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One Nation MP says "millstone" comment is not meant to incite violence

Malcolm Roberts

One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts has praised people who protest events where drag performers read stories to young children saying they should be commended for their goal of protecting young children.

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Warning: This story has details of discussion about transgender people which might be distressing to some readers. For 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

Speaking to parliament on Wednesday 21st June Senator Roberts said he believed people were right to take a stance against the events, offering a biblical passage that calls for death to people who interfere in the development of children’s lives.

“If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble… it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Senator Roberts said, quoting Mathew 18:5.

The politician was quick to stress that his quoting of a biblical passage calling for people to be put to death was not an incitement to violence.

We have, rightly, replaced the age of millstones with the age of courts.” Senastor Roberts said. “Quoting this passage is not an incitement to violence.”

 The One Nation senator voiced his belief that the stories being read at Drag Storytime events featured lewd content. 

“We live in a world where men dressed as women can perform lewd acts or read lewd stories in front of children and, in so doing, achieve a measure of validation from impressionable children that society rightly withholds.

“And we live in an age when a boy can’t look at a doll without risking a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and, with it, a lifetime of prescription drugs. A tomboy hasn’t a chance in today’s education system.”

The short speech during Member’s Statements was just one of the moments One Nation attempted to put a spotlight on transgender youth during parliament’s final sitting days of the current session.

One Nation supporters have been a prominent contingent at recent anti-transgender rallies held in Perth. Supporters attended the Kellie-Jay Keen Let Women Speak Event in Perth in March, and they were out in force at recent rallies at the Perth City Library and Maylands Library.

At each event they hold up cardboard cutouts of One Nation’s federal leader Pauline Hanson.

The brief speech came on the same day that Senator Roberts offered a rambling commentary against the transgender community via an opinion piece published in The Spectator magazine.

In the article the politician called for an inquiry into the Australian Classification Board, accused drag queens of accepting tips from toddlers, and said that gender dysphoria should be treated as something that people should “recover” from. Hollywood films, computer games, graphic novels, social media were all in the senator’s list of concerns.

Later in the day One Nation attempted to launch an inquiry into the treatment options given to young people experiencing gender dysphoria. Senator Pauline Hanson said the parliament needed to launch a widespread investigation into transgender healthcare.

Senator Hanson argued that there are a growing number of health experts who believe that the wrong approach is being taken by gender clinics around Australia.

Citing comments from Queensland pediatrician Dr Dylan Wilson, Queensland law professor Patrick Parkinson and the National Society of Practicing Psychologists, Senator Hanson said there was justifiable reasons for a national inquiry.

Senator Hanson said the parliament should listed to experts who believe the growing number of transgender youth is due to social contagion, describing the treatment of trans youth cult-like.

“This gender affirmation ideology has all the hallmarks of a crazy cult: capturing impressionable minds, isolating them from their families and ultimately destroying their lives.” Senator Hanson said.

“Keep your LGBTIQ to yourself behind your own bloody closed doors. Leave the children alone.” Senator Hanson said.

The proposal was backed by Senator Roberts who said the treatment being used in Australian hospital was experimental, but he personally described it as “butchery”.

“One Nation will stand against sending children down a path of drug dependency and body mutilation to appease the gender cult.” Senator Roberts said.

Responding to the proposal Labor’s Senator Jenny MacAllister said the issue of treatments delivered in hospitals was ultimately a state matter but argued that Senator Hanson’s bill’s real purpose was to embolden people with extreme views.

“This motion is not about ensuring appropriate support and care. It is instead about  establishing a platform that will inevitably be used by people with extreme views who would do harm to a vulnerable patient group, their families and their loved ones.” Senator MacAllister said. “These children need care and support, not a parliamentary inquiry. This view is shared by the community as well as medical experts in this field.”

Senator MacAllister noted that the Royal Australian College of Physicians had said that a national inquiry into the healthcare of transgender youth would do nothing to increase scientific evidence in the field, but would be harmful to young people and their families.

“The politicisation of their health care is not beneficial to anyone.” Senator McAllister said.

The National party voiced their support for an inquiry. Senator Perin Davey, the Nationals Deputy leader, said she held concerns about families living in the country having suitable access to medical services, and an inquiry would be an opportunity for parliamentarians to learn more about the issue.

Senator Davey said the British government’s inquiry into the Tavistock Centre via the Cass Review may be of relevance to Australia, and deeper introspection may allow ways for Australia’s health system to improve and offer better support to patients.

