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OPINION | Dawkins’ motion can hold government to account

OPINION
Brian Greig is the Western Australian spokesperson for LGBTIQA+ advocacy group Just.Equal Australia.

News that One Nation MLC Ben Dawkins will move an anti-trans motion for discussion in state parliament’s Upper House today raises serious questions and opportunities.

What is the Dawkins motion really about?

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It seems that the response so far from Labor and its LGBTIQA+ supporters has been to shun any media on the issue by saying nothing and denying the topic oxygen.

This is a mistake.

It’s important to understand the politics here and also to understand the great danger to our community the state government is taking by not passing law reform this term as promised.

At the 2025 election, for the first time in more than 100 years, the Upper House will be decided by a senate-style state-wide vote. The old, rigged conservative voting system was abolished by the McGowan Government.

In theory, this means whichever party wins government is more likely to also have the numbers in the Upper House too, giving it a clear mandate.

However, as with the federal senate this rarely happens. Usually minor parties and independents have balance of power and vital swing votes.

From 2025, the quota needed to win a seat in the Upper House will be just 3.7%.

At the state election next year even if Labor wins, it’s possible a handful of minor parties will have the power to block, amend and reject legislation. That includes LGBTIQA+ law reform.

The Cook Government has the power to pass all its proposed law reform this year – but won’t. Instead it’s gambling on doing that next term.

But what happens if the Upper House is controlled by far right religious conservatives?

At the 2021 election, micro parties archived a total of 9.4% of the vote. If repeated in 2025 (and I predict micro party votes will be higher next election), that would translate to two and possibly three seats.

Those seats could go to One Nation, Australian Christians, Liberal Democrats, Sporting Shooters, Anti-Vaxxers, Legalise Cannabis, or any number of micro parties expected to run.

If a re-elected Cook Government needs to rely on two or three micro parties to pass legislation that could be the end of law reform. That’s the game Labor is playing with our lives.

Enter Ben Dawkins MP and One Nation. His anti-trans motion is not being proposed so that it passes, but to attract electoral support from the religious right. He is trying to outflank the Liberals and wedge the ALP.

One Nation is posturing itself to win a seat in 2025 by fear mongering about gender diverse people.

It is a test for both Roger Cook and Libby Mettam as to how the government and opposition respond. This isn’t about the vote, it’s about the debate.

This motion is a great opportunity for our community to get clarity and commitments from the government and opposition on law reform and its timing.

The Dawkins motion shouldn’t be shut down.

It opens a much needed debate about the Cook Government’s specific plans for abolishing the Gender Reassignment Board; including trans and gender diverse people under the scope of the Equal Opportunity Act; and providing a new and better system of access to identity documents.

It is also an opportunity for the Government to be questioned on exactly how this will be done, and when. And it’s an opportunity to ask the government why it folded so quickly on a proposal to remove sex from birth certificates if parents request this option?

The tone and quality of the coming debate is also an opportunity for the State Opposition to outline its position on LGBTIQA+ law reform. To date it has been silent.

Ben Dawkins MP is not the enemy here. The enemy is transphobia, which has been enabled by the state government. It has allowed sentiments like this to flourish because it has failed to legislate on these issues and publicly defend the rights and dignity of the gender diverse.

Labor has vacated the field and risked the future of reform by rolling the dice on the hope it might control parliament in 2025. Even so, there are scant details on exactly what the reforms will look like.

The Dawkins motion is a symbolic test of the commitment and sincerity of both major parties.

It is also a test for our community in terms of how we use it to our best advantage.

The motion must be opposed because of the ugly politics that underlies it, but the debate it triggers should be embraced as an opportunity to hold the government to account.


Do you need some support?

If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, support and counselling are available from:

QLife: 1800 184 527 / qlife.org.au (Webchat 3pm – midnight)
QLife are a counselling and referral service for LGBTQIA+ people.

DISCHARGEDinfo@discharged.asn.au / discharged.asn.au
Discharged is a trans-led support service with peer support groups for trans and gender diverse folks.

Lifeline: 13 11 14 / lifeline.org.au

Beyondblue: 1300 22 4636 / www.beyondblue.org.au


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