Tasmanian Times

Bronwyn Williams

Robin Banks Attempts to No-Platform Women Speak Tasmania

Robin Banks

Women Speak Tasmania is scheduled to speak at a Human Rights Week event for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) on 12 December next.

On 30 November, former Anti-discrimination Commissioner, Robin Banks, emailed WILPF with the following …

‘I am writing out of concern for WILPF, having just seen the invitation to your human rights week event at which you have Women Speak Tasmania as the speakers.

I anticipate that the reason you have invited this group is their apparent promotion of women’s rights. Sadly, this is not a group that support human rights for all.

They have, at present, a nasty and untruthful campaign targeting members of Tasmania’s gender diverse community. They do not support the human rights of people who are gender diverse. Indeed, they deny their very humanity and existence.

The giving to this group a platform for their hateful views by WILPF will be seen by many in the LGBTIQ community as an endorsement by WILPF of those views. This is the very real potential to damage the reputation of an extraordinary and compassionate long-standing human rights group.

If there is any way that I can help you to negotiate what I think is a very difficult situation, I am happy to do so

Robin Banks 

Ms Banks’ statements clearly amount to vilification of the Women Speak Tasmania speakers, and are just as clearly defamatory of them.

In Human Rights Week, it is disappointing to see a person of Ms Banks’ experience in this area seeking to undermine the rights of any group to freely express their opinion.

We are particularly concerned Ms Banks has offered unsolicited advice to WILPF and in doing so has attacked the credibility of Women Speak Tasmania with arrogance and unashamed impunity.

Women Speak Tasmania members will be submitting a claim to the Tasmanian Anti-discrimination Commissioner on the grounds that Ms Banks’ email has insulted, humiliated and ridiculed them.

We may also consider a defamation action.

EARLIER, by Matthew Denholm in The Australian …

Women say they’re being stopped from speaking at a forum over opposition to Tasmania transgender laws …

Two feminists have accused a former anti-discrimination commissioner of trying to stop them from speaking at a human rights forum because of their opposition to transgender reforms.

Bronwyn Williams and Isla MacGregor were invited by the Tasmanian branch of the global Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom to give a speech at an event in Hobart on Wednesday next week.

The two women, whose Women Speak Tasmania group is a vocal critic of transgender reforms before the Tasmanian parliament, were to speak about “Transgenderism and the impact on the human rights of women and girls”.

However, in an email to the WILPF, obtained by The Australian, former state anti-discrimination commissioner Robin Banks — a key advocate of the transgender reforms — warns the organisation against giving the duo a platform.

“The giving to this group a platform for their hateful views … will be seen by many in the LGBTIQ community as an endorsement of those views,” Ms Banks wrote to prominent WILPF members on Friday.

“This is (sic) the very real potential to damage the reputation of an extraordinary and compassionate longstanding human rights group.

“If there is any way that I can help you to negotiate what I think is a very difficult situation, I am happy to do so.”

Miss Williams and Ms MacGregor said Ms Banks’ email was a blatant and “gobsmacking” attempt to “no platform” them.

“It’s an attack on freedom of speech, particularly the rights of women to participate in public debate on issues that relate to their human rights,” said Ms MacGregor, who has addressed past WILPF events.

However, Ms Banks denied seeking to have the women banned from speaking. “It was not my intention that WILPF prevent Women Speak Tasmania from speaking, but rather (I was) hoping that WILPF would seek to balance Isla MacGregor and Bronwyn Williams’ views with those of others,” Ms Banks said.

The two women were unsure if their talk would go ahead but WILPF immediate past president Linley Grant insisted it would.

“They will be speaking,” Ms Grant said. “(Ms Banks) suggested someone else might like to speak as a counter balance and we are considering that.”

Miss Williams and Ms MacGregor have lobbied MPs to block Labor and Greens amendments that would end the automatic inclusion of a baby’s sex on its birth certificate, allow people to change official gender merely via statutory declaration, and extend anti-hate speech laws to include “gender expression”.

They warn the reforms, to be voted on in March, could jeopardise the safety and sanctity of female-only organisations and services, from domestic violence shelters to the Girl Guides.

In her email to WILPF’s Tasmania president and immediate past president, Ms Banks claims Women Speak Tasmania has a “nasty and untruthful campaign targeting members of Tasmania’s gender diverse community”.

“They do not support the human rights of people who are gender diverse,” wrote Ms Banks. “Indeed, they deny their very humanity and existence.”

Ms MacGregor and Miss Williams said these statements were “lies”. “We absolutely support their (transgender people’s) rights,” Ms MacGregor said.

Read more here

TERF is a slur, Documenting the abuse, harassment and mysoginy of transgender identity politics

Bronwyn Williams is a retired lawyer and social worker

Isla MacGregor is a women’s human rights and free speech advocate

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.

