Senate debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Bills

Australian Education Legislation Amendment (Prohibiting the Indoctrination of Children) Bill 2020; Second Reading

9:03 am

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

HANSON ( — ) ( ): I rise to speak on One Nation's Australian Education Legislation Amendment (Prohibiting the Indoctrination of Children) Bill 2020. The purpose of this legislation is to give parents the legal right to protect their children from indoctrination at school. This bill is aimed at ensuring schools and teachers do what they're supposed to do, rather than what many of them are doing today. They are supposed to educate our children. They are not supposed to indoctrinate them with Marxism. They are not supposed to groom them into believing they can be a boy one day and a girl the next. They are not supposed to recruit them as warriors for climate change or social justice.

These are decisions that Australians must only make for themselves when they are old enough. At school age, they are not old enough. But they are very easily influenced and, with their education system thoroughly infiltrated by activists and disturbing concepts about race, climate and gender grounded in disproven neo-Marxist theories, our kids are leaving school without the education they need. This system is infiltrated by teachers who themselves have been indoctrinated in woke universities. Only last week, we saw a story in which university students' assignments were marked down just because they hadn't included an acknowledgement of country.

It's hurting our kids. During COVID lockdowns, when schools closed down and parents had to help educate kids with the assistance of education departments, many parents were shocked to discover the indoctrination going on. They discovered their children were being indoctrinated with values and concepts that they could not possibly share. They discovered their children were being told they were evil, racist oppressors just because they were white and that they should feel shame and remorse for it. They discovered their children were being groomed into believing they could choose their own gender at a whim, biology be damned. They found their children were being terrorised by climate change prophecies of doom.

This is what was happening in schools, and I refer to an article here:

Colouring-in posters given to year 1 students at a NSW primary school—accusing Australians of genocide—have been called "indoctrination" and "propaganda".

The posters, promoted as part of NAIDOC week at a public primary school in central west NSW and displayed on a school hall, sparked a complaint by a parent and were raised in NSW parliament by One Nation MP Mark Latham.

The posters depict raised fists and state: "White Australia has a Blak History, No Pride in Genocide, Stop the Lies! Stop Stealing Our Kids, Blak Lives Matter!"

This is what is being taught or our schools by these people, pushing their own ideology and their own agenda.

In another school, a mother was concerned at sending her child to these childcare centres. Her feelings were: 'Feeling sideswiped by the news of IDAHOBIT Day at the day care, I called the centre manager. I was informed that not only was Rainbow Day on the agenda'—this is children under five years of age we are talking about!—'but that LGBTQ material was a part of the children's' curriculum.' Give me a break! We are talking about a person's sex or their sexual preferences, and we are teaching kids this? Let the children grow up and be adults before they decide what you are imposing.

As I said, we are opposed to paedophiles grooming children for what they want to do to our children. Why is this any different? Why is this not grooming our children at a very young age? We are confusing them as to what they should be or shouldn't be—whether male or female or their sexual preference. I'm sorry, but that shouldn't happen to a child of school age or five years of age or even younger. That is something they will decide later in life. It's not up to our educators, babysitters, childcare centres or anyone else to actually do this.

This has been pushed by the Greens for years and years. This is all the Greens. And the Labor Party has done exactly the same and headed down this path. What I was told nearly 30 years ago by people who came to see me in my office was that lecturers at the university were told that they had to teach a certain way, otherwise they wouldn't have their jobs. That's exactly what is happening.

Apart from this, we actually have had the welcome to country or acknowledgement of country being rammed down our throats. Every time you turn around—at a movie or on an aeroplane—this is all being rammed down our throats. The fact is that Australians are fed up with it.

Until we actually change what is happening, these people will be destroying our children's little minds. Childcare centres are there to look after our children, not indoctrinate them. In our school system, they're not there to indoctrinate our kids with this garbage that's been fed to them. Schools are there to teach social services, geography, and history. They are there to actually teach the kids most of all, which they are failing, how to read and write. It's absolutely disgraceful that you want to push this agenda.

This mother went on to say: 'I'm very supportive of adults making their own decisions about how they live their lives, but it is wholly unacceptable to use children to make a group of adults feel validated about their own decisions and sexual way of life.' How true is that? We are allowing these adults to validate their own feelings and their own sexuality, and we're pushing it on.

Here in Australia, where we have seen the debate about transgender, in the 2016 census there were only 1,200 people who identified as transgender. But, no, we've got to change our whole society for those people who feel transgender or have their issues! You don't change what is normal, the norm, for the rest of the world or the country just because you've got to make a few people feel good about themselves or be inclusive. This is about a commonsense approach—that we don't change our way of thinking for a few out there. We don't change because they don't know whether they're male or female. No wonder so many kids are confused.

I was just talking to my eight-year-old grandson, and I said: 'Are you told at school that you can be a boy or a girl?'—and he is an eight-year-old boy, I can tell you!—and he said: 'Oh, yes. We're told we can choose whether we want to be male or female. We actually had a kid come to school in grade 5 and he dressed as a girl.' I said: 'How do you feel about that?' He said: 'We all know he's a boy. We don't know why he dresses as a girl.' He said, 'I'm totally confused by it.' That's what you're doing to our kids. And you are allowing this to happen.

