University of Sydney Union debating club has introduced rules to increase the gender diversity of its competitors in an upcoming tournament and right-wing pundits are throwing an absolute tantrum over it.

The uni’s team for the Australian Intervarsity Debating Competition will now need to be at least 50 per cent made up of women and trans or non-binary people, as well as at least one person from a “minority ethno-cultural background” in top teams and 25 per cent non-white members across all teams.

The rules are designed to ensure that university debating clubs aren’t made up solely of students whose privileged background allowed them access to debating training in high school, which as Max Koslowski explains at Junkee, tends to be the case.

Conservative pundits and politicians have taken to the usual sympathetic media outlets to scream bloody murder at the change, while The Australian splashed its front page with the story.

Right-wing columnist Rita Panahi called the affirmative action push “just insane” in an interview on 2GB.

“Identity politics is so toxic. It’s divisive, it’s degrading. It pushes this victimhood narrative that is often completely at odds with reality,” she said.

Panahi last year called LGBTI activists “rainbow fascists” for opposing plans for a same-sex marriage plebiscite.

Senator Eric Abetz, who last year said that “same-sex marriage is not a human right”, labelled the club’s move an instance of “Stalinist dogma”.

Rowan Dean, editor of The Spectator – which just published a piece demanding gay people should apologise for child sex abuse – appeared on The Bolt Report to call the policy a “tragedy”.

Dean pointed out that he doesn’t understand what ‘non-cis’ means and therefore not fully understanding the content of the policy.

Meanwhile, The Daily Mail published a misleading claim that the changes were designed to mean that half the club’s debaters at the upcoming competition must be transgender.

“Why’s wrong with choosing debaters on merit, instead of on their gender or whether they’re an ethnic minority ‘marginalised by white supremacy’?” wrote that article’s author on Twitter.

Courtney Thompson, the University of Sydney’s Union president, said the policy “aimed to create space for, and develop, debaters from diverse backgrounds to ensure our debating program is as inclusive and successful as it can be” and that they were created because “traditionally, the profile of debating skews overwhelmingly towards affluent, white and privately educated students’.

The policy also includes a call for at least a third of adjudicators to meet similar ethnic diversity requirements, which USyd debating society president Kevin Lee told Junkee would combat existing judging biases against students who speak English as a second language.

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