‘I believe through an inquiry I can reassure myself and we can reassure the wider community that that isn’t happening in Australia and that we are ensuring that our young people who come forward with gender distress actually get the full range of supports—that they get to talk to psychologists, get assessed, talk to specialist GPs and fully understand the risks and the positive benefits of the choices that they are making—and their parents are with them all the way.” Senator Davey said.

Senator Davey rejected One Nation’s characterisation of people who experience gender dysphoria and the health industry that supports them.

“I know that, for the gender-diverse kids who live in the regions and the families of those children, this is not an issue they take lightly. This is not an issue where someone just wakes up in the morning. This is something that families work through. It is a journey. It is a long process.

“The trans kids I know are absolutely remarkable. They are brave, they are strong and they are proud people. I applaud them, but I also know that they have had a lot of family support and a lot of medical and specialist support.” Senator Davey said, arguing that an inquiry would allow positive stories about transgender youth to be heard.

The Greens rejected the proposal with Senator Penny Allman-Payne describing the move as a “divisive, cynical and hateful exercise ignores reality and it throws mud onto kids, their families and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. ”

‘We don’t need an inquiry for young people and their families to get the information that they need about this type of health care. That is a matter for the young person, their family and their doctors.

“If we adhere to the principle ‘do no harm’ then we won’t subject young people who are suffering from gender dysphoria to an inquiry that will give space for people who are filled with hate and bigotry to politicise them and who they are.”

Senator Allman-Payne said her party would continue to affirm and celebrate trans kids, ensuring that they feel loved, supported and safe in our schools, our workplaces, our parliaments and our community.

The Liberal members did not have a party position on the issue and voted on their own conscience.

Western Australian senator Matt O’Sullivan said he supported calls for an inquiry because he could see that other countries were taking a more cautious approach, and he was concerned that the number of young people identifying as transgender was increasing.

“I am concerned by what does seem to be a real rise in the number of children that are presenting with gender dysphoria. I’m not sure, necessarily, of the origins of that. But in the reports that I’ve seen for even my own home state of Western Australia the number of hospitalisations related to this matter has gone up rather exponentially. So I think it’s worthy of us to have a mature investigation into this.” Senator O’Sullivan said.

Colleague Andrew Bragg disagreed, voicing his opposition to an inquiry – saying the senate was not the right space for an investigation into transgender health care. He described the proposal from One Nation as one that had already formed a negative view on the issue.

Senator Simon Birmingham also spoke against the proposal, while Senator Paul Scarr highlighted a recent paper from barrister Belle Lane that raised multiple issues about gender-based medicine and the law.

The Greens senator Janet Rice drew upon the experience of her late wife Penny Whetton who was transgender. Whetton transitioned when she was in her mid-40s.

“She had suffered her whole life, questioning her gender identity, being put in a box and not being able to be the person she was. It was at that stage that information about trans issues was becoming more accessible with the rise of the internet, and so she discovered that there were actually quite a lot of other people like her.” Senator Rice said.

“She then managed to explore her gender identity. She transitioned and she flourished—she absolutely flourished.”

The Greens senator highlighted that former Liberal Health Minister Greg Hunt had looked into holding an inquiry in 2020 and the advice they government got back from the Royal Australian College of Physicians was that withholding or limiting access to care and treatment would be unethical, and would have serious impacts on the health and wellbeing of young people.

Senator Rice said the growing number of people identifying as being as transgender was the result of better information and a more connected world.

“The rise in the number of young people seeking support is a reflection of the fact that people now know that this is a thing, and that, if they are questioning their gender identity and they want to affirm their gender as not their biological sex, that is possible and that they will be happier people for it.” Senator Rice said.

Senator Rice said the proposal from One Nation was coming from a position that demonises trans and gender-diverse people.

“I am saddened by the level of hatred and vitriol that is still there towards trans and gender-diverse young people. This is the stuff that does the harm. This is the stuff that makes people feel that they are not welcome. This is the stuff that makes people feel that society does not want them and they have got to hide their true identity, and some of them think that life is not worth living.” Senator Rice said.

Senator Nick McKim also drew upon the experience of loved ones, sharing the experiences of his stepson who is transgender. Senator KcKim continued the debate the following day saying the call for an inquiry was clearly part of the culture wars, rather than a genuine attempt to improve people’s lives.

“We will not stand for the fascism that is emerging around this issue, and we will not stand for them being erased off the face of this earth, as many people want. You only have to go into the cesspit that is some parts of various social media platforms to see the hatred and the bile that are being posted by far-right bigots and transphobes.” Senator McKim said.

Time for debating the motion expired and the parliament headed off on its long five-week winter break without a resolution on the call for a national inquiry.

Graeme Watson 

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