Coalition Attempts to Retake Warringah Using Extreme Anti-Trans Bigotry

by Paul Gregoire
Coalition Attempts to Retake Warringah Using Extreme Anti-Trans Bigotry

Senior Liberal officials have outlined that when they were screening Katherine Deves for the key electoral seat of Warringah, they weren’t made aware that she was an anti-trans tyrant, which seems to imply the party may have had second thoughts about letting her run if it did.

It’s a cute story. But it certainly doesn’t ring.

Deves is the co-founder of anti-trans group Save Women’s Sport. She’s posted over 6,000 derogatory tweets about transgender people in the past. She addressed her transphobic sentiments in the press. And the views she’s espoused have been extremist in nature and unsupported.

So, the current government with its waning support is claiming that it fudged its vetting process in finding a candidate for its former Liberal stronghold of Warringah and it was duped by Deves into letting her run in the important seat.

But further than that, since the press caught whiff of some of Deves’ believes, such as her fight against trans people being akin to resisting the Nazis and that half of all trans women are sex offenders, Morrison, Howard, Abbott and Perrottet have all stepped up in support of her.

And the other odd aspect to the official story is that the Coalition has been running a concerted anti-trans agenda for quite some time now, which is evidenced by aspects of the religious freedoms debate, it’s initial support for Latham’s anti-trans bill, and its current save women’s sport legislation.

Community Action for Rainbow Rights co-convenor April Holcombe

Blue-ribbon bigotry

“It’s ridiculous to say that they didn’t know,” said Community Action for Rainbow Rights (CARR) co-convenor April Holcombe, “and to play dumb about some of her most heinous comments. I’m sure they all privately agree with them, which is why it’s so important to fight her.”

“Why have they put her in the race?” she posed. “Partly because they can’t help themselves. They’re a disgusting party of bigots, whose membership is extremely right-wing and conservative. Why else would the prime minister come out swinging in her defence?”

Ultraconservative former PM Tony Abbott had held Warringah since 1994, until quintessential teal independent Zali Steggall knocked him out in 2019, running on a platform prioritising climate. And now it seems the Coalition considers a bigot like Deves could be key in winning back the seat.

The kind of prejudicial comments the Northern Beaches lawyer has been publicly making for years, including being triggered by the rainbow flag, also raises questions about the supporters the Coalition is targeting, especially as the PM’s put opposition to her comments down to cancel culture.

“They feel that through Deves that membership can be mobilised,” Holcombe told Sydney Criminal Lawyers. “And it can give the election that culture war element.”

“But it’s worth saying that it’s not going to work, and it will spectacularly backfire for them. We want to drive that home.”

New point of attack

In adding more credence to the idea that Deves’ transphobia was never closeted, she’s known to have assisted Liberal Senator Claire Chandler in drafting her Save Women’s Sports Bill 2022, which is currently before parliament, and has been endorsed by the PM as “terrific”.

The bill aims to ban trans people from participating in same-sex sport. And the language used in its explanatory memorandum blatantly attempts to erase trans identity, as “males” are to be excluded from women’s sports, not trans women, and, in turn, “females” from men’s sport, not trans men.

According to Holcombe, the current focus on trans participation in women’s sport is just the new rallying cry for bigots to attack the transgender community and attempt to get others on board, whereas, going back a decade ago, it was all about whether trans people could use bathrooms.

“The whole claim that they’re defending women’s rights is absolutely ridiculous,” she further stressed. “This is the party of Christian Porter, Alan Tudge, and a prime minister, who needed his wife to tell him rape is wrong.

“This is a prime minister who said women were lucky they were not shot down outside Parliament House for protesting his cabinet, like they would have been in Myanmar,” the ardent trans activist added.

The Coalition’s anti-trans agenda

The Liberal Nationals have been running a heightened campaign against trans people since marriage equality became law in December 2017. And it’s understood amongst prejudicial elements of the Coalition that trans people are the easiest target in pushing back LGBTIQ rights gains.

Morrison’s Religious Discrimination Bill 2022 was an attempt to undermine antidiscrimination laws to allow for religious prejudice against all minorities, yet the PM only gave up on it when it looked like laws targeting trans kids at religious schools would have to be repealed to see it passed.

A bill introduced by NSW One Nation MLC Mark Latham that proposed to erase transgender identity from the NSW schooling system was originally endorsed by a Coalition top heavy parliamentary committee, although the Perrottet government ultimately dropped it due to the strong opposition.

And now with Senator Chandler’s Save Women’s Sports Bill before parliament, and extremely vocal transphobic Katherine Deves being handed the candidacy for one of the Liberal’s most important seats in the nation, it’s clear the anti-transgender campaign is alive and well.

As far as Holcombe is concerned, this is all about dividing the community on issues whether that be around refugees, Muslim people or trans people in order to distract it from real points of concern, such as the rising cost of living, falling wages, corporate prioritisation and inaction on climate.

“This government, ruled by big business, has created disaster after disaster and is creating many more for us,” she made clear, adding that it’s “desperately seeking” which aspect of the anti-trans agenda “will open the door to make this a legitimate culture war”.

Poster for a recent snap action CARR held against Katherine Deves in Warringah

On the same page

Some leaked texts came to light on Monday that revealed NSW premier Dominic Perrottet had written to Scott Morrison, outlining his support on the PM’s position in backing Katherine Deves for Warringah and her views on keeping trans women out of women’s sport.

And despite certain members of the Liberals, most prominently NSW treasurer Matt Kean, calling for Deves to be disendorsed due to her extreme transphobic views, both the PM and premier said they’d continue to support her and kept their focus solely on the women’s sports issue.

Holcombe pointed out that despite Perrottet’s well known ultraconservative opinions, when he first took over the role of premier, he downplayed some of these views to the point where he rejected the Latham Bill. However, she added, now it seems he’s found a way back in.

“It shows you what slippery characters these people are that they’re willing to peddle in the oppression of some of the most vulnerable people in our community,” asserted Holcombe.

“The fact that Deves is holding on shows us that there’s going to be a fight on our hands, and it’s not just going to be enough to put out a statement condemning her, because now the other vultures in the Liberal Party are swooping around her,” the trans activist ended.

Main image: Katherine Deves from the Liberal Party

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Author

Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He has a focus on social justice issues and encroachments upon civil liberties. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, he wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub. Paul is the winner of the 2021 NSW Council of Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism.

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