Malcolm Turnbull has stopped short of reprimanding a coalition backbencher who's compared the Safe Schools program to child grooming.
Source:
AAP
26 Feb 2016 - 9:48 AM  UPDATED 26 Feb 2016 - 10:13 PM

Malcolm Turnbull has urged government backbenchers campaigning against a gay and lesbian-focused schools program to think about how their words could hurt children.

But the prime minister has stopped short of heeding calls to rebuke Nationals MP George Christensen for likening the Safe Schools program to child sexual grooming.

And the program operators have vehemently denied Mr Christensen's claims they link kids to pornographic web content or sex shops.

In his first comments on the program since ordering a review into Safe Schools, Mr Turnbull urged people discussing the program to use measured language.

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Safe Schools program like child grooming: Christensen
The tit-for-tat between Bill Shorten and Cory Bernardi continues over an anti-bullying schools program focusing on gay and lesbian issues.

"And to consider very carefully the impact of the words they use on young people and on their families," he told reporters in Canberra on Friday.

"Bullying is absolutely unacceptable."

The prime minister is facing pressure to reprimand Mr Christensen for saying the anti-bullying program was akin to pedophile grooming because it recommended, through partners, pornographic content, sex shops, sex clubs and adult communities to school kids.

The Queensland MP said the program had links to websites which advised kids about chest-binding, penis-tucking and gay sex, and gave instructions to children about unblocking websites without their parents' knowledge.

The Australian Christian Lobby seized on his claims to call for an immediate suspension of the program while the review was under way.

They claim one of Safe Schools' partners, Minus 18, has since removed a link to a sex shop.

"Bullying is absolutely unacceptable."

"The Safe Schools Coalition purports to be an anti-bullying program but instead is providing links to adult-only sites," ACL managing director Lyle Shelton said.

The Safe Schools Coalition dismissed those claims saying it did not link to, or recommend pornographic content, shops or clubs, nor teach kids to hide their browsing history.

The program continued to gain popularity, with 515 member schools and 10 more joining in the past week.

"We are also pleased to note that no schools have left the program since the government review was announced," a spokeswoman told AAP.

The independent review into the $8 million program, details of which were released on Friday, will consider whether the material is age-appropriate, educationally sound, and aligned to the Australian curriculum.

It will be headed by University of Western Australia professor Bill Louden with the review's report due by March 11.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten issued a passionate defence of the program, saying it was about preventing bullying and intimidation.

"(It) lets children who are grappling with questions of identity know that they are not alone, they can seek help," he told an Australian Education Union conference in Melbourne.