Kieran Gilbert: Thousands of school children are planning to walk out of class tomorrow to attend pro-Palestine protests across the country. Youth rallies scheduled to be held in most capital cities tomorrow despite state leaders telling them to stay in the classroom.
Chris Minns: If you want to change the world, get an education. To make school the enemy by striking against it, I think sends the wrong message about education.
Jacinta Allan: Thursday is a school day. It is the government’s expectation that students be at school.
Kieran Gilbert: Let’s bring in Liberal Senator, Sarah Henderson, the Shadow Education Minister. Thanks for your time. Do you welcome that strong language from the Labor state premiers saying stay in the classroom?
Senator Henderson: Well, Kieran, good afternoon and great to join you. I’m not so sure about the strength of the language from the Victorian premier. Last week she was actually defending the right of students to protest, she said in the context of the School Strike for Palestine tomorrow, in Melbourne, that “students had a democratic right to protest.” Now she’s walking that back. But frankly, an expectation that students stay in classroom is not good enough. I’ve written to the Education Minister, Jason Clare, asking him to make it very clear that premiers should be directing their departments not to allow students to go to this protest. These protests will fuel antisemitism. They are divisive. They are very harmful for the Jewish community and of course, as we saw last night, Kieran, there is the prospect that they could become violent and that is dangerous for students and schools. And school principals have a duty of care to protect students. When parents send their students to school, they expect their students to remain at school.
Kieran Gilbert: Do you welcome, at least, the bipartisanship on this that we heard from your counterpart, Jason Clare, and the federal parliament?
Senator Henderson: Look, I do. Jason Clare has said that he believes students should remain in school and I haven’t been particularly critical of Jason, other than I would like him to take a tougher stand, particularly in making it absolutely clear and giving parents across this country the assurance that students will be told they are not allowed to go to these protests. Now, I know of some secondary schools, government schools in Melbourne, where they’ve made it very clear to parents that students will not be allowed to attend. But of course, that is not across the board. So I do think that the federal government could have been tougher, but particularly I think it’s been quite reckless and irresponsible of the Victorian premier to say things like “We respect the right of students to protest” when clearly students can go to a protest on a weekend, they can go to a protest if they want after school hours. But kids need to stay at school. And particularly in this climate, when we know the potential harm that these protests will cause in our community, including to the Jewish community in particular, premiers and education ministers around this country must have the moral courage and clarity to say under no circumstances will students be allowed to go to these protests.