I am saying to parents out there that they need to start to wake up to themselves. I think they are. Parents are saying to me, 'What can we do about it?' That's why they are contacting Mark Latham, who is a voice for this. I am a voice for this. Malcolm Roberts has been a voice for this. There are a few people who are speaking out about these things and really are standing up and trying to push back. They had a real issue in the UK about all this indoctrination that's going on of kids in school.

Even in the climate change debate that's going on at the moment, there are lies, absolute lies, and an agenda that is being pushed. You are not actually telling people the truth to give them a balanced view about this. Critical race theory is being brought into our educational system. Psychologists in training must actually learn about critical race theory and they have to acknowledge that they have been the suppressors of the black race in this nation.

Photo of Mehreen FaruqiMehreen Faruqi (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, because it's the truth.

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

That's what they have to tell them. This is what's being taught in school.

Photo of Mehreen FaruqiMehreen Faruqi (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, they should.

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The interaction from the Greens is: 'Yes, they should.' Oh, right! This is really good! Thank you for the interaction. They have been pushing this. You are misleading the people of this nation. You are teaching them stuff that is not the real truth. You are not giving a balanced view. You're pushing your own ideology and your own agenda, which is destroying our nation. No wonder people—

Photo of Andrew McLachlanAndrew McLachlan (SA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Hanson, speak through me, through the chair.

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Educators argue there is no need for legislation to protect children from indoctrination because schoolchildren can use their critical-thinking skills. That's a cop-out, because students are no match for an adult using their position of power to instruct. The children can't answer back. Parents have the responsibility to decide how their children will be educated, provided it is in the best interests of the children. Parents want their children educated, not indoctrinated.

Firstly, the bill seeks to prevent indoctrination by placing an obligation on the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority to develop a balanced curriculum for states and territories to adopt. This is currently not the case in many subject areas, including climate. I'll tell you why. The teachers are complaining they don't get the assistance or the help from the education department on what the curriculum is. They are struggling to come up with curriculum. That's why they need help from the education department. We need a broad-based curriculum for the schools to actually ensure that they are teaching our kids correctly. We've got teachers coming out of universities that can't even read and write properly themselves. They are put into the educational system and they are not up to the standard. This is why we have a failure, with many kids not being able to read and write. Our teachers need assistance. They need help. But we have to ensure they are up to the job of teaching the kids in our educational system.

If teachers were up to the job, we wouldn't have the failure that we are having at the moment. Nearly half of our kids of 15 years of age are more than two years behind in the education system compared to our counterparts in Singapore and China. Why is that the case? It's because they are not being properly taught. We have changed our curriculums from the years gone by when I attended school, and it has now failed our kids. It needs to change. I call on parents: get some backbone about you. It's your children we are talking about—the future generations of this nation. They must have the right to critical thinking. They must have the right to question this. We must have a balance of both sides of the argument. I went into this especially with regard to climate science. The curriculum says, 'Most agree that human activity is responsible for the majority of measured global warming. Climate science is far from settled, however, with no-one knowing the climate sensitivity to increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.'

Secondly, the bill seeks to tie federal education funding to the existence of state and territory legislation and prohibits indoctrination in schools. The gender fluidity theory is widely taught in schools, even though it is a medical and scientific fact that inheritance from your father of a Y chromosome makes you a biological male, which can never be changed, and inheritance of an X chromosome from your father makes you a biological female. No-one can actually change that. Even today, people ask, 'What is a female?' They're tripping over their bloody lower jaw because they don't even know how to answer the question: 'What is a female?' How ridiculous! The bureaucrats are sitting there, saying: 'Oh, I'm not game to answer that question. It might upset the Greens or the Labor Party or those who are my bosses who have got their jobs here because we push this ideology and this agenda.' That's how stupid it is.

It's up to us as legislators. We sit here and listen to the claptrap that comes out of the Greens' mouths with all this bloody rubbish that they're pushing about gender fluidity and identity and LGBTIQ and 39-plus—I don't know how many there are. I can't believe how many sexual identities they want to impose on people, but, at the end of the day, we are male and we are female. We both play our own roles in our society, and that's who we are. Let the children grow up. Let them decide their own sexual preference, or whatever they want, at an age. Don't put them under the knife for castration or the destruction of their bodies that's allowed. If you speak out against that, you can be taken to the courts or fined. That's a ridiculous point as well. Let children be children. Parents: grow up and be parents. Take responsibility for your own children and what they're taught. And, if you don't like what they're being taught, then go and visit the schools and the teachers and the principals and have your say.

9:17 am

Photo of Mehreen FaruqiMehreen Faruqi (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak to the Australian Education Legislation Amendment (Prohibiting the Indoctrination of Children) Bill 2020. I will keep my remarks brief because we have already wasted enough time on this disgraceful bill. Senator Hanson, honestly, give it a rest. You are making a fool of yourself. What you are doing is despicable—

Photo of Andrew McLachlanAndrew McLachlan (SA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Faruqi, through me, please. Let's keep the debate respectful.

