Senator Claire Chandler vows to push ahead with Women’s Sport Bill

Claire Chandler

Tasmanian Senator Claire Chandler admits there’s little chance the government will use the final days of the parliament to debate her ‘Save Women’s Sports’ bill, but she’s vowed to reintroduce it in the next term of government.

The private member’s bill from Senator Chandler calls for the anti-discrimination laws to be amended to allow sporting groups to discriminate against transgender women and girls. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has voiced his support for the bill and Senator Chandler says many of her coalition colleagues also want to see it become law.

“The response has been incredibly positive.” Senator Chandler said of the support within the party for her bill. “I could reel of a very long list of colleagues who have been supportive of this bill.”

“The reality is we have a very short period of time in the sitting schedule next week, we have the budget and then we’re going into Senate Estimates, and with my colleagues in Labor and the Greens certainly not being supportive of my position in the slightest, I do think it will be very unlikely unfortunately that we’ll get around to debating my bill.” Senator Chandler said during appearance on the Sky News program Credlin.

“The good thing is that I am not up for election at the federal election coming up, I’m halfway through my six-year term, and regardless of whether it’s in this parliament or the next one, I will be seeking to have this bill passed into law. I will continue fighting for women and girls to have fair access to support.” Senator Chandler said.

Anti-transgender organisation Binary have voiced their support for the bill and listed a number of Coalition members who have gone on the record saying they would vote the bill into law.

Western Australian Senators Matt O’Sullivan and Ben Small are listed as a supporters alongside Terry Young (Longman Qld), and Tony Pasin (Baker, SA). New South Wales senator Hollie Hughes has also voiced support.

Appearing on the Australian Christian Lobby’s podcast Senator Chandler said her bill was needed because sporting clubs across Australia were under pressure, and it was frustrating that people had labeled her bill transphobic.

“It’s a ridiculous assertion” Senator Chandler said, denying the bill would ban transgender people from participating in sport.

“It doesn’t say anything about excluding transgender people from sport. My position has always been that sport should be open to everyone, and that the reason we have mixed competitions, and social competitions, is to enable everyone to participate in some way, shape or form.

“All my bill does is ensures that if a sports club want to offer a single sex competition for males or females, then they are not going to have legal action taken against them for doing that. It says nothing about banning anyone.”

Senator Chandler thanked Prime Minister Scott Morrison for voicing support for the bill, noting he was the first world leader to add his voice to the issue.

“It was really fantastic to have that support from the highest level of government in this country, he’s one of the first, if not the first, world leader to publicly come out in support of women and girl’s single sex sports, which is incredibly exciting.” Senator Chandler said.

Senator Chandler said alongside bringing in legislation in the area of sport she was also exploring the need for laws in relation to women’s bathrooms, prisons, shelters and domestic violence services.

The Senator said her concern was not that transgender women were a danger to women, rather other people who may take advantage of the recognition of people who are transgender.

“Ensuring women have access to single sex spaces isn’t about discriminating against transgender people by any means, and it’s not about being transphobic, it’s just recognising that if you allow people to identify into these spaces, if you allow biological males to identify as a woman and enter into a female only space. Then that is undermining a basic safe-guarding principle, and once that principle is undermined there will be those who do the wrong thing, who seek to take advantage of that principle being undermined.

“I’m certainly not saying that transgender people are going to be the ones taking advantage of the situation, but that is the reality.  If you allow people to identify into these spaces, then people will seek to do the wrong thing.” Senator Chandler said.

Despite Senator Chandler saying there is a lot of support for her bill among coalition ranks and within the community, in a previous interview she was unable to name a single sport in Australia where transgender women participating had been a problem.

The bill has been widely criticised by equality groups including Transfolk of WA, and Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR). Liberal MPs have also voiced opposition including Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein, alongside federal member Bridget Archer, Andrew Bragg and Dave Sharma.

OIP Staff

Correction: An earlier version of this report incorrectly listed Karen Andrews as a supporter of the bill. 

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