Federal election 2016: churches put ALP on notice over Safe Schools
The Australian, May 18, 2016.
Labor risks putting religious groups offside in the lead-up to the election if it decides to fund the controversial Safe Schools Coalition gay and transgender anti-bullying program.
The Greens yesterday pledged $32 million to the program in the next four years but Labor’s education spokeswoman Kate Ellis is yet to reveal its policy.
The Coalition gutted the program in March and said it would not continue federal funding after 2017, in response to concern from conservatives that it was promoting a leftist ideological agenda.
Anglican Bishop of North Sydney Chris Edwards said the Sydney diocese would oppose federal funding for Safe Schools.
“But especially concerning were the comments by the Green’s spokesman that they opposed the requirement for students to obtain parental permission to take part,” he said.
Victorian Catholic Education Office executive director Stephen Elder said the Greens’ pledge was not an appropriate use of public funds. “When 1728 Catholic schools in Australia were given a choice, only two chose to include Safe Schools material in their curriculum. This is because wellbeing programs within our system already teach the benefits of family values, respect for self and others to promote an anti-bullying message,” Mr Elder said.
He said a cynic would see the Greens announcement as merely political grandstanding.
Yesterday The Australian reported that Ms Ellis would not reveal whether Labor would fund the program after 2017.
“We established the Safe Schools program and we think it does incredibly important work,’’ she said. “The government will cut this program entirely next year. Labor will have more to say on our education policies in the lead-up to the election.”
The Greens’ announcement will put further pressure on Labor.
Australian Christian Lobby managing director Lyle Shelton said the election would be a referendum on Safe Schools and “whether or not radical gender theory would continue to be forced upon children at school”.
The Victorian Labor government has refused to follow the federal government’s lead, with the program to be compulsory in state secondary schools by 2018.