Culture

A Government MP Compared Safe Schools To Paedophile “Grooming” In Parliament Last Night

Hey, Malcolm - fire this guy.

The furore around the Safe Schools program has brought a number of highly unpleasant individuals out of the woodwork; Senator Cory Bernardi has claimed the anti-bullying program is “propaganda” designed to “indoctrinate” children into believing “a social engingeering agenda”, while the Australian Christian Lobby have asserted the program amounts to “cultural bullying”.

But none have gone so far as Queensland Liberal-National MP George Christensen did in Parliament last night. Speaking to an almost empty House of Representatives chamber, Christensen likened aspects of the Safe Schools program to “grooming” practices engaged in by sexual predators, and exposed children to the threat of being targeted by child molesters.

“I rise as a voice for thousands of parents who’ve been shocked when they discover how the ironically-named ‘Safe Schools’ program is indoctrinating their children. When those parents consider just how unsafe this program is, they wonder why the federal government is allowing it to be implemented in schools, much less spending $8 million of taxpayer money to fund it,” Christensen said.

Claiming that Safe Schools is recommending “pornographic web content, sex shops, adult online communities and sex clubs” to students, Christensen drew alleged links between youth LGBTI groups like Twenty10 and Minus18 and sex shops like the Tool Shed. He also expressed concern that these groups provide links to sites like Scarleteen, a sex education site geared for teenagers and young adults that advises transgender readers on practices like chest-binding and penis-tucking, and that Safe Schools partner organisations like Family Planning NSW and Tasmania’s Working It Out recommend YouTube channels like that of Princess Joules, a transgender woman who makes videos detailing the transition experience.

While those websites and YouTube channels do contain frank and honest discussions of sex, sexuality and gender, Christensen’s characterisation of their content as being “of an adult or erotic nature” is extremely misleading. Logistical, educational advice on how a young transgender person can cope with the transition process is not pornographic or “erotic”; the difference between something relating to sex and something explicitly sexual is a vital distinction to make, and it’s one that Christensen blithely ignores for the purposes of pushing his agenda.

Christensen also makes hay with his claim that “Safe Schools provides instructions to children on how to hide their internet browsing history,” the implication being that those instructions are designed to help kids hide the pornographic or adult content they access through the program from the eyes of their parents — rather than, say, so a kid who thinks they might be transgender can seek advice and help in privacy and comfort.

“If someone proposed exposing a child to this material, the parents would probably call the police, because it would sound a lot like grooming work that a sexual predator might undertake,” Christensen said, further claiming that the activities of Safe Schools and similar entities “sound sadly familiar” to the grooming practices engaged in by child molesters.

“The Safe Schools program focuses heavily on child and teenage sexual activity and sexual attractions”, Christensen noted, claiming that the program “leaves students open to being groomed on websites, or being advertised to by adult sex vendors”.

Christensen has form in making inflammatory and divisive comments; in July last year he addressed a far-right Reclaim Australia rally, while he termed the #I’llRideWithYou movement that arose after the Sydney siege as “pathetic“. Predictably, his latest speech has provoked considerable outrage, but a significant amount of the backlash is being directed at Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull, who thus far has refused to rein in Christensen, Bernardi and similar hard-right government MPs.

If such comments don’t prompt Turnbull to publicly come out and denounce the homophobic and fearmongering sentiments Christensen, Bernardi and others are stirring up, it’s difficult to imagine what will.