Pauline Hanson has been lashed from all sides over her comments about the strain students with disabilities put on the mainstream education system, with disability advocates fiercely criticising the One Nation leader.
Announcing her party’s support for the government Education Reform Bill yesterday, Hanson called for children with “disabilities and autism” to be given a “special classroom” because, she said, teachers were currently spending disproportionate amounts of time on children teaching these children, at the expense of “other kids who want to learn”.
“I hear so many times from parents and teachers whose time is taken up with children—whether they have a disability or whether they are autistic—who are taking up the teacher’s time in the classroom,” she said.
“It is no good saying that we have to allow these kids to feel good about themselves and that we do not want to upset them and make them feel hurt. I understand that, but we have to be realistic at times and consider the impact this is having on other children in the classroom.”
Nicole Rogerson, the chief executive of Autism Awareness Australia and mother of a son with autism, called Hanson’s comments “disgusting” and Hanson herself a “disgrace” and a “truly deplorable woman”.
“Dangerous, hurtful and archaic thinking.” Rogerson tweeted shortly after Hanson’s comments became public late yesterday. “Cruel & hateful deplorable people are EXACTLY the reason she is in Parliament Someone is voting 4 her! This mean archaic thinking is hideous.”
Meanwhile, disability advocate Craig Wallace told the ABC that he had been sent to “special school” that was akin to a warehouse where children with disabilities were given a cheap education.
“What the evidence does tell us is that students with a disability perform much worse when they are put away in segregated settings and denied the benefits of a mainstream face-to-face education,” he said, and noted that there was no evidence that placing children with disabilities in mainstream education had a negative impact on other children’s learning.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten also hit out at Hanson’s comments, tweeting that it was “heartbreaking and upsetting for parents of children with autism to hear @PaulineHanzonOz say their kids don’t deserve the same opportunity”. And Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert called the Queensland Senator’s comments “disgusting.
“She should be ashamed of herself and apologise,” Siewert tweeted.
Hanson did not respond to the criticism overnight, tweeting only about the State of Origin and about halal certification. She did, though, tweet a link to her controversial speech in Hansard and a link to a video of her speech.