Polling shows Liberal support for Deves may cost them other seats


New polling commissioned by Equality Australia has shown that the Liberal party’s support for embattled Warringah candidate Katherine Deves may have had a negative effect on other seats the government is hoping to hold on to at the federal election.

The selection of ‘Save Women’s Sport’ candidate Deves has caused a furor over her long history of making unsubstantiated claims about transgender people and multiple occasions where she has used inappropriate language.

Deves has subsequently apologised for some of her past posts, and stated she used the wrong platform for making her arguments and presented them in a simplistic way.

Equality Australia have called on all candidates in the election to end the debate over transgender people’s lives arguing that it is damaging, while also highlighting it’s not a vote winner.

Two separate polls, conducted by the Redbridge Group, looked at how people in the electorates of Parramatta and Wentworth felt about LGBTIQA+ issues and people who are transgender. It found that debate critical of the LGBTIQ+ community costs least twice as many votes as it secures.

The majority of people who indicated their vote would be impacted by the candidate’s view on the issue said they were less likely to vote for them if the candidate was critical of the LGBTIQ+ communities.

The research also showed that approximately three quarters of voters agree that transgender and gender diverse people should have the same protections as the rest of society.

“The people of Wentworth and Parramatta agree with what we know the overwhelming majority of the community believe – people should be treated with dignity and respect, and be free to live their lives free from discrimination, no matter who we are, who we love, or whether we are trans or not,” Jackie Turner, Trans Equality Advocate at Equality Australia said in a statement.

“After weeks of coverage of the cruel, dehumanising misinformation used by some to divide the community and attack trans and gender diverse people, particularly trans women, this research demonstrates that the vast majority of Australians stand in support of LGBTIQ+ people, and against discrimination.”

“The kind of misinformation and abuse that has been directed at trans women in particular during this campaign contributes to the extreme levels of marginalisation that trans people experience, and results in some of the worst mental health outcomes in the Australian community,” Turner said.

The poll revealed that voters were more interested in the cost of living, climate change, national security, alongside health and aged care. Less than two per cent of voters nominated transgender women’s participation in sport as their top area of concern.

The poll also showed that in Wentworth and Parramatta there was not a great deal of support for faith based schools being given protections that allow then to fire teachers or expel students over their gender identity of sexuality.

The seat of Wentworth is currently held by Liberal MP Dave Sharma. The seat was previously held by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, when he retired a by-election saw the seat go to independent member Dr Keryn Phelps.

Sharma won it back for the Liberals at the 2019 election. This time round he faces stiff competition from independent Allegra Spender. Labor, The Greens, United Australia, One Nation, and the Liberal Democrats are also contesting the seat.

During a Sky News debate between Sharma and Spender last week both candidates condemned comments made by Deves.

“She has made very hostile remarks in relation to the LGBTIQ community, which is obvioulsy a really important part of this community.” Spender said. “They were also disrespectful to the Jewish community.

“The reason why I’ve been very condemning of those remarks and saying that I don’t think that she is an appropriate candidate is because she is trying to incite division, and not a civilised and calm and logical debate.” Spender said saying people expected parliamentarians to be able to hold a respectful debate.

Spender said that in her entire time campaigning for the seat the issue of transgender women participating in sport had only been raised by someone she met on a single occasion.

Sharma said the Deves past comments are reprehensible and should be condemned, but he was glad she had formally withdrawn them.

“I didn’t select her as a candidate, and I don;t get a say in whether she should be disendorsed or not, but I’d say this is for the people of Warringah to decide, if they don’t like her views they are free to exercise their vote at the ballot box.” Sharma said.

The current member said there were existing provisions within the Sex Discrimination Act that adequately covered the participation of transgender women in sport, and the topic should not be approached in a way that uses a “sledgehammer to crack a nut”.

The seat of Parramatta is a marginal seat currently held by Labor’s Julie Owens, who is retiring at the election. Labor have parachuted in high-flying financier Andrew Charlton to be their candidate, while the Liberals have selected Maria Kovacic to be their candidate.

Also contesting the seat is One Nation, the Liberal Democrats, United Australia, Animal Justice and The Greens, while former mayor of Cumberland City Council, Steve Christou, is standing as an independent.

OIP Staff

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