Angry school teachers have confronted a state Liberal MP demanding to know whether he also believes private schools are "far superior" to public schools, as the federal Liberal candidate for Macnamara has said.
The exchanges at Thursday's ANZAC Day ceremony in Elwood were sparked by revelations the federal candidate for the seat of Macnamara in Melbourne, Kate Ashmor, described the quality and teaching at private schools as "far superior" to public schools in a letter to a local newspaper in 2001.
While Ms Ashmor has apologised for referring to the wife of Labor leader Bill Shorten as a pig, she has not returned calls about her comments criticising state schools or about her opinion that childless leaders like Julia Gillard "lack empathy".
Ms Ashmor has gone to ground since making the comments, leaving voters to take their concerns to the state MP, Liberal James Newbury, whose seat of Brighton overlaps Macnamara.
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age has learned that up to a dozen members of the public, including teachers and a principal from local schools, raised Ms Ashmor's comments with Mr Newbury in front of hundreds of eyewitnesses attending the ANZAC Day ceremony.
They demanded to know if Mr Newbury also believed private schools are "far superior" to state schools.
When contacted to confirm the reports, Mr Newbury said he answered their questions honestly.
"At the Elwood Anzac Day service, a number of people did approach me to talk about the public schools in my community," he said.
"I was honest and told them that I attended a private school for the early part of high school but chose to leave and finish at a public school. My public school was culturally rich and opened my eyes both academically and socially to things that I could not have learnt any other way."
"I know the public schools in Elwood. They are exceptional," Mr Newbury said.
One senior Liberal figure said Ms Ashmor's string of gaffes were causing wider damage to the Liberal Party's campaign in Victoria, a state where the Coalition is under significant pressure.
Labor has seized on Ms Ashmor's comments.
Victorian Labor MP Tim Watts released a video on Wednesday saying Ms Ashmor was proof the Liberal Party remained "out of touch."
The seat of Macnamara replaces Melbourne Ports and is notionally Labor, although by a slim margin of 1.2 per cent.
- SMH/The Age
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