A Liberal MP has slammed the lack of facts behind an anti-Safe Schools petition during a fiery debate on the LGBTI anti-bullying program on the floor of NSW parliament.
A petition with over 17,000 signatures calling for the Safe Schools Coalition to be shut down in NSW was debated in the state parliament on Thursday evening.
The petition was presented by Liberal MP Damien Tudehope, who told the parliament the program is a "trojan horse for far left extremists" and parents ought to be "fearful" of it.
“It is nothing but a recruitment drive for the radical left, preying on impressionable children," he said.
However, while many MPs from the other side of the chamber got up to combat Tudehope's argument, one of the most passionate defences came from Tudehope's fellow Liberal, the member for Coogee, Bruce Notley-Smith.
Notley-Smith told the parliament that as a young man he feared for his life if anyone found out he was gay, and that Safe Schools would help kids who found themselves in the same situation today.
Since earlier this year, the Safe Schools Coalition has been the subject of significant controversy, including false claims it encourages students to cross-dress and teaches gay and lesbian sexual techniques.
"If you are going to present a petition to this parliament, it should at least be factual. This one is not," Notley-Smith said.
Notley-Smith told parents opposed to the program to go to the website and "have yourself a look".
"Spend hours trawling through it, as I have challenged anyone to do who has rung my office with problems with this program. And then come back and tell us specifically what you have a problem with," he said.
Labor MP Jo Haylen also spoke out against the "misinformation and inaccuracy" that has characterised attacks on the program.
"It certainly does not teach sexual techniques," she told the chamber.
An interjecting MP fired back "That's your interpretation."
Throughout the debate, there was raucous applause for speakers opposed to the program from the large anti-Safe Schools crowd in the gallery.
"I ask there be no interjections from the gallery and each speaker can be heard in silence," the speaker pleaded with the public.
While Tudehope's petition called for the program to be scrapped altogether, Liberal MP Matt Kean spoke in favour of creating an "opt-in" system for parents.
"Given the sensitivity of the Safe Schools debate, it makes sense that parents should be more engaged," Kean said.
Currently, parental permission as well as the permission of the school parent body must be gained before the program can be introduced.
Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Lane Sainty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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