A bill by Queensland MP Rob Katter to “pre-emptively” protect people from persecution for using gendered language would put transgender and gender diverse Queenslanders at risk of discrimination, a parliamentary committee has been told.
Rob Katter, who is the son of federal MP Bob Katter, introduced the private member’s bill earlier this year in a “pre-emptive” bid to protect people from “frivolous discrimination claims” for using gendered language and to address “this radical political correctness that is seeping in inch by inch.”
Speaking about the bill in June, Katter pointed to media reports claiming gendered words such as “he” and “she” had been banned at Queensland universities and students using terms like “mankind” had been penalised, claims the universities dispute.
“[The bill] doesn’t prevent people from using more gender-fluid language, but what it does is protect people from adhering to some of those social norms that they’ve become accustomed to and they’re not punished for that,” Katter said.
“We’re just trying to preserve a place where people are able to use, and not forced, into what we see as radical ideological positions, that some people don’t accept.”
But the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland has told a parliamentary committee examining the bill that they had not had any complaints from people who had been forced to use non-gendered language in workplaces.
“It has not arisen in any of the public engagement work that we do and it has not arisen in any of the training. We are not aware of it happening and it being a concern,” ADCQ principal lawyer Julie Ball told the committee on Monday.
“The only complaints that we would have are where, for example, a transgender person is being consistently referred to by the gender that is not the one that they identify with currently.”
Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland commissioner Scott McDougall said the Katter bill had the potential to be “divisive” and was “inconsistent with contemporary objectives of fostering an inclusive society.”
“[The bill] would potentially expose vulnerable people, such as those who are transgender and those who are gender diverse or intersex to increased discrimination,” he said.
Community legal service Caxton Legal Centre said in a submission that the bill “seeks to treat the ‘use of gender specific language’ as a protected attribute” but those in society “who wish to use gender-specific language do not have any particularly vulnerability which requires protection.”
“In fact, the promotion of such a ‘right’ is likely to expose those people with the attribute of gender identity or who are transgender, gender diverse or intersex to increased discrimination,” their submission reads.
“In our experience, the use of gendered language (such as pronouns), which does not accord with the gender identity of transgender and gender diverse people is a persistent feature in many of their lives.
“In our view, the inadvertent use of an incorrect gender pronoun will not amount to unlawful discrimination.
“However, deliberate and persistent misgendering of a transgender or gender diverse person causes significant harm.”
(Photo by Katter’s Australia Party/Facebook)