Pauline Hanson has labelled her critics “disgraceful” and “misleading” while refusing to retreat from comments that children with autism should be removed from mainstream classrooms.
The One Nation leader insists she will not apologise for suggesting that autistic children are holding other kids back.
Her comments have drawn widespread criticism, but Senator Hanson argues she was taken out of context, and put the controversy down to political point-scoring.
“My intention is to raise these issues, speak about them, openly and honestly on the floor of parliament,” she told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
“To actually go out there and say that I want to stop children from entering classrooms is disgraceful, it is misleading, and I think that in itself is very hurtful to the parents who do have children with autism.
“I’m not saying they do not belong in the mainstream. I am saying provide other resources if they need that special attention.”
Senator Hanson said debate on the issue was needed.
“There is a problem in our society – parents know it, teachers know it,” she said.
“But if you raise anything in this country that is taboo by just a few of those on the left, we are not going to find the answers that we need.”
Listen: Kathy Lette talks about finding out her son was on the autism spectrum:
On Wednesday the One Nation senator questioned whether including autistic children in mainstream classrooms was “at the loss of our other kids”.
“It’s no good saying ‘We’ve got to allow these kids to feel good about themselves and we don’t want to upset them and make them feel hurt’,” she said.
“We have to be realistic at times and consider the impact that is having on other children in that classroom.”
Labor MP Emma Husar, whose 10-year-old son Mitch has autism, demanded an apology from Senator Hanson.
“She owes an apology to every single autistic child in this country, every one of the parents who are like me – because we’ve got better things to do than defend our kids,” Ms Husar said.
“I’ve got one thing to say to every single child on the autism spectrum who is going into the classroom today – you matter.
“Even on the days that are hard, when you’re frustrated and your disability makes you angry, you are still better than she is on her best day.”
Social Services Minister Christian Porter labelled Senator Hanson’s remarks unhelpful and “very wrong”.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale described the remarks as “hateful, outrageous” and “disgraceful”.