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Complaint against Senator Claire Chandler has been withdrawn

The complaint against Liberal senator Claire Chandler has been withdrawn after attempts at a conciliation process failed.

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A complaint had been lodged at the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission by one of the senator’s constituents after she sent an email outlining her views about transgender women being allowed access to female bathrooms and change rooms.

The exchange with the constituent followed on from an opinion piece the senator wrote for a newspaper where she outlined her opposition to transgender women being allowed to participate in female sporting events.

Senator Chandler has publicly voiced her disdain for the process used by under Tasmania’s anti-discrimination legislation arguing that the conditions for a complaint being acted upon where too vague, and that the requirement for her to respond to the anti-discrimination body was interfering with her work as a parliamentarian, and impinging her right to free speech.

The Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission had also warned the senator that comments criticising their investigation could also be deemed illegal under the legislation. The senator hit back suggesting she might report the anti-discrimination body to the senate’s Privileges Committee for impeding her in her official role.

The Tasmanian man who lodged the complaint has told OUTinPerth that he decided to withdraw his action after it became clear the senator was not going to participate in the official process. Senator Chandler refused to sign a standard non-disclosure agreement, and the conciliation meeting came to an abrupt halt.

Complainant’s statement about the withdrawal of the action

“Today I have contacted Equal Opportunity Tasmania to withdraw my complaint regarding a newspaper article written by Senator Claire Chandler and my subsequent correspondence with her on this matter.”

“It really threw me that a representative for Tasmania would see fit to use their time and platform to endorse the exclusion of transgender people in our community, and potentially embolden others to do the same.”

“Equal Opportunity Tasmania accepted my complaint and it was to proceed to a conciliation conference.”

“Rather than an adversarial courtroom setting, a conciliation conference provides a means to resolve the complaint by the complainant (me) and the respondent (Senator Claire Chandler) having a discussion mediated by the Equal Opportunity staff, with a view to building an understanding of different perspectives, finding common ground and a resolution that is satisfactory to both of us.”

“Confidentiality is essential to the process to ensure an open and frank conversation, and the Act says the conciliations are private and this is one of the strengths of this law, because it does not require parties to attend a costly, adversarial hearing, but rather encourages us to sit down together and listen to and hear how we understand the issues and the impacts.”

“I understand that, unfortunately, the Senator was unwilling to honour that privacy by signing the conciliation confidentiality agreement. Equal Opportunity Tasmania cancelled the conciliation conference on this basis.”

“I had hoped as a result of conciliation, Senator Chandler would agree to meet with transgender and gender diverse Tasmanians, and their families and loved ones, to learn more about their experiences and how her policy ideas might affect them.”

“Tasmanians have already participated in a very public debate about gender identity in 2018 and 2019, when the merits of legislation allowing for people to amend their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity was discussed widely.”

“This legislation passed after extended debate in both the lower and upper house of the Tasmanian Parliament. Similar legislation has passed in the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, Victoria and Northern Territory.”

“Key to passing that legislation were the heartfelt, personal stories of the discrimination and exclusion experienced by trans and gender diverse Tasmanians and their families.”

“I was hopeful Senator Chandler, as a representative for all Tasmanians, would listen to these voices and that they might convince her to reconsider her views.”

“But conciliation was the best opportunity to make this happen and now that opportunity has passed.”

“I am saddened by this because dialogue is the path to a more inclusive Tasmania, and no-one wins from polarisation and division.”

“Because conciliation and dialogue will no longer occur, and because I do not have the legal, financial or other resources of the Senator, I will withdraw my complaint rather than proceeding further.”

“My intent was to stand in solidarity with other Tasmanians I care about, as we have a responsibility to support each other as best we can, especially in tough times.”

“Every Tasmanian deserves to be treated with respect, dignity and fairness. We all deserve a fair go.”

“I thank all the Tasmanians who have put so much time, care and effort into making the world a better place for trans and gender diverse people.”

Senator Chandler says she is furious about the process

Senator Chandler’s office have been contacted by OUTinPerth and we’ve asked if the Senator will take up the offer from Equality Tasmania to meet transgender people and hear their experiences first hand. Her office was unable to comment immediately.

The senator has released a statement saying she is furious about the process used in Tasmania.

“I am relieved at this outcome & furious at the abuse of process which has occurred.” Senator Chandler said.

“If I had not refused to sign a confidentiality agreement, I would be currently sitting in a conciliation conference on the basis of a spurious complaint which the Commissioner had no legal authority to accept.”

“The withdrawal of the complaint conveniently saves the Commissioner from addressing my response, which clearly demonstrates that she had no authority to accept the complaint and direct me to a mandatory conciliation conference. One of the most glaring errors was the Commissioner purporting that the complaint submitted to EOT on 18 July was inclusive of an email not sent until 20 July.”

“This process continues a pattern of behaviour by Equal Opportunity Tasmania in directing conciliation on complaints which have no substance and are only intended to compel the respondent to attend conciliation. It’s clear that the Anti-Discrimination Act needs to be substantially amended to prevent these tactics being used in the case of frivolous complaints and in regards to statements made as part of normal political debate and discussion.”

“The withdrawal of the complaint also leaves the broader community in legal limbo around what statements members of the public can make about sex-based rights. Having erroneously accepted this complaint, there is an onus on the Commissioner to clarify that Tasmanians are able to discuss the reality of biological sex and advocate for sex-based rights. If this does not occur, there will continue to be a chilling effect on free speech in Tasmania.”

“The reason I have been advocating for fairness and safety in women’s sport, and for the retention of female-only spaces and services, is because Tasmanians and Australians of all political persuasions and backgrounds have asked me to do so. My advocacy is simply a defence of women’s rights and the common sense position that biological sex is and will always remain relevant to certain parts of public policy and life.”

Anti-transgender group Binary back Senator Chandler

Anti-transgender organisation Binary have welcomed the news, releasing a statement in support of Senator Chandler.

Binary spokesperson and former Australian Liberty Alliance candidate Kirralie Smith published her thoughts today.

“It is incredible that an elected senator has been subjected to the threats of censorship because of a widely held position that biological males pose a risk to women’s safety and fairness in sport,” Smith said.

“The unelected bureaucrats at the EOT have overstepped the mark with their demands and threats. The complaint must be dismissed, and everyone should have equal opportunity to debate and criticise policies that impact severely on the safety, privacy and fairness of women in sport.”

OIP Staff


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