Television Interview with Karl Stefanovic and Sarah Abo – The Today Show – Thursday 23 November 2023

SUBJECTS: Student strikes; Hamas-Israel conflict

KARL STEFANOVIC: Welcome back to the show. Well, school students in Melbourne and Adelaide will be walking out of class today to stage a strike protesting Israel’s invasion and bombardment of Gaza.

SARAH ABO: To discuss. Let’s bring in Education Minister Jason Clare in Melbourne.

Minister, good morning. Good to see you. Now, what advice are you giving to schools on this planned strike? We know it’s been quite controversial.

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: My view, and I hope it’s not controversial, is that school students should be at school during school hours. It’s as simple as that.

ABO: Well, why aren’t they? I mean, they could be protesting on the weekends, but they’re not.

CLARE: Honestly, that’s a matter for students and their parents if they want to protest on the weekend. But when school’s on, students should be at school. I’ve spoken to state education ministers about this, that’s their view as well. My department’s spoken to state education departments about it, that’s their view, too. And they’ve sent notices out to schools to make that clear: that school’s on and students should be at school.

STEFANOVIC: Repercussions, from a guidelines point of view and as far as you’re concerned, what should they be?

CLARE: What schools are being told is that there’s no makeups or catch-ups or redos. If students aren’t at school, then it’ll be considered an absence. The key thing is, if you want to change the world, get an education, and that means going to school. So, while school’s on, and there’s still a couple of weeks till the end of the year, I want to send the really clear message about how important school is and we want our kids at school.

ABO: Minister, you know, the education aspect aside, this obviously has certain members of the community concerned. We know that Jewish groups have been writing to Jacinta Allan in Melbourne, the Premier there, of course, wanting her to step in here. Are you not concerned that this kind of action could stoke antisemitism?

CLARE: I want to make sure that we’re lowering the temperature here in Australia. We all see on our TV screens the death and destruction. For Jewish Australians and for Muslim Australians, they don’t just see that these aren’t just dead bodies on either side of the border, these are people with names, and they know these names. That’s why people are so anxious, worried, scared sometimes angry and asking for a bit of compassion. Worried about antisemitism and Islamophobia as well.

I’ve had Jewish friends ring me, tell me they’re worried about sending their kids to school. I’ve had Muslim friends tell me they’re worried about their family in Gaza. People telling me of cases of antisemitism and Islamophobia in the streets of Australia at the moment, that’s not us. Now, we can’t affect what’s happening on the other side of the world, but we do have to work together here to lower the temperature and help to keep our country together at this time.

STEFANOVIC: All right, there’s a bit of heat even in your own electorate. We appreciate you being on today. Thank you.