Tasmanian Times

Bronwyn Williams

The Mercury – PR Machine for the Trans Lobby?

In recent weeks, Hobart’s Mercury newspaper has featured a number of articles and longer form stories showcasing the trans rights lobby group, Transforming Tasmania.

Transforming Tasmania is behind a number of radical amendments to birth registration and anti-discrimination laws put forward by Labor and the Greens in the Tasmanian parliament this week. Those amendments have now passed the lower house with the help of speaker, Sue Hickey’s, vote.

Unfortunately for the people of Tasmania, the Mercury’s sympathetic reporting of the trans rights position has failed entirely to investigate the detail of the proposed legislative changes.

We might know a lot about the personalities involved with Transforming Tasmania, but we know virtually nothing about their political agenda and its implications for the Tasmanian community.

Mercury journalists are happy, it seems, to accept their glib assurances that nothing will change for non-trans people but the lives of trans folk will be immeasurably improved.

People have come to accept a fairly ordinary standard of reporting in the mainstream media, but the Mercury’s complete absence of critical evaluation of these very significant changes to the law is a new low.

As well as their less than subtle promotion of trans rights, it seems the Mercury is also working to actively polarise the debate. On Monday 19 November, the paper’s “Talking Point” section featured a piece by Conservative Christian group, Coalition for Marriage, placed side by side with an emotional letter from the parent of a transgender teenager. The latter item, titled “Because I Only Want the Best for My Children’ featured a picture of a woman cradling an infant with the caption – “Baby: Getting to Know You”.

The articles and their layout send a clear message that the trans rights debate is one between Conservative Christians on one side, and progressive individuals motivated only by love on the other.

The Mercury has resolutely ignored the perspective of women’s groups concerned about the impact of any changes that allow male-bodied persons to become legally female and gain access to female-only spaces, services and facilities.

In their rush to pit two minority groups against each other, the Mercury has turned its back on women and girls.

We’re not afraid to speak up, in a hostile environment, but our voices are being actively sidelined. Free speech is something we expect in our society, but if you’re talking about trans rights, it seems you can only speak if you have the ‘correct’ opinion’.

We have no religious or political allegiances. Our only allegiance is to female persons, both women and girls, but apparently that isn’t newsworthy.

Bronwyn Williams is a retired lawyer and social worker

Isla MacGregor lives in Tasmania and is concerned about the ethical conduct of and collusion between Government and corporations in Tasmania.

Women Speak Tasmania is a network of women and their supporters based in Tasmania. We operate as a secular group. We are not aligned with any political party or ideology. We share research and information on a broad range of women’s rights issues. These include – female only spaces, services, groups and facilities; the sexualisation of girls and women; pornography/prostitution and the harms of the global sex trade; surrogacy as a violation of women’s human rights; and ending male violence against girls and women. We understand that sex-based oppression affects all women, and underlies all abuses of female rights. We support the right of women to speak freely about the inequities and discrimination they experience. We aim to give a voice to girls and women in the pursuit of justice, peace and security. We support full autonomy and personal freedom for all women.

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  1. Winston

    November 21, 2018 at 6:37 am

    The amendments also passed changes to anti-discrimination laws which will force people to refer to men as ‘she’, ‘her’ and ‘woman’ if that man wants to be called as such.

    It’s terrifyingly Orwellian, but I will resist. I will never call a man by female honorifics.

  2. Isla MacGregor

    November 21, 2018 at 6:12 am

    Last Friday 16th November I rang and spoke with Emily Baker. This is the email I sent her to follow up … and no, she did not ring me, and our proposed legislative alternatives remain unreported in the Mercury:

    Hi Emily,

    Thanks for speaking with me just now and yes I look forward to your call tomorrow to provide you with our views on the article you are writing about transgender law reform.

    We released our legislative proposals, attached, over a month ago and consider that it is in the public interest for Mercury readers to be fully informed of the legislative options we have attempted to put out for public consideration. To date this has not occurred even though in your recent interview with Bronwyn Williams in person she raised our proposals with you.

    The Tasmanian community have a right to know what alternative proposals on transgender law reform have been sent to all members of the Tasmanian Parliament for their consideration.

    Attached please find media release titled ‘Opposition Leader Won’t Consult With Women on Trans Law Reforms’.

    This debate goes to the heart of issues concerning freedom of speech and it is our view that many involved in this debate are attempting to shut down debate and silence those who have a legitimate right to ask questions about impacts of the proposed laws.

    Fair and unbiased reporting by the Mercury is essential if the public are to be fully informed of all aspects of this debate from all perspectives.

    I look forward to speaking with you tomorrow as arranged.

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