Australia’s peak sport agency has been rebuked for being evasive, dismissive and insulting to women after it failed to answer basic questions about the effect of transgender players on female sport.  Sport Australia’s acting chief executive Rob Dalton said in a parliamentary hearing he “didn’t have an opinion” when asked if allowing biological males in female sport would put off young girls.  The government agency refuses to say who was consulted over a contentious pro-trans guideline which urges more than 16,000 sporting clubs covering nine million players to re-organise on the basis of self-identified “gender identity”, and not biological sex.

The guideline stresses the risk of legal actions that can lead to uncapped compensation damages under federal anti-discrimination law, warns that reliance on its advice will not protect clubs from a successful complaint, and urges them to get their own legal advice.  In a letter to Mr. Dalton, Liberal Senator Claire Chandler said the trans issue had “major implications for women and girls and their engagement in sport” and the agency’s stone-walling of her questions in a Senate estimates hearing was “evasive, dismissive and insulting”.  Sport Minister Richard Colbeck has put distance between the government and the guidelines, saying he knew nothing about them until he took over the portfolio in May 2019 stressing they “were not launched by the government”.

“While generally the government wants to see all Australians have the opportunity to participate in sport, it is important that the integrity of women’s sport is maintained,” he said.  Senator Colbeck also contradicted the Sport Australia line that the term “women’s sport” had passed its use-by date now that society supposedly recognised more than two genders.  “Minister Colbeck does not agree that the term ‘women’s sport’ should no longer be used,” his spokesman said.  In her letter Senator Chandler said Sport Australia and the Australian Human Rights Commission, which ran the consultation, had “refused on multiple occasions” to say which outside organisations were allowed to influence the document.

The commission led the drafting of the guideline with a “review panel” of unidentified third parties.  The guidelines cost at least $20,000 in direct public funding.  Athlete Tamsyn Lewis, who represented Australia at three Olympic games, said she understood “the importance of inclusion” but the issues had to be openly discussed so that careful decisions could bring about a fair outcome.  “The category of female sport has been around for so long, and it’s been there for a reason,” she said.  Few women in sport will go public on this issue.  Sceptics of self-identified trans risk being attacked as “transphobic” at a time of “cancel culture”.

“When you look at the online abuse that JK Rowling has received recently over biological sex and trans, you can understand why female athletes might feel hesitant to speak out on this,” Senator Chandler said.  She said trans inclusion had to be approached in a way that protected the interests of female players, and the government’s top sport officials should “go back and have another go”.  The human rights commission said its consultation for the trans guideline was “targeted, respectful and confidential”, and more than 100 bodies had input, including a single unnamed women’s group involved in “sport advocacy”. Women Sport Australia, which bills itself as “the peak national advocacy body for women in sport”, refused to say if it was involved.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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