Federal Defence Minister Marise Payne has rejected calls for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to stop providing gender reassignment surgery to troops.
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson used Question Time in the Senate on Monday to ask why the ADF has treated 27 personnel for gender dysphoria in the past five years at a cost of $1m, as reported by The Australian newspaper.
Liberal MP Andrew Hastie and South Australian senator Cory Bernadi told the publication the funding should be cut.
But Payne said the ADF treats gender dysphoria like all other health conditions and it would be unfair to discriminate between conditions.
She said ADF regulations require it to provide “comprehensive” healthcare to all members, who aren’t covered by Medicare.
“Gender dysphoria is managed in accordance with best practice clinical guidelines, under the same principles as any other health condition,” she said.
“If a member of the ADF is diagnosed or treated for gender dysphoria, defence will fund the medical procedures or support as prescribed by the treating doctor.”
Senator Hanson told the Senate gender reassignment and breast enhancement surgery is “a personal choice and will not help in any way defending and protecting our country.”
Payne responded: “Cosmetic or elective surgeries are not funded. This occurs in the same way as this treatment or support would be available under Medicare for civilian members of the community.”
Hanson asked whether the $1m could be better spent on returned service personnel suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
But Payne noted that the the ADF’s total health bill in 2015-16 was $430m, out of a total Defence spend of $31.9 billion for that period.
“I think it’s invidious to try and distinguish between one health condition and one personal health circumstance over another,” she said.
“In no way does Defence’s engagement in relation to gender dysphoria diminish or lessen Defence’s commitment — and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ commitment — to the strongest possible support for returned servicemen and servicewomen and those who serve those who are veterans.”
Greens LGBTI spokesperson Janet Rice said that the ADF provided medical care to transgender personnel because gender dysphoria was a medical issue.
“ADF personnel put their bodies on the line, they are entitled to medical care, regardless of what that care is,” she said.
“Defence personnel are required to be in good mental and physical health.
“How does Senator Hanson expect someone who isn’t provided the medical care they need to carry out their duties effectively?”
Labor Defence spokesperson Amanda Rishworth told The Guardian the ADF “spends money on a range of health treatments to support the wellbeing” of personnel to achieve the goal of “an equitable and diverse workforce.”