Doorstop Interview - 18 March 2016

SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s failure to show leadership; Safe Schools program; National Day of Bullying and Violence






KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Today, on the National Day against Bullying and Violence of all days, we have seen Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull roll over to the bullies within his own party. How do we expect any student in the schoolyard to stand up to bullies if Australia's own Prime Minister cannot stand up to the bullies within the fringe of his own party?


What we have seen today is the Turnbull Government have overturned the decisions that their own Government took just a matter of months ago. When the Education Minister stood up today and announced changes to the Safe Schools program, it's important to recognise who has been overturned in those changes. This is a program that was launched nationally under the Abbott Government, but importantly these are resources that the Turnbull Government themselves approved in just December of last year. Malcolm Turnbull has overruled his own Government after rolling over to the cries from the fringe elements on his own backbench.


It's also important to note that the Government have released the review into the Safe Schools program today and we should say clearly that this review shows that the thought of radical, disgusting and extreme statements that were being made by Liberal backbenchers have shown to be totally wrong and totally untrue.


In fact, what this review shows is that none of the materials within the Safe Schools program were age-inappropriate and none of them were deemed to not be appropriate for our classrooms and our schools. This is very important to note, that the Prime Minister may not stand up against the sort of extreme statements that we have heard from his own backbench, but this report makes clear that the sort of divisive rubbish we have heard from the Liberal Party should have no place in this discussion, and no place in Australian political debate. Sorry for being under the flight path here. What we have seen clearly is the extreme, the radical and the divisive statements from members of the Liberal backbench have been shown to be completely inappropriate and they have no place in Australian political debate.


It's important also to note if members of the Liberal backbench can make the Prime Minister of Australia roll over on this $2 million a year program, imagine what they could do if they actually decided to stand up against his $30 billion cuts to Australian schools. This is a government which is inflicting the biggest cut to school funding in this nation's history yet we have not seen a single member of the Liberal or National Party have the guts to stand up and actually oppose those cuts.


On National Day Against Bullying and Violence, it is incredibly important that today we put the focus where it should have been the whole time and that is on the welfare of Australian students. Now is the time that all members of the Parliament need to stop the divisive discussions that we have seen, need to stop with the incorrect claims and slurs that we have seen and need to recognise that parents, teachers, principals and educators are the best placed people to make the decisions about what is appropriate for our children.


And just before I go to questions I want to say one more thing about Cory Bernardi's office and the protest that was there this morning. There is no place for bullying, there is no place for violence and there should be no place for the destruction of property in Australian political debate. To those people who think that they were being clever or making a point with this sort of activity they should know that it is wrong, htat it is dumb and that it entirely undermines any sort of argument they were trying to make.


What we have seen as a result of those activities today is that there has been disgraceful behaviour on both sides of this argument now and we need to put a stop to it and ensure that our focus goes entirely onto the welfare of Australian students and young people who need our support and who need some leadership from the Prime Minister who's shown that he is utterly unable to display that.


JOURNALIST: Do you feel sorry for the Cory Bernardi staffers who were subjected to that?


ELLIS: Oh certainly, I don’t think there is any place for intimidating staff members in Australian politics, and there shouldn’t be. There should be no place for destroying property, this isn’t the way to make your point and it’s certainly not the way to advance your argument and I absolutely condemn such activities.


JOURNALIST: Just on Safe Schools, do you think it is just a victory for common sense?


ELLIS: Well, no, sadly I think this is a victory for the fringe elements on the Liberal party’s backbench and this is a defeat, once again, of any leadership from the Prime Minister. Malcolm Turnbull has shown now that his leadership has been defeated and damaged by his own backbench as has the Safe Schools program.