Policy Check: How The Major Parties Are Safeguarding Trans Rights
"To the trans community, who’ve been dragged into an ugly election campaign and denied their voice, we’ve failed you too often."
Trans rights have once again been pushed into the national consciousness ahead of the Federal Election this weekend.
Most prominently, trans sports participation came on the radar after Liberal candidate Katherine Deves started a media rigmarole around banning trans women from women’s sport, as well as resurfaced historical social media posts claiming that trans children are being “surgically mutilated and sterilised“.
It comes off the back of four years of anti-queer sentiment since the 2019 election — from the LGBTIQ community being excluded from the national census, online safety crackdowns, and the infamous religious discrimination debate last year.
“Politicians would do well to consider that they are talking about something they do not fully understand, playing with a fire they can’t see,” wrote trans woman Liska Fell in the Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday. “But we will see it, as we already do, in the suffering of children and our friends as they are reminded, each day, of how little their politicians care for their plight.
A small glimmer of hope comes with Hannah Maher — a transgender woman on the independent Reason party ticket for the NSW Senate, who, if elected, would become Australia’s first transgender parliamentarian. Currently, there are only 29 LGBTIQ MPs in Australia, forming only 3.5 percent of the overall total across all federal, state, and territory parliaments.
Tuesday marks the annual International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). This is how the major parties have aligned themselves on trans rights ahead of the polls opening on Saturday.
This #IDAHOBIT day I wanna stress the "T" and give a shout out to all the trans people who have been turned into a wedge this election. Some people in the rainbow experience stronger discrimination & attacks than others & we need to fight with and for them to fight for everyone.
— Katie Hepworth (@ketiairport) May 16, 2022
Scott Morrison has continued to stand behind his handpicked candidate for Warringah, Deves, despite calls for his party to dump her over her anti-trans comments. The Prime Minister went on to say last week that “gender reversal surgery for young adolescents” is a “significant, serious issue“, despite the fact that minors can’t undergo gender affirmation procedures if not 18 or over.
Predictably, there aren’t any queer-specific policies outlined on the Liberal Party’s website. In a questionnaire with Human Rights Watch for the 2022 election, the Coalition responded that the Morrison Government “believes all people are entitled to respect, dignity, and the opportunity to participate in society” while also recognising “that to enjoy civil and political rights on an equal basis with others, people need to be able to do so free from discrimination”.
“The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender identity, sexual orientation. and intersex status in many areas of public life, including employment, education and in the provision of goods, services and facilities,” they submitted.
The Opposition has committed to introduce religious discrimination legislation that would prevent schools expelling gay and transgender students, but haven’t clarified the timeline for this if elected, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald last Tuesday.
Anthony Albanese recently called out Scott Morrison’s comments that queer students aren’t currently being expelled from religious schools, by saying the Prime Minister’s views don’t mirror actual “reality”.
On their policy platform, Labor said they believe “all Australians have the right to live their lives free of discrimination” and “don’t want to see anyone treated unfairly”. While they don’t go into detail beyond listing LGBTIQ people as a whole in the mix, their broader equality campaign mentions protecting students and teachers from discrimination on “any grounds”.
However, prior to the election being called, Albanese gave a rapid-fire interview with the Daily Telegraph in March where he was asked “can men have babies” which he replied ‘no’ — a comment criticised for being insensitive to the trans community. Around the same time, equality campaigners denounced Labor’s removal of nearly specific 40 mentions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer rights from their election campaign, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Similar to Labor, the Greens have a dedicated equality section on their policies page, where they write that “many [ LGBTIQ people] experience a lack of autonomy over their bodies, and difficulty accessing holistic and comprehensive health services, and secure housing”.
However, their wider plan is more holistic and includes appointing a Minister for Equality as well as a Human Rights Commissioner across government. They claim they would also strengthen anti-discrimination laws, and introduce a Charter of Rights to enshrine queer rights in legislation.
After a widespread campaign to make gender-affirming procedures covered under Medicare last year, the Greens will also fund $15 million annually for trans and gender diverse healthcare, including prescribed hormones, surgeries, and access to product services.
Finally, the party is also pushing to make schools safer for queer students through inclusion training for teachers, and re-investing the millions of dollars currently channelled towards school chaplains into counsellors and anti-bullying initiatives. The focus is likely a response to One Nation’s anti-trans education bill, peddled by Mark Latham, which was shut down in NSW back in March for being “targeted discrimination”.
Today is the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. To the Trans Community, who’ve been dragged into an ugly election campaign and denied their voice, we’ve failed you too often – you are valid and deserve all the love and support. 💙💖🤍 #IDAHOBIT
— Naveen Razik (@naveenjrazik) May 16, 2022