State Liberal leader Matthew Guy has backed Malcolm Turnbull's review of the Safe Schools program and has warned against making the curriculum mandatory in Victoria, saying a one-size-fits-all approach won't work.
But the Victorian Opposition Leader has provoked a furious state government response after condoning the comments of Liberal MP Bernie Finn, who described the program this week as "a full-frontal assault on the innocence of children and the role of families in society".
Almost two weeks after the Turnbull government announced a rethink of the Safe Schools anti-bullying initiative, Mr Guy has endorsed Canberra's decision while hitting out at Premier Daniel Andrews' plan to expand the program to every Victorian public school by 2018.
"A one-size-fits-all approach in education doesn't work; schools and parents need to have input into what their kids are learning," said the father of three.
"All school curriculum is very important so a review into the effectiveness of any program to make sure it is meeting its intended outcome, and therefore benefiting our children, has my support."
Safe Schools was piloted in Victoria in 2010 in a bid to tackle homophobia, and continued to receive funding under the Baillieu/Napthine governments without any vocal concerns from Coalition MPs.
However, with a marriage equality plebiscite looming, the program has come under federal fire recently amid claims that it indoctrinates children and promotes "the gay agenda".
This week, state Liberal MPs also weighed into the debate, with parliamentary secretary Bernie Finn writing on his Facebook page: "The Safe Schools program has nothing to do with highlighting bullying. It is, in fact, a full-frontal assault on the innocence of children and the role of families in society. It should be cut immediately from all Victorian schools."
Asked if he condoned Mr Finn's comments, Mr Guy said we live in a democracy, and pointed instead to the comments of Safe Schools co-founder Roz Ward, who according to a News Corp report this week, had suggested it was part of a broader Marxist agenda to change society.
"It's a democracy and Bernie is entitled to be concerned about the comments made by Roz Ward as well as wanting greater parental involvement in children's education," Mr Guy said. "For Daniel Andrews not to be concerned by Roz Ward's comments is a worry for every Victorian parent."
But the government hit back, accusing Mr Guy of being "a coward who is unwilling to stand up to the bigots within the Liberal Party".
"We know that LGBTI people in Australia have the highest rate of suicide and that same-sex-attracted young people are six times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers," said Deputy Premier and Education Minister James Merlino.
"The Liberal Party is giving no consideration to the pain and suffering they are causing LGBTI students and their families."
The Safe Schools initiative began in Victoria, four years before it was introduced nationally, with the aim of countering homophobia and promoting acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.
Since 2010, it has grown from 11 founding schools to 250 participants in Victoria alone, about half the number of schools taking part in the program Australia-wide.