Photo of Mehreen FaruqiMehreen Faruqi (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Through you, Chair. Senator Hanson first introduced this legislation back in 2020. The Senate inquired into it then, and its conclusion didn't leave room for any interpretation. The committee said it was poorly drafted, vague and inconsistent. In short, it is bad legislation. But, in addition to being bad legislation, in a technical sense, this bill is just vile. It is transphobic. It is anti-science. It is an attempt to force a rewrite of the curriculum to require teaching of climate denialism and harmful, outdated ideas of gender and sexuality.

In the dying days of the Scott Morrison government, the then education minister, shamefully, also took a leaf out of Pauline Hanson's One Nation's playbook and started waging offensive, pathetic and toxic history and culture wars.

Do you know what one of my favourite things about the 2022 election has been? There are many, but one of my favourite things about the 2022 election has been that, along with the coalition, the 2022 election has rendered Senator Hanson and One Nation irrelevant. Like the coalition, Senator Hanson has failed to self-reflect on why One Nation has become irrelevant. I'll save her the time: they are irrelevant because their racist, divisive politics are there for everyone to see. If you need evidence, just look around this chamber or the other chamber. Both places are more progressive and more diverse than ever before.

Senator Hanson is irrelevant because the Australian public realises that it's not immigrants who are making their lives hard. The Australian public realises it's not trans people who are making their lives hard. It's not climate science that's making their lives hard. It's not First Nations people who are making their lives hard. It is unscrupulous big corporations, fossil fuel giants, billionaires and far-right politicians like One Nation's who are sitting here that are making their lives hard.

The bill amends the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority Act 2008 to require ACARA to ensure that school education provides what Senator Hanson considers a 'balanced presentation of opposing views on political, historical and scientific issues'. It also amends the Australian Education Act 2013 to make financial assistance to states and territories conditional on them prohibiting what Senator Hanson calls 'indoctrination in schools'—such complete rubbish! Students should be encouraged to think critically, and they should be exposed to diverse viewpoints and perspectives. But that's not what this bill seeks to do.

This bill is a vile, unsubtle, blatant attempt to force schools to spread ridiculous and cooked One Nation beliefs which would harm trans and gender-diverse students and introduce antiscience concepts into classrooms around the country. Schools would not be able to tell people in this country the history of how violent settlement took place and how we need to reconcile with that history. All that trans adults and children want is the right to live their lives with respect and dignity and to be who they are, like other people are able to do in this country.

The restoring of this bill is a sad reflection that, after all this time, Senator Hanson remains a peddler of sad and hateful politics, spreading ignorant prejudices inside and outside this chamber. This bill and Senator Hanson's outdated hateful views should be comprehensively rejected by the parliament. They should both go in the bin. It's vital that every child learns the realities of the climate crisis, the truth of Australia's settler colonial past and how to have respectful relationships in the context of comprehensive sex education.

9:23 am

Photo of Don FarrellDon Farrell (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Trade and Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

This is the reintroduction of a bill that Senator Hanson introduced two years ago. At that time, Labor opposed this bill, which does not support evidence based teaching. There remains a question of constitutionality and Commonwealth overreach. The version of the curriculum signed off by the former government in April this year supports evidence based teaching of literacy and numeracy. The bill that has been presented to the Senate today does not do anything to enhance the teaching or learning of the foundational skills parents want for their children.

At the time of the initial introduction of the bill, the then Department of Education, Skills and Employment made a submission to the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee as part of the committee's inquiry into the bill. The department's submission detailed the operational challenges posed if the bill were to be enacted, citing a lack of clarity about core issues, potential legal risks and overreach by the Commonwealth in directing the way that states and territories provide education to students. I quote from the conclusion of the department's submission:

The broad scope of the amendments set out in the Bill, and the limited definition of key terms, presents several issues. The requirements of the Bill may present unintended consequence …

The Senate committee, chaired by Senator McGrath at the time, went on to recommend that the Senate not pass the bill. The committee report says:

The committee is concerned that the lack of specificity in the bill could increase the risk of legal challenges and may result in unintended consequences in areas beyond the original intent.

…   …   …

The committee is also concerned that the bill would result in significant overreach by the Commonwealth Government into the day-to-day operation of schools which, under constitutional arrangements, are the responsibility of the states and territories.

We would prefer that the Senate spend its time doing useful work rather than reconsidering a bill that has already been found to present significant legal and operational issues.

9:27 am

Penny Allman-Payne (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Australian Education Legislation Amendment (Prohibiting the Indoctrination of Children) Bill 2020. I feel like I'm uniquely placed to speak to this bill. I've been a state secondary school teacher for nearly 30 years. I started out my career as a health and physical education teacher, and I also taught sexuality, human relationships and sexual education. I'm also qualified to teach secondary school science as well as humanities. When I left the department, I was a head of humanities and languages.

This bill seeks to put restraints on what teachers of health and physical education, sexual education, and science and humanities can teach in their classes. It's not about balance. It's about hate and propaganda. We, as teachers, teach to the curriculum that we are provided. It is a curriculum that is grounded in truth and science. We don't cherry-pick the bits of science that we agree with or disagree with, we don't cherry-pick the bits of history that we like and are hard to face and we don't discriminate against the children who are in front of us in our classes. During this debate, I've watched people on the other side of the chamber laughing when we've spoken about education around students' gender. I invite you to come into a school and sit in front of a student who has made several attempts on their life because they have been subject to hate and transphobia. How dare you use our young people as political footballs. They are not wanting anything except to be accepted for who they are.

