MP sees gay plot in safe school scheme

Gareth Parker State Political Editor
Upsetting MP: A poster from the safe schools scheme. Illustration: Supplied

WA Government backbencher Peter Abetz has warned parents and Liberal colleagues that an anti-bullying program being prepared for WA is actually a "gay lifestyle promotion program".

Mr Abetz, an ordained former pastor in the Christian Reformed Church, said he believed encouraging teenagers to self-identify as gay, lesbian or transgender could be harmful in the long term.

He said most young people with same-sex attraction or transgender feelings lost them as they matured.

Mr Abetz gave a presentation to Liberal MPs at Parliament House this week, drawing attention to the Safe Schools Coalition Australia program funded with a four-year $8 million Commonwealth grant by the former Labor government.

Mr Abetz said bullying was a real problem in schools and he highlighted other anti-bullying programs that he believed better addressed all forms of bullying.

The SSCA program, he said, crossed the line into advocacy and was "really not an anti-bullying program".

"In fact, when you look at it closer, it really is little more than a gay, lesbian, transgender lifestyle promotion program," Mr Abetz said.

"The militant gay lesbian lobby is trying to get this into our schools to 'normalise' what they consider the LGBTI agenda.

"I think in Australia most people are quite tolerant. Most people know someone among their relatives or workmates who is a lesbian or gay or whatever, and they don't bat an eyelid - they just accept them as human beings with inherent value and you treat them with dignity and respect."

Shadow minister for disability services, mental health and child protection, Stephen Dawson, a supporter of the program, said the comments were "misguided and homophobic".

The Safe Schools Coalition began in Victoria and has rolled out its program into more than 240 schools. It plans to launch in WA in July.

When told of Mr Abetz's comments, national program director Sally Richardson said: "Since the program's launch last June we have had a lot of interest and support from WA schools, young people and community organisations.

"We are looking forward to supporting WA schools to be safer and more supportive for LGBTI young people, teachers and families. All students have the right to feel safe at school. Only then can they achieve their very best.

"Everyone wants that."

Mr Abetz drew attention to the material produced, including a poster urging schools to allow students to wear any part of a uniform, regardless of their gender.

SSCA's website has material for teachers and students, including booklets titled "OMG (oh my god) my friend's queer". It includes definitions of gay, lesbian, transgender, queer, pansexual, heteronormative, homophobia and transphobia.

"I think any parent - I certainly would have been - would be outraged if a boy who has the physical parts of a male body decides he wants to identify as a member of the female gender and is allowed to use the girls' toilets or join the girls' sports teams," Mr Abetz said. "This program clearly does (advocate) that."