The education minister has blasted Senator Hollie Hughes for “crazy” comments blaming the Liberals’ low youth vote on “Marxist” teachers.
On Sunday, Labor’s Jason Clare she responded to the remarks made by the New South Wales senator at a Sydney Institute federal election postmortem on Tuesday.
Voters under 55 abandoned the Coalition at the May election, with age and education levels the two biggest factors in the swing that delivered Labor majority government.
Asked how the Liberals could hope to recover the lost youth vote, Hughes said, “one of the issues … [is] we’ve got an education system that Marxists run”.
“When kids are at school, and they’re being taught all this absolute leftwing rubbish, that’s where they’re leaving school, and that’s where they’re landing,” she said.
“When you’ve got a problem in your education system, it will take a generation to fix it.
“Maybe their parents need to turn their internet off, limit it to one hour a day, and stop them using the car to make them get public transport.”
This comment prompted an exclamation from the audience, warning Hughes not to “denigrate young people that way”.
Hughes concluded her answer by noting she has three children who she said: “don’t have any comprehension of the impact of what they want to talk about”.
Senator Hollie Hughes blames Marxist teachers for so many young people rejecting the Liberal Party at the election. pic.twitter.com/mr8pdJ6GJU
— Matt Burke (@matttburke) June 25, 2022
Minutes after proposing to limit children’s internet usage, Hughes told a later questioner the Liberals “need to do better at social media”.
“The Greens were so successful, their social media campaigns were unbelievable, and nobody knew they were happening except people they were targeting.”
Clare told Sky News that conservatives “used to say that the reds are under the bed”.
“Now, apparently, the commies are in the classroom. This is just crazy.
“[It’s] more denial from the Liberal party. If they think they lost the election because all teachers are Marxists, then I don’t think they’re looking in the right direction.”
In March, the acting education minister, Stuart Robert, started a war of words with public school teachers by claiming independent schools did not accept “dud teachers”, sending the “bottom 10% of teachers dragging the chain” into the government system.
The conservative side of politics has often complained about student activism on climate change. Former prime minister Scott Morrison urged striking students to be less activist, and some claimed climate alarmism is causing mental health problems in school-age children.
In her Sydney Institute speech alongside the former Wentworth MP Dave Sharma, Hughes also lashed out at “modern Liberals” who she said campaigned with “no Liberal branding” in a sign of “abandonment of core Liberal party members”.
“If they wanted to be so independent, they should have run as one. By claiming to be modern Liberals, every other colleague is, by inference, outdated, old fashioned, or a dinosaur.”
Hughes warned if MPs “move from Liberal to Liberal-lite, you’re just a teal without the cult following”.
Hughes, who has been promoted to shadow assistant climate change minister, also blamed the election loss on “luxury issues”, including climate change and trans rights.
“When people are secure in their jobs, paying a mortgage is not a problem, the kids are happy at school, and everything ticking along, they have time to think about other things,” she said, referring to such voters as “doctors’ wives”.
Hughes blamed the “disproportionate” focus on trans issues not on Warringah candidate Katherine Deves but on the religious discrimination bill, a “legacy of Malcolm Turnbull”.
Hughes aimed at Liberal moderates who crossed the floor to support amendments to protect LGBTQ+ students by observing “disunity is death” and claiming the lower house rebellion was “fuelled by duplicity and out and out lies to the prime minister’s [Morrison’s] face”.
When one questioner asked how to restore John Howard’s broad church, Sharma said conservatives had to be “goodwill and constructive” to help liberals re-enter parliament.
Hughes replied: “We can have a broad church, but you don’t need to go the whole, full width of the circle of the political spectrum.
“It [the Liberal party] is center right, and it should stay on that center right side of the political spectrum – if you’re not center right, you’re not in the Liberal party.”