Former prime minister John Howard says the Turnbull Government should cut all funding for any school that won’t let parents pull their children out of sex- or gender-related classes. Source: The Age.
The Coalition elder has told the review into religious freedom – run by his long-time cabinet minister Philip Ruddock – that federal funding should be used to coerce public and private schools into respecting parental preferences.
“Speaking practically, the preferable approach would be for the Commonwealth government to make it a condition of funding for both government and non-government schools that parental rights of this kind be respected,” Mr Howard wrote.
He said it would be difficult for the government to pass a law of this kind “without invoking some international covenant” – though that should not be ruled out.
Mr Howard, the country’s second-longest serving PM and a lauded Liberal figure, also joined the major churches in urging the government to enshrine as a positive right the ability for religious schools and welfare organisations to hire and fire as they see fit, including on religious or moral grounds.
Mr Ruddock, who served as immigration minister and attorney-general under Mr Howard, was tasked with reviewing the adequacy of Australia’s religious freedom provisions in the wake of the legalisation of same-sex marriage.
During the postal survey campaign, opponents of same-sex marriage argued it would lead to the proliferation of “radical” gay and transgender sex education at schools. Some conservative MPs unsuccessfully tried to amend the same-sex marriage bill to guarantee the right of parents to withdraw their children from classes or programs involving material contrary to their values.
This could include programs similar to the controversial Safe Schools initiative, or sex education in the curriculum that acknowledges the existence of homosexual sex or transgender people.
In his submission, Mr Howard noted the states control school curricula and said the issue of parental rights remained a “genuine concern”.
Mr Ruddock is due to hand the review to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull by the end of this week.