We teach a curriculum that is grounded in human rights and science. Young people are generous of spirit, they are accepting of others and they care about the planet and their future. They are critical thinkers, they are problem-solvers and they deserve an education that is grounded in truth, justice and human rights. They deserve an education that is grounded in science.

It is not teachers in schools who are attempting to indoctrinate our young people. They are professionals that work hard to give every young person in this country the positive future that they deserve. It is the people on the other side of this chamber who are seeking to indoctrinate people with their hateful and bigoted views in our schools. I will not subject young people in this country to your bigotry and hate. I will stand up every time I see it, and the Greens will call it out.

This bill isn't about critical thinking; this bill is about legislating a far-right curriculum. Individual senators and parties interfering in what is taught in our schools instead of leaving it to the education experts is a very slippery slope. In the US, we see some states banning teachers from teaching about racism or sexuality, and some are even banning books. This bill is dangerous. As a teacher with over 30 years of experience in our schools, I know it is an injustice to the young people in our schools, and it is an insult to teachers.

9:31 am

Photo of Alex AnticAlex Antic (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak in relation to the Australian Education Legislation Amendment (Prohibiting the Indoctrination of Children) Bill 2020. I have occasionally taken the opportunity in this building to explore how far the capture of government departments by leftist ideology has gone. In this place, we see all the time that top health bureaucrats can't tell you what a woman is, and they can't tell you whether a man can get pregnant or not. It's actually quite surreal, coming into this place sometimes.

Sadly, it's not just our health department that's controlled by radical leftism. Australia's education system is another domain in which common sense and Australian values are under attack. The education system, of course, has always been of vital importance to the so-called progressive revolutionary idea. The radical left understands that, for people to accept their absurd ideas and their ideology and be obsessed with power structures and group identity based on race, class, sex and religion, they have to indoctrinate children from an early age. To them, this is the purpose that schooling serves. This institutional capture of the education system by leftist, socialist, intersectional ideology has been devastating to the social wellbeing of this country and, I'd argue, to the lives of young people in general, who are tragically more depressed and more worried about the future than they ever have been before.

As I've said before, we failed to instil in our young people a sense of meaning, purpose and understanding of their great heritage, and it's wrong that Australian children are denied the genuine opportunity to meaningfully study our past and learn from its wisdom. We've seen Australian British history virtually removed from the curriculum in recent times, and, wherever it's presented, it's done so with a sense of shame and a sense of regret. It's almost as though Australians ought to be ashamed of our great British heritage, which brought us philosophy, literature, religion, a justice system and all the other benefits that European civilisation brought to this country. Yes, of course, there is tragedy and sometimes even cruelty associated with colonialisation, but to guilt-trip Australian students into believing that their heritage is a racist one is simply cruel, unjust and untrue, and it's a terrible thing to do to our next generation.

Australian students are being denied a true and balanced understanding of their history in favour of a false ideological vision designed to portray anything that is European as inherently racist and evil. This couldn't be further from the truth. It's because of our Christian heritage that we have the concept of social justice at all; it's because of our Christian heritage this notion, which ended slavery in Britain, that all people are made in the image of God regardless of their race, gender or class.

When this bill states that political, historical and scientific issues must be taught in a balanced manner, I take that to mean that the task of teaching is to be done without seeking to indoctrinate our children into a revolutionary worldview. I see it as not trying to present them with this ideology but, rather, presenting them with arguments and counterarguments, teaching students to rely on reason and evidence. In other words, students are taught how, not what, to think. Of course, the views of resentful revolutionaries can't stand in such an environment because they're not true; they don't hold up when the evidence is presented or when students are actually allowed think without being guilt-tripped.

It's not only the history curriculum that is affected; schools have regrettably become a vehicle for so-called sexual liberation ideology. Again, the Left understands that, to overcome the stigma associated with their views, they must normalise concepts, like gender identity, from a very young age. The reason that the Left must normalise untrue concepts as early as possible is so that they can interfere with what children would otherwise learn from their more sensible parents. The Left don't respect the authority of parents that pass on traditional commonsense beliefs to their children, nor do they view education as a journey of becoming disciplined, competent, flourishing individuals who want to contribute to their society. Instead, to them, schools have become mere training grounds for political indoctrination and the building of a voter demographic for years to come.

