LNP Senator's latest gaffe aimed at children
Thousands of school children walking out of class today to demand federal government action on climate change are only going to learn how to join the dole queue, a senior federal government minister said today.
The 'Strike 4 Climate Action' - inspired by a 15-year-old Swedish school girl's activism - will involve children in capital cities and 20 regional centres.
Strike organisers says hundreds of students are gathering in Sydney's Martin Place to kick off the national protest action.
But Resources Minister Matt Canavan says he wants kids in school learning about how to build mines, do geology and how to drill for oil and gas "which is one of the most remarkable science exploits in the world".
"These are the type of things that excite young children and we should be great at as a nation," he told 2GB on Friday.
"Taking off school and protesting? You don't learn anything from that.
"The best thing you'll learn about going to a protest is how to join the dole queue. Because that's what your future life will look like, up in a line asking for a handout, not actually taking charge for your life and getting a real job."
Meanwhile, teachers have been caught out encouraging students to cut classes and even giving children advice about how to exploit loopholes in school rules so they can avoid being punished for truancy.
Organisers of the Big School Walk Out for Climate Action said they expect thousands of students to join a rally at noon outside NSW Parliament House, one of many co-ordinated protests planned across the country.
The national "strike" encourages students aged five to 18 to skip school in an effort to send a message to politicians to take action on climate change.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this week said children should stay in class instead of attending the protest, and the NSW Education Department warned that students who skipped school would face standard punishments.
But a union-affiliated group that represents around 3000 teachers in Sydney's inner city wrote to the organisers this week backing the protest and praising them for their "courageous stance".
"Your heroic example is an inspiration to us all and we wish to convey our sincere support for you all on this vital issue," John Gauci, secretary of the Inner City Teachers Association, wrote on NSW Teachers Federation letterhead.
Students told The Daily Telegraph that teachers had been advising students who wanted to attend the protest about how to avoid getting into trouble with their school.
Jean Hinchliffe, 14, a Year 9 student at Fort Street High, said she had asked a senior teacher about going to the rally, and was told students could avoid punishment with a note from their parents.
"She said that in order to strike and have it not marked down as truancy you had to bring a note from your parents explaining you were attending the strike," Jean said.
Jean dismissed the notion that students' time would be better spent in the classroom: "We are learning by going to the strike, we are participating in democracy, and public engagement."
Auburn Girls High School student Aisheeya Huq, 16, said she felt it was worth skipping school for the cause and that "our principal is very supportive".
But NSW Parents' Council president Rose Cantali said teachers should not project their political opinions onto young minds.
"I think children are very sensitive about teachers' opinions. They're easily influenced by their teachers because the teachers are seen to be ones who have a lot of power and impart knowledge," she said. "As president of the NSW Parents' Council, I would be concerned because the ideologies are not in-keeping with my own."
Education Minister Rob Stokes said students could be passionate about their beliefs without missing valuable school time.
"A strike is an industrial action for workers, not an opportunity for students to protest a cause they care about during school hours," he said.
Mr Morrison said children should be in class.
"What we want is more learning in schools and less activism," he said.
An Education Department spokesman said public schools were "neutral places for rational discourse and objective study" and students wagging risked punishment. "While the (department) understands some students are passionate about this topic, all students who are enrolled at school are expected to attend that school whenever instruction is provided," he said.