One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson has refused to apologise for her comments about removing autistic children from mainstream classrooms, claiming she was taken out of context by the Greens and Labor for "political pointscoring".
Hanson told media on Thursday she is standing by her controversial comments made during a Senate debate on the 'Gonski 2.0' legislation on Wednesday, saying she believes "every child has the right to an education," even if that includes separating autistic students into "a special classroom" for the benefit of "their educational needs".
"I see this has been political point-scoring by the Labor Party and by the Greens," she said.
"These children need special care and attention. They are not getting it in a normal classroom. If they need special care and attention, then give it to them.
"You can actually have a special classroom to teach them in class hours. The rest of the time they are allowed to mix with the other kids in the playgrounds and sporting events. You must consider their educational needs to help these children progress through."
Then, when pressed by a journalist, she doubled down.
"What have I said that is offensive?" she asked.
"I'm not saying they do not belong in the mainstream, I am saying give them the special attention, if they need that special attention. There are different levels of autism and parents will tell you that."
Hanson came under fire on Wednesday for saying she had spoken to parents and teachers who are of the view that disabled or autistic children should be removed from mainstream classrooms so they can get "special attention" and not hold other children back.
In her address to the 'Gonski 2.0' debate, Hanson said: "We need to get rid of those people because you want everyone to feel good about themselves," later clarifying that "those people" were do-gooders.
"These kids have a right to an education by all means, but if there's a number of them these children should actually go into a special classroom, looked after and given that special attention."
"Most of the time the teacher spends so much time on them they forget about the child who wants to go ahead in leaps and bounds in their education but are held back."
The Queensland senator also told Ben Fordham on 2GB radio on Thursday afternoon that her comments about austistic students were not "about locking them out" of the education system, particularly after receiving stories of classroom struggles from the parents of children with autism.
"It was not about locking them out, I'm not having a go at them and my heart goes out to these kids... and [from] what I've seen, you know some parents do it darn tough, they really do with these kids," she said.
"Stop sweeping it underneath the carpet, stop being so precious about things, stop making it a political football."
The comments outraged disability groups and influenced Labor Leader Bill Shorten to read a letter from the parent of a disabled child detailing how comments such as Hanson's breaks her heart "on a regular basis".
The condemnation of the One Nation senator continued on Thursday morning with Labor's Emma Husar, who has a 10-year-old autistic son, calling the comments "ill-informed" and demanding an apology from Hanson.
"I'm disappointed that in 2017 we've got people like Senator Hanson sitting over there in the Senate making ill-informed comments about kids that are autistic; that they don't belong in a mainstream classroom, and calling on them to be segregated," she said.
Hanson, who confirmed she supports the 'Gonski 2.0' model, also used her address on Thursday to read letters her office had received from autistic students and parents of disabled children in support of her comments and called for greater teacher training in being able to cope with children with special needs.
"We can peel back the emotional side of this. We need to find the right answers to this. We need to help these kids," she said.
"The teacher needs the ability to be trained. What I am understanding from teachers [is that] there is no training that goes into dealing with autism in the classroom.
"There is a problem in our society. Parents know it, teachers know it. I feel for every child in this country. Every child has the right to move forward with their lives. Every child has the right to an education. I will not take away from my comments."
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