I have collated seven different complaints from concerned parents around South Australia about what their children are learning in public and, in some cases, private Schools. There are so many more, but here are just a few: (1) 'My nine-year-old daughter attends an eastern suburbs primary school, and the other day the kids learned all about sex with boys in the class, seriously.' (2) 'My daughter was in class in year 7, in an eastern suburbs school, and a teacher played ABC's BTN, Behind the News, which always tells them to live in a state of alarm. On one occasion, the presenter suggested the kids should protest BLM; they should protest for climate change, against misogyny, and everything in between, and finish off by protesting at the dinner table, if you don't mind. Protests, activism—I have a suggestion, it's called education. That's what our taxes pay for. Do this out of school hours.' (3) 'Why should I put my kids in a place where they are taught to hate themselves and see the world through a depressing lens? I never imagined I'd pull my kids out of school. Something is very sick in our children and youth. Someone needs to do something.' (4) 'I'm a mum with a daughter in year 9 at a Christian school here in South Australia. She was in class last term, and the teacher started talking about anal sex. My daughter was so uncomfortable. Then the teacher said that the students could face each other and ask any question they'd like. How is my daughter meant to feel safe? You're teaching kids that there are no boundaries in discussions. What has this topic got to do with education? My daughter didn't feel safe. Her dignity as a young person was not respected—unacceptable.' (5) 'My daughter was in a small Catholic school. The grade 2 teacher asked the kids to draw female and male body parts. She refused to do this activity. If my daughter was at a friend's place or an uncle's, I would be horrified. I pulled my kids out of those schools.' (6) My son was asked to lie down on the ground and imagine he had breasts and female genitalia.' (7) My son was asked to write an essay imagining that he was a girl—pointless woke rubbish.'

The education in this system has been taken over by radical leftist revolutionaries, like the storming of the Bastille. Your children are being indoctrinated, not educated, and parents in this country need to wake up.

9:38 am

Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In today's contribution to this debate, I simply want to put the words of Georgie Stone. As a young person, her words are far more relevant to this debate than my own views. So I will deliver this speech on her behalf. She's an incredible young woman, Australian actress, writer and transgender rights advocate. She says:

My name is Georgie and I am a proud 22-year-old transgender woman from Melbourne.

I am here in Canberra to host a screening of my short documentary, The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone as part of a delegation of families, doctors, Transcend Australia, The Gender Centre, LGBTIQ+ Health Australia and other members of the trans community.

My documentary—directed by the incredible Maya Newell—I believe is the perfect catalyst for a trip to Parliament House to invite you to not only stand in solidarity but actively support one of the most vulnerable and marginalised communities in Australia; trans kids.

When I was a kid, my favourite thing to do was play with my brother Harry in the backyard or in the park near our house.

Harry and I would run excitedly into the bushes, pretending we were escaping into a fantasy world and going on adventures.

Sometimes we'd rope our parents into our games, or even our poor dog Roxy.

As I started primary school, these adventures became even more important to me.

I didn't realise how appealing a fantasy world would look, compared to the one I was living in.

As a young trans girl, I grew up being taught that there was something wrong with me.

From the bullying I endured at my first Primary School, to that same school refusing to support my transition, to having to go to the Family Court of Australia three times to access medical treatment.

I spent years having to convince adults that I was who I said I was, and that my gender identity wasn't a fantasy, or a game.

I spent years carrying other people's fears and doubts, expected to prioritise their feelings and wellbeing over my own.

I spent years scared of growing up because the trans women I saw in movies and shows were always portrayed as leading tragic lives.

Whenever I watched the news, I would see trans kids being used as a political football; weaponised and dehumanised to generate fear and panic in the community.

All sides of politics are complicit in this.

Surely, when people say "let kids be kids", this is not what they mean?

There were, however, some key factors that helped me get through the darkest of times.

The first, is that I had a beautiful supportive family around me.

I always knew that no matter what happened at school, I could always come home and feel safe and loved.

My family were a constant source of strength and love when I was struggling.

In circumstances where I couldn't fight for myself, they stepped in and advocated for me.

The second, was access to gender affirming care.

Going to the Gender Service at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne was integral to my health and wellbeing.

I met doctors who were compassionate and listened without judgment, doctors who knew how to look after me.

The medical sector can be a frustrating and sometimes dangerous place for trans people, so access to specialised care is vital.

Access to family support services can make all the difference for trans kids yet, these organisations are severely underfunded Australia-wide.

This impacts the work they do, and limits access to the support they provide.

Most organisations are run at a grassroots level by volunteers or are self-funded

But we can't do this alone anymore.

Without proper funding, vulnerable children are falling through the cracks.

Trans youth are more likely to suffer from mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety.

Trans people between 14 and 25 are 15 times more likely to attempt suicide.

This is not because we are trans. We are not the problem.

The problem is marginalization, lack of family support, lack of access to gender affirming healthcare and threats of violence and harassment.

Which is why we need your help.

An urgent boost in funding for specialist family support services will better equip them in supporting families of trans kids. The more support trans kids and their families have access to, the further we can reduce the risk factors that are contributing to the prevalence of mental health issues impacting trans youth.

With family support behind me, and access to gender affirming healthcare, I was finally able to look to the future and not be afraid.

As I entered my late teens, I was excited by the prospect of not just surviving, but thriving.

That's all I've ever wanted. Not to be doubted or shunned. Not to be bullied or attacked. Not to be weaponised or feared. Just to live. Happily and safely. To go to school and focus on learning. To be ambitious and excited for the future. To have agency over my own life. To love, and to be loved.

I think back to myself as a child, and my heart aches for her.

I wish I didn't have to spend so much of my childhood fighting for my rights.

I wish that when I played with my brother, it wasn't laced with escapism and longing.

I wish I didn't spend so much time trying to make myself smaller for other people's comfort.

The solution was really quite simple.

If adults truly listened to me, and I was able to be myself, then I could have just lived my life.

