Politicians Divided on Student Protests

Thursday, March 14th, 2019

Politicians are split on whether tens of thousands of Australian students are right or wrong to walk out of school to take part in a global protest.

They’ll skip class tomorrow, to call for faster action on climate change.

The Victorian Premier says he doesn’t have a problem with it, but the New South Wales Education Minister is telling pupils to stay in school.

Victoria’s Daniel Andrews says young people being active and concerned about the future is something to be celebrated.

“All too often we bemoan the fact that our kids are not engaged, [that] they’re on devices and checked out from some of these important issues,” says Mr Andrews. “Instead of being patronising about this and telling kids what they should and shouldn’t be doing, my view is [that] we ought to celebrate the fact that they care, that they’re active, they’re engaged, and that they know the future is theirs.”

Mr Andrews’ stance has been echoed by a fellow Labor politician, with New South Wales Opposition Leader Michael Daley giving his support for those intending to take part.

Mr Daley says young people have a democratic right to protest.

New South Wales Education Minister Rob Stokes says children should be in class on a school day.

“As adults, we have a shared responsibility to encourage our young people to attend school,” says Mr Stokes. “So that’s really got to be the first message; turn up to school, don’t rob yourselves of the opportunities to get a great quality education.”

Queensland Labor MP Shannon Fentiman says while she supports their right to protest, it should not get in the way of education.

“They clearly feel very passionate about climate change and their future,” says Ms Fentiman. “I think we’d probably all prefer that it didn’t happen in school time but at the end of the day that’s a question for each student and – importantly – their parents.”

Friday’s country-wide mass protest comes months after students first turned their back on the classroom in the name of climate action, a move condemned by the Prime Minister.

“What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools,” Scott Morrison said at the time.

Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten says the government has been on strike from climate policy since it has been in power.

“In an ideal world, they (students) would protest after school hours or on weekends but it’s a bit rich of the government to lecture school kids for going on strike on climate,” he has told reporters in Melbourne.

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