Labor leader Bill Shorten has labelled Coalition Senator Cory Bernardi a “homophobe” during a Parliament House press conference after he was heckled by the ultra-conservative Liberal.
Mr Shorten was speaking to reporters about Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to launch a review into the pro-same-sex “Safe Schools Program”, when Mr Bernardi – a fierce voice against gay marriage – walked past the media call.
“That’d be the chap,” Mr Shorten said to Mr Bernardi, who lobbied for the review, as he moved past the press conference.
“At least I am honest, Bill, you’re a fraud, mate,” Mr Bernardi then quipped.
To which Mr Shorten responded: “No, mate, at least I am not a homophobe either, mate.”
Watch the exchange below:
— David Sharaz (@DavidSharaz) February 23, 2016
The Safe Schools Program offers resources and support for staff and students to develop “skills, practical ideas and greater confidence” to create a safe and inclusive environment for same-sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and families, according to its website.
Some Coalition MPs – particularly to the right – have reportedly been agitating against the program, saying it raises sexual issues which are inappropriate for teenagers and young children.
On Tuesday, Mr Bernardi told the ABC the program was seeing children “being bullied and intimidated into complying with a radical program”.
Mr Bernardi called on the Government to withdraw funding for the program.
“It’s not about gender, it’s not about sexuality,” he said.
“It makes everyone fall into line with a political agenda.
“Our schools should be places of learning, not indoctrination.”
In September 2012, Mr Bernardi resigned as the parliamentary secretary to then-PM Mr Abbott for linking same-sex marriage to bestiality.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it was “disgraceful that an Australian child may fall victim to Malcolm Turnbull’s failure to stand up to the right wing of his party”.
“Life is already difficult enough for young people – they shouldn’t have to put up with the added stress of bullying and intimidation in the schoolyard,” he said in a statement.
Mr Turnbull has indicated the issue of same-sex marriage would come before a plebiscite should the Coalition win the next election.
If Labor wins the election, Mr Shorten had pledged he would guarantee same-sex marriage be legalised through a parliamentary vote.
– with ABC