Trans debate ‘collision of rights’: Deves

Callum Godde, Marty Silk and Paul Osborne |

Controversial Liberal candidate Katherine Deves has broken her silence over the issue of transgender kids playing school sport, saying it is an issue that needs debating but in a “dignified” way.

Ms Deves, who was hand-picked by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to run in the Sydney seat of Warringah, has triggered a national debate over the issue after her long history of transphobic comments emerged.

She told SBS World News on Sunday night she recognised the way she put her arguments “was not conducive to proper, reasonable debate”.

Ms Deves said she had been “very chastened” by the process and would not be engaging with social media.

“I recognise that trying to prosecute arguments about complex, nuanced and difficult subjects … should not take place on a platform that propagates offence and division and hurt,” she said.

“And, going forward, I will be conducting myself in a dignified and respectful fashion.”

Asked about her message to young and vulnerable trans kids, she said the issue was one of women’s rights.

“With this issue we have a collision of rights and – thus far – the voices of women and girls have not been heard.

“And when we have a collision of rights, in liberal democracies, we debate them in a reasonable, measured fashion.”

The candidate revealed she had received death threats and police were now involved, with her family temporarily leaving Sydney for their safety. 

She said she was not aware of her candidacy being used to shore up conservative votes in other parts of the country.

“If there are other mechanisms in play I am not aware of them.”

Earlier, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews went into bat for trans children competing in school sports competitions.

“Seems to me that the adults in this debate are altogether more cruel than the kids, and that’s a damning indictment on those who are pushing this,” he told reporters.

“What’s next? A trans girl can’t play a female role in the school play? Like, is this the biggest issue in our nation today? I don’t think it is.

“Only desperate people, who are into wedge politics, who are trying to deflect from the fact that they have been in power for almost a decade and they’ve done precisely nothing with it, would push this.”

The premier argued sporting bodies have already established protocols for trans women competing at the professional and elite amateur levels, and suggested the school sports aspect was a non-issue.

He said no school community, parent or teacher has raised the subject with him during his 20 years in Victorian parliament.

“Trans kids are 15 times more likely to self harm. I don’t think this debate is doing any of those young Victorians any good, or their parents,” Mr Andrews said.

“It’s not easy to be trans. There is a lot of stigma. There is a lot of prejudice. I don’t think that adding to that is particularly kind. I think it’s cruel, in fact.”

In Queensland, the Greens slammed a threat by crossbench state MP Robbie Katter to outlaw trans athletes from competing in female sport.

The Katter’s Australian Party MP issued his threat on Friday to introduce a bill in Queensland if the next federal government didn’t bring in a national ban within 90 days of forming.

Greens MP Amy McMahon said transgender people are already subjected to widespread discrimination, hate and even violence on a daily basis.

Ms Deves has been a vocal campaigner to ban transgender women from playing in women’s leagues, likening her protests to trying to stop the Holocaust.

Mr Morrison said Ms Deves knew a “sensitive approach” was needed in future when discussing trans athletes in girls’ and women’s sport, and defended her refusal to face the press pack.

“It is not that common that those who are local candidates are involved in national press conferences,” the prime minister said in Alice Springs.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese last week said his party’s stance is in line with the Sex Discrimination Act, putting him at odds with Mr Andrews.

“It’s covered that girls should be able to play sport against girls and boys should be able to play sport against boys,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

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