The trauma I've experienced in my life didn't happen because I am trans.

It sprouted from other people's fear and ignorance.

Every roadblock and pothole I have encountered on the road to adulthood hasn't been of my making.

Trans people are not the problem.

With your help, I have hope for the future that the next generation of kids won't have to fight so hard. That they can just live.

The road ahead is treacherous for families of trans kids, but it doesn't have to be.

Together, we can pave a safer one for those yet to come.

Thank you, Georgie.

9:47 am

Photo of Gerard RennickGerard Rennick (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to speak to the Australian Education Legislation Amendment (Prohibiting the Indoctrination of Children) Bill 2020. I have to be honest: I haven't even read the bill, and I don't really want to be talking about it. With regard to some of the comments made, I just want to—

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

You haven't read the bill—

Photo of Claire ChandlerClaire Chandler (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

Order, senators!

Photo of Gerard RennickGerard Rennick (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Can you not interject, please, Senator Steele-John. This is a chamber; there are rules and things.

Photo of Claire ChandlerClaire Chandler (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

Order, Senators. Senator Rennick, please continue your contribution.

Photo of Gerard RennickGerard Rennick (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You haven't heard what I'm going to say yet, so could you please stop interjecting.

Some of the comments in here about hatred and all of that are totally unfounded. There seems to be a big missing ingredient here in terms of transgender children, and that is the role of the parent. I've got children. If they have issues about their sexuality—and I've said this before—I will deal with it with a properly trained psychologist outside of school hours.

With the greatest of respect to teachers—and I have great respect for teachers—they've got enough on their plate. They're not necessarily qualified or trained to deal with these issues. This is not just about sexuality; this is obviously about the way the child feels. And the parents need to have a role in this. When this becomes something that's dealt with in the school, without the actual parents having any oversight of what's going on, that's when this becomes an issue, because I strongly believe in the role of parents. I'm a parent myself. As said before, rightly, teachers often follow the curriculum, but the point is that a lot of this curriculum is made by bureaucrats who work in government circles. So it is a government issue.

Personally, I'd be much happier if teachers didn't have the bureaucrats and the curriculum telling them what to do and if we let teachers actually deal with the students. They are the ones who know how to deal with the students the best. They know the student and the parents, so I'd rather keep the bureaucrats and the curriculum right out of it altogether. I accept the comments from over there before, because teachers are told to follow the curriculum and I don't like that. Most teachers I know genuinely have the interests of the child at heart. But I believe that education is a three-way thing. It's between the teacher, the parent and the child, and it's very important that the parent has interaction with the teacher as well as the child so that parents know what's going on.

In reply to one of those other comments that we have to teach them climate science, I disagree with that remark as well. We have to teach them science, and that involves all aspects of science, including mathematics, which underpins a lot of science. We say that we teach them climate science when most of it is actually based on modelling and not based on the traditional methods of demonstrating cause and effect and quantifying cause and effect. I know myself from when I've had to dig out my own school textbooks when dealing with climate science that the science of heat is actually called thermodynamics. You deal with quantum mechanics with the photons, which come from the sun. So to teach them all about climate science and how the world's going to suddenly overheat by two degrees in the next 10 years without actually teaching them the foundations of basic science, basic mathematics et cetera, is a very dangerous thing. That's why we've got to come back to basics. I'm not having a go—maybe that's in the curriculum; I haven't read it.

I will touch on one other thing. I've often been criticised by people saying that I'm in no position to talk about the Bureau of Meteorology and their record keeping—what would I know when I'm not a scientist? That goes to show how the slogan 'science' is used way too often to justify any argument. At the end of the day, taking a temperature measurement and recording that data is actually record keeping. It's got nothing to do with science. It is simply about recording the temperature, storing that and then not going back and changing it 100 years later because it doesn't suit your agenda. The Bureau of Meteorology admitted in this recent round of estimates that they've got four different datasets. They've homogenised three and they've got the raw dataset, which rarely ever gets reported anymore.

Long story short, some of the comments in here today, I think, have tried to politicise the very thing that they think the bill is trying to do. Quite frankly, I want ideology out of education altogether, whether it's right wing or left wing. I don't really care. I just want children to be children, and I want the primacy of the parent to remain in their upbringing. It's the relationship between the parent, the child and the teacher that matters the most. I was an older father, and I took a couple of years off to stay at home. This is why I really believe in, ideally, having a stay-at-home parent. I know, when I used to go and pick my children up from school, I saw the teacher—not every day, but often you'd see them—at three o'clock. If you ever had an issue, you could just speak to them informally about it. You got to know the parents of other children in the class. You got to go drinking with some of them.

At the end of the day, I don't want education to be something pushed down from above by the bureaucrats, many of whom do have agendas or preset ideology. I want children to be children. I want the primacy of the family and the interaction of the community both in there. I went up and I read to children. My wife still goes up. I'll give a shout-out to Story Dogs—that's where, basically, you take your dog into the classroom. A big shout-out to Rocket; she loves that. It basically helps children feel comfortable because they've got a pet there. That's that community. I should acknowledge my own father, who was chair of the kindergarten P&C for about four years and then chair of the state high school in Chinchilla for about another seven years. It's very, very important to have your community be heavily involved with education, likewise with fetes, tuckshops and all of those types of things. Of course, you've got P&C meetings. I myself, for a short time, was president of my own son's school P&C. That's why I wanted to speak today. As I said, I'm not interested in the bill—well, I am to the extent that I want the bureaucrats and government out of education and I want education to be a grassroots thing driven by the love of the teachers for their children. I know teachers become very fond of their children. I have great memories of my own teachers.

