'At least I'm not a homophobe' says Bill Shorten
Bill Shorten and Cory Bernardi have clashed during a press conference at Parliament House, with the Opposition Leader calling the conservative Liberal senator a "homophobe" in reference to his attack on Safe Schools.
Mr Shorten was using a press conference to attack the Turnbull government's decision to review the Safe Schools program, which is designed to reduce bullying of LGBTI students.
But things got heated when Senator Bernardi - the program's leading critic - walked past.
"We see this ridiculous, absurd obsession by the right wing of the Liberal Party about Safe Schools," Mr Shorten told reporters.
"That'd be me," Senator Bernardi interrupted. "At least I'm honest, Bill. You're a fraud."
Mr Shorten replied: "No, mate. At least I'm not a homophobe either, mate."
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ordered a review into the Safe Schools initiative after pressure from conservative backbenchers.
In a party room meeting, Senator Bernardi said the $8 million voluntary program should be defunded because it could "indoctrinate children into a Marxist agenda of cultural relativism".
It is understood Queensland MP George Christensen, Queensland senator Jo Lindgren and Tasmanian MP Andrew Nikolic were among the others who expressed concern over the program set up by the former Labor government.
The concerns focused on whether the content was age appropriate and could prematurely sexualise children.
About 500 schools have signed up to the program, which aims to assist with responses to "homophobic and transphobic behaviour and to actively create inclusive policies and practices".
The Safe Schools Coalition said it welcomed "all opportunities to demonstrate the positive impact" and "provide the facts and evidence behind it".
Education Minister Simon Birmingham, who had defended the program's "perfectly reasonable objectives" a week earlier, said the Coalition would have devised it differently and he was tasked with investigating it.
An independent review will report back to Senator Birmingham by mid-March.
The Australian Christian Lobby welcomed the development as a victory against "rainbow ideology" while Mr Shorten said the Prime Minister has become a "frontman who's been borrowed by the right wing of the Liberal Party to make the Liberal Party look better"