Hobart City Council has received criticism from a number of trans rights advocates after it was revealed that Women Speak Tasmania, a group that likens the transgender community to a “cult” and a “social contagion”, have booked Hobart Town Hall for an upcoming public forum on November 27.
The concerns were first raised by Hobart Councillor Jax Fox, who told Star Observer that when the event was first booked for back in August, they adamantly tried shut it down but were told there, “wasn’t the policies or procedures in place to do that and that they didn’t want any media attention.”
“I had a meeting with the CEO last week and asked about it and was told it had been cancelled. Then a couple of days later I got a call from the local paper telling me it is going ahead,” Jax explained.
“I’m fed up with the staff response to this, it is my firm view that if [it] were any other group practicing hate against any other minority it wouldn’t be able to go ahead. But this seems like an ok form of discrimination to allow to continue in the interest of ‘freedom of speech’.”
Group Known For Anti-Trans Rhetoric
Previously, Women Speak Tasmania had drawn criticism for their anti-transgender rhetoric. In 2019, Hobart City Council launched an investigation after the group was found to be publicly handing out “anti-transgender material” at the popular Salamanca Markets.
The pamphlet that was handed out was titled “Don’t De-Sex Tasmania” and stated that the group’s members “recognise and respect the human dignity of all people, including those who identify as transgender, intersex or gender diverse”.
However, it went on to add that “the dignity of female people and children … [must] also be properly considered,” outlining the group’s concerns surrounding legislation that was – at the time – before Tasmanian parliament.
That legislation allowed gender references on birth certificates to be amended without surgery or to be removed altogether. It also introduced new anti-discrimination provisions that came into effect.
“I find it odd that a group that claims to be radically feminist, seems more closely aligned with the Australian Christian Lobby,” former Tasmanian Human Rights Commissioner Robin Banks told Star Observer.
“When I was the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner they opposed the changes to the birth certificates reform, which I ran the inquiry into. I and my policy officer met with one of their representatives – we disagreed.”
Banks is well versed in Women Speak Tasmania’s crusade, having been embroiled twice in highly publicised arguments surrounding the rights and inclusion of transgender Tasmanians.
“Following that meeting, they [Women Speak Tasmania] subsequently made a complaint about me and my staff member to the state’s Attorney General, which was dealt with, but the first I heard about [the complaint] was on the front page of The Australian newspaper.”
A Hard Line To Draw
On a second unrelated matter, Women Speak Tasmania accused Banks of both defamation and vilification.
However, Banks falls short of calling to cancel the group’s upcoming booking and subsequent forum planned for next month, saying it’s a “dangerous line to toe.”
“My view has also been that if they want to have their views expressed, they can do that in places which do less harm. If they want to talk in the town hall to a bunch of like-minded people, then that’s part of political discourse and its important they not be shut down.”
“That’s the tricky thing about this kind of discussion, is all speech ok? And when does something become hate speech? That’s a hard line to draw, and I’m not going [to] claim I have any special insights into it, but obliviously Tasmanian law provides specific protections towards conduct that has the potential to offend, humiliate, insult, intimate or ridicule. Some of the things they say certainly fall into that scope.”
We approached Women Speak Tasmania via email for comment. The email bounced. We will update this story when we receive a response.