May 4th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY What counts is who you have in your corner

EDITORIAL Political unrest over man-made drought in Murray-Darling Basin

FEDERAL ELECTION The ALP's climate policies will devastate our very way of life

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Labor to people traffickers: "We are open for business"

GENDER POLITICS Radical gender laws rushed through Tasmanian Parliament without Government backing

RURAL AFFAIRS Tiny PhD study used to assess live sheep trade

ENVIRONMENT Ocean is a brake on the climate

EUTHANASIA Helter skelter is already working full time

ART AND CULTURE Taipei preserves China's 5,000-year heritage

POLITICS AND SOCIETY What the future holds for the right side of history

HUMOUR This can't be right ... even in politics: The Shorten Run

MUSIC East West: Earthy sounds of Eastern liturgy

CINEMA Missing Link: Stop-start Victoriana

BOOK REVIEW Milligan's revised hit on Cardinal Pell

BOOK REVIEW Top secret history told from the inside

BOOK REVIEW Foretaste of a bloody century



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Radical gender laws rushed through Tasmanian Parliament without Government backing

by Ben Smith

News Weekly, May 4, 2019


  • Liberal Speaker Sue Hickey helped Labor, Greens get laws through
  • Parents can leave newborn’s sex blank on birth certificates
  • Liberal Government has promised to repeal the laws
  • 70 per cent of Tasmanians opposed the changes

Under radical changes to Tasmanian laws, birth certificates will be able to recognise a person as non-binary (other than male or female) and parents can exclude recognition of sex on their newborn’s birth certificate.

The changes were rushed through the Tasmanian Parliament by Labor, the Greens and Liberal Speaker Sue Hickey in the House of Assembly and by Labor and four independents in the Legislative Council.


The Tasmanian Liberal Government introduced the Justice and Related Legislation (Marriage Amendments) Bill 2018 into the House of Assembly on October 16 last year. The Bill aimed to amend aspects of Tasmanian law to conform with changes to the Commonwealth Marriage Act that were made at the end of 2017 to recognise fluid gender marriages.

On November 20, the Greens and the Labor Party, with the help of Speaker Sue Hickey, took control of the House of Assembly and moved a series of amendments that drastically changed the original Bill. These amendments essentially mean that a Tasmanian’s legal recognition and rights are based, not on their biological birth sex, but on their self-defined “gender”, in conformity with the transgender worldview that sex and gender are fluid.

On November 29, members of the Legislative Council postponed debate until mid-March 2019.

On March 20, 2019, a motion to estab­lish a Parliamentary Inquiry, championed by MLCs, in particular Ivan Dean and other opponents of the Bill, was defeated 6:8. On April 9 the Bill passed the Legislative Council in a heavily amended form.

On April 10, the Bill passed through the House of Assembly without amendment with support from Labor, the Greens and Speaker Sue Hickey.

Transgendering the law

The main elements of these radical changes involve legal recognition of “gender” (binary or non-binary), a fundamental change to birth certificates, the transgendering of language in relation to human reproduction, and laws governing acceptable speech concerning gender pronouns.

People aged 16 years and above will be able to change their gender by signing a statutory declaration without the need for any surgery, parental consent or medical or psychological certification. Children under the age of 16 will require the consent of both parents or the consent of one parent and a magistrate’s approval. The Registrar may require people under 18 to provide evidence of counselling.

The new laws give parents the choice of excluding their child’s sex on the newborn’s birth certificate, but the baby’s sex will still be recorded on the Register of Births.

Those who change their gender will be able to obtain a birth certificate without any sex or gender recorded. Alternatively, their gender can be recorded as male, female, indeterminate gender, non-binary, or a word/phrase “that is used to indicate a person’s perception of the person’s self as being neither entirely male nor entirely female”.

The Bill has amended a range of laws concerning pregnancy, abortion and surrogacy, so that any reference in law to words such as “female” or “woman” can apply to a gender other than female. These changes now allow a person, whose gender is something other than female but whose sex is female, to become pregnant and access a legal abortion.

A letter to Members of the Legislative Council from the Solicitor General warned that “without first reviewing all Tasmania’s statutes and regulations”, the Bill was likely to cause serious conflicts with other laws.

For example: “There are a range of statutes that provide that full searches must be carried out by a person of the same sex as the person being searched. This is likely to cause difficulties if the person to be searched is registered as non-binary, indeterminate, or by some other word or phrase used to indicate the person’s perception of self, neither entirely male, nor female. In those categories, the power of search is like to be compromised or negated.”

The law also broadens the Anti-Discrimination Act to include the term, “gender expression”. This change will mean that those who do not use preferred personal pronouns of someone who has changed their gender will be open to a complaint against them.

Opposition to changes

Liberal Premier Will Hodgman has promised to repeal the laws in the future but, until this is possible, the Government will work to remedy serious flaws.

An array of groups opposed these laws. They pointed out that opinion polls had consistently shown that more the 70 per cent of Tasmanians were opposed to these laws. They called for a further public consultation and a thorough legal review of the laws.

Hobart’s The Mercury editorial, published the day after the laws passed the Parliament, reiterated these concerns.

While the campaign against the laws won the media battle and had the support of the overwhelming number of Tasmanians, those campaigning for change concentrated on appealing to the emotions of Tasmanian state politicians through personal testimonies of children and families struggling with gender dysphoria.

Ben Smith is spokesman for the Tasmanian Coalition for Kids

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