Federal Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert has said the federal government should intervene to stop state governments from making sex markers optional on birth certificates, but transgender advocates say the MP has misunderstood the legislation.
Last month, Tasmania’s lower house passed legislation that would make the displaying of sex markers on birth certificates optional. The data would still remain in state records.
Speaking to radio station 2GB, Robert blasted the proposal and said it was essential that the government knew every individual’s biological sex, arguing the work of the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the planning of infrastructure, education and health services would be disrupted.
Robert described the proposals as an “identity war” being driven by “the loony left” and he vowed to intervene.
“It’s not just reckless, it’s madness,” he said.
“We need to know who are men, who are women, so we can plan properly.
“[The ABS] provides all the data to all the state and federal bodies, including statutory bodies, to do all the planning.
“Where hospitals go, where schools go, where fertility clinics go, where women’s sexual health clinics go, and I suggest that its a little difficult to do that planning if… birth certificates don’t record sex as male or female.
“When it comes time for the commonwealth to provide funding for cervical cancer vaccines for example, exactly how many do we order? If we actually don’t know how many women we’re trying to protect.
“Cervical cancer doesn’t care how you identify, it just cares if you’ve got a cervix or not.
“I’m not going to sit by and allow states to utterly screw up our planning regime because of a drive to allow boys and girls to call themselves something else.”
But Tasmanian transgender rights advocate Martine Delaney said Roberts’ comments were “grossly ignorant” and “misinformed”.
“Mr Robert is wrong to say the Tasmanian proposal will remove gender from birth certificates, when in fact it will make gender optional,” she said.
“His more serious error is to say this has any implications for the collection of important statistics, because all the statistics he refers to will continue to be gathered and available.
“Mr Robert has displayed such gross ignorance and incompetence about this simple issue that he should resign or be sacked.”
Tasmanian Greens leader Cassy O’Connor told The Advocate it was clear Mr Robert hadn’t read the Tasmanian legislation, introduced by the Greens with the support of state Labor.
“Our amendments include explicit provisions for original data to be retained in a manner that makes it accessible for all purposes, including medical records,” O’Connor said.
“Using serious illness, like cancer, to spout transphobia dressed up as a policy response is simply unethical.
“Mr Robert’s threat to overrule any state reform on birth certificates is based on ignorance underpinned by a hard right wing ideology.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also criticised the reforms as “ridiculous” after they passed the first vote in November.
“Labor’s plan to remove gender from birth certificates in Tasmania is ridiculous,” Morrison tweeted.
“Bill Shorten should step up and commit to put motion to ALP Federal Conference to outlaw it.”
The Tasmanian legislation is expected to face its final vote in the state’s upper house next March.
All other state and territory governments have scrapped the so-called “forced divorce” requirement – a leftover from when same-sex marriage was illegal – except for Tasmania and Western Australia, where bills addressing the issue are being debated.