I should also acknowledge my great-great-aunt, who got a Bachelor of Arts in 1920 from the University of Queensland. She went on to teach maths and physics at All Hallows' School in Brisbane and has now got the hall named after her. She taught maths and physics till age 70. My own grandmother, my great-great-aunt's niece, got a Bachelor of Arts in 1930 and went on to be a teacher. She taught before the war and after the war. My own aunt was also a teacher and became a librarian. Unbeknownst to me, when I went to the University of Queensland, I was actually a fourth-generation graduate of the University of Queensland. I only realised later on that they were all women above me who got a degree—unlike my grandfather who dropped maths in the Public Service exam in New South Wales in 1911 and went back to being a farmer. I'll just throw that in.

Education is very important, but it has to be driven by the individual needs of the students, and I think that's what matters. I just want government out of our everyday lives, and I want families and communities and grassroot measures to look after our children. Every child is precious and every child is an individual. That is one of the reasons why I am very proud to be in the LNP—because it's about the dignity and worth of every individual and it's about the family values. The family is the basis of all things here. That is why I don't want any of this talk about how we're all doing this for hate and we've got political agendas. I have no political agenda. I want politics right out of raising my children. I want them to have the best childhood they can without the toxicity of politics.

I even say to kids in the Young LNP: 'Don't get into the Young LNP. Do yourself a favour and go and listen to Pink Floyd's 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon, where it says:

… ten years have got behind you

No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

Even in your 20s, I don't want you being involved in politics. When you're in your 20s, go out and get drunk, get to understand women better, get rich and travel the world. Come back to politics when you're in your 40s and you've lived a life and you can actually throw yourself into it. That's the thing. It's this slow creep of government, whether it's in education or whatever it is. We just want government out of our lives, and we want the innocence of childhood to stay just like it is.

9:56 am

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

It was not my intention to contribute to this debate, not only because of the fantastic contributions already made by my colleague Senator Faruqi, a proud woman of colour, but also because of the fantastic contribution of my colleague Senator Allman-Payne, who has been a teacher for 30 years and is probably more qualified than anybody in this building to refute the absolute nonsense that has been scraped together in this piece of legislation. But I have been moved to speak to this bill as a young person and as the Greens mental health spokesperson because of the content of some of these contributions.

Let's be really clear what this is. This is a bill that has been brought before this chamber by people who wish to force community debate about some of the most important issues that can be discussed right now in our community and that are being discussed right now in our community. The role of race and power in this country and the deep and urgent need to support queer kids, particularly trans kids, in school in this country—these are conversations which our community is engaged with and which our community is grappling with, expending extraordinary emotional labour educating, informing, healing and helping people to gain new views, taking incredible amounts of time and energy in the process. And these people are coming in here to exploit those conversations for their own political gain.

The worst part of it, the very worst part of it, is that these people that have contributed to this conversation so far today, at their core and at their base, don't actually care about these conversations. They don't actually care about these issues; they are simply trying to get attention for themselves. That is why I have sat here so resistant to contribute to this conversation. Outside of this chamber these people, if not by the internal machinations of their own party, wouldn't be considered fit to run a lemonade stand in this country, let alone be one of its political decision-makers. Yet here they are right now. They are making these contributions, regardless of what they actually think, because they see political opportunity in it. So they brought something here dripping with hate, transphobia and racism.

Let me tell you what the reality of transphobia and racism is in modern-day Australia: 63 per cent of trans kids report self-harm and 43 per cent have attempted suicide. Have you any idea what it's like to sit with a friend or to look at them across the table and see the scars on their arms; what it's like to talk with their mum as she shares with you what it is like to sit with her kid in hospital wondering whether they're going to pull through; or what it is like to sit in a room full of some of the most marginalised and courageous human beings I have ever met as they sit across from overwhelmingly old, white, rich blokes and once again, for what must feel like the millionth time, justify their right to exist as they are and to ask for equal respect and treatment before the law of the community that they occupy?

To have this chamber brought low to such purposes demeans it. This should be a place in which people work to support those courageous community conversations that are happening right now. This should be a place that works to support parents talking with their kids about concepts that they might not have heard of before. It should be a place where we support communities to engage with the difficult conversations about the reality of our history and about the reality of what racism has done and is doing to communities across Australia. Instead, we get this legislative filth and this legislative hate, contributed to by MPs who admitted before they made their contribution this afternoon that they hadn't read the bill and didn't know the context, but just wanted to have a go anyway.

Particularly in relation to the racist elements of this bill—and this is a deeply racist piece of legislation—what is happening here is a bunch of people who have been dominant in the decision-making spaces of Australia since its foundation as a national entity are feeling just a little bit of pressure and a little bit of pushing to not be the centre of attention all of the time and to not be the primary decision-maker in every conversation. They are terrified that children in schools might now have the opportunity to learn the truth of our history, not only in relation to race but also in relation to the role that misogyny has played in Australian history and still plays in Australian society.

