Peter Dutton has condemned a Victorian school strike planned to protest Israeli attacks in Gaza for refusing to support a ceasefire in the conflict with Hamas.
The opposition leader said he was “completely and completely” against students planning to walk out on Thursday lunchtime to take part in a protest in Melbourne’s CBD.
“If your numeracy and literacy rates were off the charts, it would be a different story,” he told 3AW.
“But I think this is a luxury. It’s a political statement. I think teachers have a greater responsibility to their children than to allow them to march.”
The Victorian Department of Education has said students are expected to attend school.
Independent MP Allegra Spender, whose Wentworth constituency is home to Australia’s largest Jewish community, said the protests risked isolating Jewish students.
“Australians are heartbroken by the deaths of civilians in Israel and Gaza. It is heartbreaking. But we cannot allow conflicts overseas to spark conflict between us and our children here. I can’t,” she said in a series of posts to X.
“I encourage all students to reflect on the impact their actions have on the mental health of their classmates and to look for ways to come together. We all support the social harmony that is at the heart of this great multicultural nation. We should do everything we can to keep it that way.”
Mr Dutton made the comments before attending the opening of the Melbourne Holocaust Museum in Elsternwick with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
He said a bipartisan show of support would send a unified message that Australia was a “tolerant society” that did not accept hatred for any reason.
Mr Dutton referred to reports that Jewish Australians felt unsafe in the community, saying it was “completely unacceptable that people are feeling as fearful as they are right now”.
Mr Dutton was accused by Mr Albanese of weaponizing anti-Semitism in parliament last week during a heated debate in which Liberal leaders tried to link the Middle East conflict to the release of detainees from immigration detention.
Dutton told 3AW he believed Albanese’s comments were simply “his emotions speaking.”
“I think some of the comments from Penny Wong and others were disappointing, but I think today is a day for us to come together and say that we have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism.” Mr. Dutton said.
On whether he supports a ceasefire in Gaza, the Liberal leader said he believes “Israel must address the threat from Hamas.”
“This is the extinction of a species. This is endless hatred,” Dutton said.
“Israel was not shelling Gaza on October 6th. They responded to a Hamas attack. We must always remember that.”
NED-10777 Hamas hostage
In his speech at the museum’s opening, Mr Dutton called for “moral courage and clarity” in clearly condemning anti-Semitism.
Mr Albanese said Australians should not allow anti-Semitism to gain a foothold here as the conflict continues.
“Australia will always condemn and completely reject it, just as we do against all forms of racism and bigotry,” he said.
https://www.perthnow.com.au/business/peter-dutton-slams-victorian-student-plan-to-skip-school-for-palestine-protest-c-12639670 Peter Dutton slams Victorian student plans to skip school for Palestinian protests