Senate blocks calls for an inquiry into transgender healthcare

The topic of healthcare for people who are transgender returned to the Australian parliament this week with One Nation pushing for a parliamentary inquiry into the treatment methodologies used by doctors.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson began discussing the issue making a Private Member’s Statement early on Wednesday afternoon, highlighting recently released figures showing the growing number of young Australians seeking assistance from gender clinics around the country.

Senator Hanson said the figures published by The Daily Telegraph newspaper, that were obtained via a Freedom of Information request, were alarming. The showed that 2,067 people aged under 18 enrolled in public adolescent gender clinics the previous year. The figures are almost 10 times the number in clients recorded in 2014. Senator Hanson said these were only the numbers from public clinics, arguing that many more people may be getting treatment at private clinics.

The One Nation leader said it was concerning that in 2021 624 young people were prescribed puberty blockers, when only five people were obtaining the treatment in 2014. Senator Hanson said she was also alarmed that 204 teenagers were taking cross-sex hormones, when only 27 were being treated twelve years ago.

Senator Hanson claimed there was conclusive evidence that both treatments lead to a range of negative mental and physical health outcomes and an inquiry was needed to investigate why there had been an increase in the people seeking treatment.

Labor senator Louise Pratt used her time to highlight that Sydney World Pride would be on in 2023, saying it would be a great time to dispel some of the persistent myths about people who were gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

The Western Australian senator, who spoke just minutes after Senator Hanson, said now seemed like a good time though to tackle common myths about people who are transgender.

“Trans people and trans young people are not new. There are many historical and cross-cultural examples of trans people, including in First Nations communities.

“There’s nothing inherent about being trans that makes them more vulnerable to poor mental health. However, a lack of support, a lack of health care, and discrimination do contribute to poor mental health outcomes.” Senator Pratt said.

“Puberty blockers are not permanent. They’re a healthcare option at an enormously stressful time for young trans people, and they give adolescents a chance to develop emotionally and cognitively before making further decisions.

“Data shows these treatments save lives and reduce self-harm. Contrary to what was put forward by Senator Hanson, the common belief that children can access invasive medical treatment is not true. It is in fact difficult to access gender-affirming medical care. It involves multiple assessments, multidisciplinary teams and long waiting times.” Senator Pratt said.

The Labor senator also noted that the Royal Australian College of Physicians had advised former Morrison government Health Minister Greg Hunt that a parliamentary inquiry would not yield any new information in terms of treatment options but would cause unnecessary harm to vulnerable patients.

Shortly afterwards Senator Hanson used Question Time to fire off a series questions to Labor’s Katy Gallagher, asking what the federal government’s position was when it came to young transgender people’s access hormonal-based treatment plans.

“Our position is that every child and every young person should have access to all of the necessary supports that they need to ensure they access appropriate health care, regardless of the reason for which they might be seeking that care.” senator

“That is our position. That is a responsible, mature position.” Senator Gallagher responded.

“This is a matter between young people, their families and the treating health professionals, whatever they might be—doctors, psychologists or other health professionals. That is the position that we would take.

We also think that every time issues around this are raised, people listen, and they hear, and it affects them. So, we also think that there should be a level of responsibility in this chamber to deal with these matters sensitively and carefully, because young people’s wellbeing depends on it.” Senator Gallagher said.

Shortly afterwards Senator Hanson attempted to establish a parliamentary inquiry into the use of puberty blockers and the rise of “rapid onset gender dysphoria” that she claimed was triggered by friends, social media, social contagion and staff working in gender clinics.

The existence of so-called ‘Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria’ has been debunked by health professionals but is regularly promoted by opponents of transgender people.

Greens senator Janet Rice spoke against the proposal saying One Nation were treating young transgender people like a “political football.”

“I want trans and gender diverse people, especially young people, to know – we see you, we hear you and you are loved, and you deserve to feel safe and supported.” Senator Rice said.  “Instead, Senator Hanson is using you as a political football to manufacture outrage.”

“The Royal Australian College of Physicians gave advice in 2020 about whether there was a need for an inquiry into the care and treatment of trans and gender diverse children and young people. They found a national inquiry would only harm vulnerable young people.

“They supported the current guidelines for care and found that limiting health care for such a vulnerable group would be unethical, and, further, that gender-affirming health care for trans and gender diverse people should be a national priority. So, no, we do not need such a Senate inquiry.” Senator Rice said.

When the proposal was put to a vote Senator Hanson’s proposal was knocked back with Labor, The Greens, and members of the crossbench voting against it. Western Australian Liberal, Senator Dean Smith, also voted against the idea, as did colleagues Andrew Bragg, Marise Payne and Simon Birmingham.

Later in the day Senator Hanson released a statement to the media saying she believed a parliamentary inquiry was vital due to the outcomes of Kira Bell case in the United Kingdom, and a growing amount of evidence which, according to Senator Hanson, shows that the current treatments being used in Australia are not safe.

Senator Hanson said she had met many Australian parents whose children were being treated with puberty blockers and cross sex hormones without parental consent.

OIP Staff

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