One of these senators gave an example. He read to the chamber what he felt was an outrageous case of wokeism. It was a teacher inviting their students to imagine what it would be like to be a different gender than they are, to engage in a basic act of empathy. These men come in here and denigrate empathy. They shame empathy. In so doing, they reveal the hollowness of their own character. You'd be able to write it off as this tiny fraction of folks, but in reality these are the ones that are willing to say it out loud. These are the ones that are willing to put it on record.

The sad shame of the moment is that, in addition to these people, there are many in this place who either share their views or are unwilling when they hear them to challenge them. That is not okay. Right now in our community people are putting their bodies and minds on the line to challenge these narratives, and they have a lot less structural and institutional power than an MP. So I challenge anyone and everyone who would oppose this bill today to do so behind closed doors with your colleagues.

I am under no illusion. I am very thankful that there will not be, I would imagine, a single trans person in Australia, a single queer person in Australia and very few people of colour that would watch the contributions of these people from One Nation, from the Liberal and National parties and from whatever is left of the Palmer party and see them as a point of reference. These people say, 'We'll engage in the intellectual discussions being made with these individuals.' I don't think that's very likely. What I do think likely is that these hate filled contributions make their way onto social media platforms, guided by algorithms put together by corporations whose sole purpose is to make a profit, and they end up in front of mums, dads and grandparents—particularly of trans kids. So if any of those folks are watching tonight, I want to bring you back to those statistics: 63 per cent of trans kids and trans people have self-harmed; 43 per cent have attempted suicide.

If we look at prevention, a massive impact on reducing that figure is if that person has, in their life, one parent that supports them. The rates of suicide and self-harm plunge if they can identify somebody in their lives, particularly a parent, who loves them. So if you're watching these videos, if you've watched these contributions, if you're the parent to a wonderful, fantastic child who may be questioning their gender identity—who may have come fully and beautifully into a diverse gender identity, that may be experimenting in being part of those communities, embracing them with pride—then go and hug them and tell them that you love them, because that is one of the best things you can do to keep them safe and happy. Know that your child is fantastic.

If you are a trans person, if you are a person of colour, if you are anybody touched by this hate filled filth, know that these views are not shared by the entirety of this chamber, and they are views which are actively—and will be, consistently—opposed by the Greens every single step of the way.

10:09 am

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, I speak in support of Senator Hanson's bill, the Australian Education Legislation Amendment (Prohibiting the Indoctrination of Children) Bill 2020. I support it because I have been the president of the board of a Montessori school. I've been on the advisory board of the International Montessori Council. I agree with the primacy of the family, the tripartite role between parents, teachers and child, in understanding education and supporting it.

I want to correct something, though: the previous speaker seemed to have their imagination running wild, because he said, 'These men come in here'. Well, Senator Hanson is a woman! She initiated this bill, and she's a woman! During COVID, heavy-handed lockdowns forced children into learning from home, locked away from their friends and suffering through jerky attempts to teach through a Zoom screen. Of course parents were locked up at home with their children as well, listening to their classes in a way they never could before. Many were absolutely shocked as they heard the rubbish being taught to their children for the very first time. This bill tries to steer education back to the basics, to give our children critical thinking skills and to put the power back in parents' hands to make sure that's all they're being taught.

In this bill, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority would need to ensure that education provides a balanced presentation of opposing views on political, historical and scientific issues. Senator Hanson's bill would require that, where opposing views exist, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority is to ensure that the teaching profession is provided with the information, resources and support required to provide a balanced presentation to students. Wonderful! Federal funding would be conditional on states and territories requiring schools and their staff to provide a non-partisan education to students, while consulting with parents and guardians on the extent to which this has been achieved.

One Nation has been trying to keep this in check, with motions condemning the teaching of critical race theory and the curriculum's erasing of history because it's said to be too 'white' or Christian. There are lots of examples showing that stronger action is needed, and I commend Senator Antic and the others who spoke here today on that very point. There is, though, for example, the Parkdale Secondary College, where students were told to stand up if they were straight, white Christian males and be humiliated by the class because they were, 'oppressors'. Without trial, they're 'oppressors'. Then there is Brauer College, where all the boys were forced to stand up at assembly and apologise to all of the girls on behalf of their gender. No specific crime was mentioned or identified for these boys to apologise for, except that they were the wrong gender. And only today One Nation New South Wales leader, Mark Latham, has drawn our attention to Mount Kuring-gai Public School. They are feeding fiction to students about history, forcing them to learn a play where Captain Cook arrives with the First Fleet in 1788 as a coloniser. For those who have forgotten history from their schooling, Captain Cook was long dead by the time of the First Fleet.

This bill is necessary to stop examples like this infecting our children, to return our teaching to the basics, to restore balance to the way topics are presented and to stop our schools from being indoctrination centres. This bill puts the teaching of balanced, critical analysis and parents in the driver's seat of children's education, as they should be.

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted.

Photo of Catryna BilykCatryna Bilyk (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The time for this debate has expired. The Senate will now proceed to the consideration of government business.