While much of the “debate” about the Safe Schools program from its critics has been unpleasant and bordering on the homophobic, the remarks yesterday in Parliament by north Queensland MP George Christensen, comparing the program to “grooming work that a sexual predator might undertake” require action from the Prime Minister.
Safe Schools is an important program aimed at countering bullying of LGBTI students. Students have the right to a safe environment at school, and they have a right not be demonised for their sexuality. Without a program like Safe Schools, there would be more suicides, more bullying of LGBTI kids, more mental trauma, more broken minds and bodies. The fact that far-right groups like the Australian Christian Lobby, media outlets like The Australian and politicians like Christensen, Cory Bernardi and others appear not to care about this tragic cost speaks volumes for their obsession with sex-based culture wars over young lives.
But Christensen goes further in directly linking LGBTI people with paedophiles, an old lie that is particularly odious coming from supposed Christians, given that some Christian churches in recent decades have acted as our biggest institutional paedophile rings.
These kinds of comments, in perpetuating such hateful myths, can only hurt LGBTI people and encourage an environment in which they are vilified and harassed. Christensen has a perfect right to voice such garbage. But the Prime Minister also has the right to speak — and a responsibility to lead, not only his own MPs, but the nation. Malcolm Turnbull should have immediately rebuked Christensen. His failure to do so confirms that in gaining Prime Minister Turnbull we have lost one of our best politicians.