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‘Choose your words carefully’

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Malcolm Turnbull has urged government backbenchers campaigning against a gay and lesbian-focused schools program to think about how their words could hurt children.

But the prime minister has stopped short of rebuking Nationals MP George Christensen for likening the Safe Schools program to child sexual grooming.

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In his first comments on the program since ordering a report into its operation, Mr Turnbull said those discussing Safe Schools should do so with measured language.

“And to consider very carefully the impact of the words they use on young people and on their families,” he told reporters in Canberra on Friday.

Mr Turnbull said everyone would remember from their childhood days the damage bullying could do.

“Bullying is absolutely unacceptable.”

The prime minister is facing pressure to reprimand Mr Christensen for saying the anti-bullying program was akin to a paedophile grooming a victim because it recommended pornographic content, sex shops, sex clubs and adult communities to school kids.

The program had links to websites which advised kids about chest-binding, penis-tucking and gay sex and gave instructions to children about unblocking websites without their parents’ knowledge, he told parliament.

Greens senator Robert Simms, who is openly gay, said the prime minister should condemn the “homophobic comments”.

“To compare a program that’s about helping young people to ‘grooming’ is utterly reprehensible – it’s profoundly offensive and deeply hurtful.”

However, Safe Schools is gaining popularity despite the push by conservative MPs to shut it down.

The number of schools signed up to the Safe Schools Coalition has jumped to 515 from 490 in just over two weeks.

The Greens are seeking a Senate inquiry into homophobic bullying in schools.

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