Additional reporting: Joe Kelly
The head of one of the country’s most prestigious private schools — located in Malcolm Turnbull’s electorate — has warned that unless the Prime Minister secures amendments to the same-sex-marriage bill to protect faith-based schools, they could be at risk of being defunded or even de-registered.
In an 11th-hour plea to parliament, Ian Lambert, the principal of Scots College in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, said independent schools could be forced to “comply or die”, while parents would be stripped of their rights to choose the type of education they wanted for their children.
Parliament is expected to begin a heated debate today over protection amendments, which will be moved by up to a dozen senior Liberal MPs and cabinet ministers, including Treasurer Scott Morrison.
The heads of leading independent schools representing more than 200,000 students this week wrote to parliament, seeking assurances that they would be shielded from the changes to the Marriage Act. In a bid to escalate pressure on up to six moderate Liberals who are expected to cross the floor and vote with Labor to defeat the amendments, conservative backbencher Andrew Hastie will move to table the letters, addressed through him, in the parliament.
In a caution to Mr Turnbull to honour his promise of protections, Dr Lambert noted in his letter there were 10 Catholic, six Protestant and three Jewish schools representing almost 14,000 students in Mr Turnbull’s electorate, all with strong religious foundations.
The Australian revealed last week that Mr Turnbull intended to support some amendments, pertaining to the protection of faith-based charities. But he has passed on other proposed amendments, that would include parental rights and protection for schools, to an inquiry to be headed by Philip Ruddock, who was attorney-general in the Howard government. The inquiry will not report until next year.