independent review will now look into whether the program's material is "age appropriate", delivering its verdict by mid-March.
This afternoon, social media has let rip on the government, particularly Turnbull, for failing to stand firm in the face of a scare campaign from groups that, at their core, see homosexuality as a sin. And nobody did so louder than Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews, who posted a scathing statement on his Facebook page that was widely shared.
Some people tweeted their personal experience as LGBT kids, either with or without Safe Schools, while others expressed concern about how this sort of rhetoric and pressure will be applied to the upcoming marriage equality plebiscite. Everyone else just noted the ridiculousness of the conservative argument and the fact it's taken with anything but a grain of salt.
Because nothing good can come of a program called "safe schools". 🙄— Meshel Laurie (@Meshel_Laurie) February 23, 2016
They complained enough, despite a lack of evidence, to get a wind farm commissioner so I can only assume a safe schools commissioner is next— Josh Taylor (@joshgnosis) February 23, 2016
Shorter Cory Bernardi 'All ideology is bad, except mine' #safeschools— Anne Smith (@samemniktom) February 23, 2016
I was bullied at school on a regular basis for being gay. If #SafeSchools was around, it would have made my life SO much better.— Chris Pycroft (@chrispytweets) February 23, 2016
I wanted #SafeSchools in year 4 when I was bullied for being gay before I even knew being gay was a thing (thanks, Catholic primary school)— Becca (@beccajslv) February 23, 2016
Yes, I will Twitter rant about #SafeSchools because I care, dammit. I finally got my school to listen & I don't want it to be for nothing— Becca (@beccajslv) February 23, 2016
Review of Safe Schools totally unnecessary, but will show it improves the self esteem and wellbeing of all students who have access to it.— Alex Greenwich MP (@AlexGreenwich) February 23, 2016