Australian PM Scott Morrison backs ‘cruel and divisive’ anti-trans sports bill

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison in a suit

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has backed a bill that would make it easier for athletic organisations and clubs to exclude trans people from sports.

Campaigning in the Tasmanian marginal seat Lyons on Tuesday (22 February), Morrison said Liberal senator Claire Chandler’s anti-trans proposal was “terrific”.

The private member’s bill would amend the Sex Discrimination Act to “clarify” that limiting sports on the basis of “biological sex” was perfectly legal and not discriminatory.

As much as the so-called “save women’s sports bill” has little chance of actually reaching the House of Representatives, Morrison urged Chandler to pursue it.

“I support it, as Claire knows,” he said when questioned by reporters on the campaign trail, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. “I think it’s a terrific bill and I’ve given her great encouragement.

“Claire is a champion for women’s sport and I think she’s been right to raise these issues in the way that she has. Well done, Claire.”

LGBT+ activists, however, see otherwise. Equality Australia called on senators to “stand with trans kids and reject Chandler’s cruel and divisive bill”.

Chandler’s amendments would broaden the scope that sports providers can discriminate against trans youth, the group said, by allowing discrimination against children under the age of 12.

The legislation intends to “ensure that organisers are not limited in their ability to operate single-sex sport by the threat of complaints of unlawful discrimination,” according to the policy’s explanatory memorandum.

It adds that women’s sports must be “protected” and that a “male person is not entitled to demand inclusion” on the basis of gender identity.

Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia, countered: “Sport should be for everyone – it builds community and supports individual and collective health and self-esteem.

Brown accused Morrison of singling out trans youth despite overwhelming public support for trans rights.

“Senator Chandler’s bill is not just unnecessary, it’s cruel and divisive,” Brown added.

“In offering his public support for this bill, the Prime Minister is once again making the lives of trans and gender diverse kids the subject of political and media debate.”

Three in four Australians feel that trans people deserve the same rights and protections as everyone else, according to a 2020 YouGov poll for Equality Australia.

Chandler’s proposals come ahead of the May federal election and amid a fraught debate over the now-shelved Religious Discrimination Bill that would have allowed faith-based organisations, including schools and employers, to discriminate against protected groups, including LGBT+ people.

Morrison repeatedly flip-flopped on his party’s bill amid criticism that it would still allow trans pupils to be expelled and LGB+ students to be discriminated against before shelving it altogether.

Five Liberal MPs crossed the floor to ensure that all trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming youth were protected under the Sex Discrimination Act. This was an act of “bravery”, Brown said.

“The Senate must act decisively and with the same conviction as their lower house colleagues,” she added, “by standing for the inclusion of trans kids and reject this bill in its entirety.”