Gender hot potato in Tasmania

January 28, 2019

The Conservative Party has drawn attention to the fact that the murky waters of identity politics have trapped Tasmania's new anti-discrimination thought cop, who felt she had to handball a complaint against her predecessor to the state ombudsman, citing a potential perceived conflict of interest.

The Australian reports, two feminists campaigning against elements of transgender law reform, Isla MacGregor and Bronwyn Williams, late last year lodged a discrimination complaint against former anti-­discrimination commissioner Robin Banks (pictured).

Their complaint relates to an email sent to members of a human rights group by Ms Banks — a prominent supporter of transgender law reform — in which she described the women’s views as “hateful” and cautioned against allowing them to speak at a public forum.

The two women, of Women Speak Tasmania, lodged a ­complaint with Ms Banks’s immediate successor, incumbent anti-discrimination commissioner Sarah Bolt, claiming Ms Banks had discriminated against them on the basis of political ­beliefs.

Ms Bolt has since written to both women advising that she has decided to delegate assessment of their complaint to the state ombudsman, “in order to avoid ­perceptions of bias or conflict of interest”.

“As the current commissioner, I consider it inappropriate for me to be the decision-maker in relation to a complaint against a former commissioner,” she wrote.

She also noted that “All the current conciliation and investigation officers worked with Ms Banks”, further advising that “the ­ombudsman is independent of this office and as such the ­potential for either party to ­perceive or allege bias or conflict of interest in relation to the ­decision-making process is ­removed”.

“We are disappointed that the anti-discrimination commissioner does not perceive her ­office as capable of conducting an impartial investigation into a straightforward complaint such as we have submitted,” Ms MacGregor said.

WST opposes reforms currently before the Tasmanian parliament that would require parents to “opt in” to record the sex of their child on a birth certificate, and allow people to change their legal gender simply by statutory declaration.

Mrs Williams and Ms MacGregor argue that the changes could threaten the sanctity and safety of services for girls and women.

The Anti-Discrimination Commission has made headlines during the marriage debate for its handling of a case against an archbishop

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