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Ginar

    December 6, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    We are being silenced says the uh ‘group’, Women Speak Tasmania, via Tasmanian Times, Facebook, the Tasmania Talks radio show, and in The Australian newspaper.

    Seriously .. what a load of faux outrage from a self-described representative group that doesn’t have a constitution, a Board, any connections to existing local women’s groups or any of the other trappings of a real representative organisation.

    Let’s face it, WST likely involves less than ten people, probably less than five, and appears to be nothing more than an offshoot (splitters!) of the Nordic Coalition, or of the Neill-Fraser truthers, or both. For a shadowy group like this to threaten defamation action beggars belief, but at least if they go ahead there will be a chance for the lawyers to find out who they actually are. And who they are not.

    • Christopher Eastman-Nagle

      December 6, 2018 at 10:10 pm

      Gina, see if you can manage to get your head around the case Isla and Bronwyn have made out and give us all a plausible looking critical analysis of what they have said. That would be a first. I would be really interested to hear it.

    • suzie

      December 7, 2018 at 11:57 am

      These women clearly do not represent an NGO whose Boards have been strategically stacked by trans ideologues. Boards that will not allow any heresy to be uttered in their meetings, eg to ask any questions, let alone be a member of the Board.

      Who is on the Boards of the women’s groups who attacked these women in a media release and were first up in their presentation to the legislative council?

      Attack the messengers .. and this invariably will backfire on the entire trans movement .. and everyone will know you are dead set on hiding the truth – wouldn’t you say, Ginar?

    • Christopher Eastman-Nagle

      December 7, 2018 at 9:41 pm

      Ginar, you still haven’t managed to explain to me why their objections and proffered solutions to the birth register question are mistaken.

      Whether they are a small or large band of people is irrelevant. And the same applies to the trans lobby. All social activist groups are minuscule, without exception. I used to be a member of the Communist party, so I know.

      What is relevant is whether Bronwyn and Isla’s work is showing yours to be based on the rather cavalier assumption that the trans lobby can just run in behind the ‘marriage equality’ campaign without treading on the toes of feminists who have fought very hard for the pathetically small wins they have gained over the last 60 years, and that the trans agenda is now threatening.

      The question is, have they established their case? Should you perhaps be pausing to consider their concerns? Or is it the case that you just don’t care about what happens to other women if their needs get in the way of yours?

      My personal view is the answer is probably the latter, because that is what indulgence capitalism does to its agents. Deregulation and privatisation of the economic and social systems deliver the same ruinous results across all sectors, whether we are talking bank boards, the welfare sector, most of the social infrastructure in between, and a biosphere that is almost beyond redemption.

      The fantasy driven indulgence economic system has a social equivalent, and it looks benign at first because in the name of freedom and liberation, it cuts everybody lots of slack, caters to their fantasies, tolerates excesses and makes excuses for poor behaviour. But over time, along with deregulation, it wrecks social governance completely. It turns it over lock, stock and barrel to market forces. It leaves behind a trail of self absorbed narcissistic egos who think it’s all about them, because they were never properly socialised. They never grow up into mature and other regarding adults (especially the men) and suffer chronically fragile and chaotic lives.

      Am I getting warm here? Do you think about other people’s needs? Do you figure out the longer term impacts of your behaviour and attitudes? Do you ever question your values and beliefs?

      I think the systems and interests that are giving you traction now are not far away from falling to pieces pretty rapidly. Modern times that have spanned the last 500 years may be coming to an end altogether in the next 20. And just quietly, I think the transgens and their friends are going to find themselves more exposed than a Christmas arvo quickie on Bondi Beach, as the tide suddenly goes out for a tsunami.

    • Megan

      December 7, 2018 at 10:54 pm

      Did Ginar just claim that this group “doesn’t have any connections to existing local women’s groups” on an article about this group speaking to a local women’s group “WILPF” with the former and (apparently continuing) discrimination commissioner attempting to have said group no platformed from speaking at WILPF’s event?

      Perhaps Ginar needs to try writing some coherent fact and analysis rather than fantasy, because the only thing that I’m finding beggars belief is Ginar’s failing logic.

      I’ll make this one simple for you .. if this group has been asked to speak at a human rights event for another local women’s group then it indicates some degree of involvement in the women’s movement in Tasmania.

  2. Rob Halton

    December 6, 2018 at 3:51 pm

    I hate to think that Sue Hickey is getting caught up in this mess, it could be her very public undoing and essentially write down any good will she has shown recently on public health by replacing herself with a very unsure Premier who cannot fce the public!

    Oh dear all that support that many have expressed recently and now this.

    Banks shows herself in public as is an extremist and continues to support only the extreme views of gays, you never see her in the company of the average Joe Blows’ its always with minority groups with sexuality issues.

    I would guess that she is despised by the general public for being too far out on a limb.

    Probably the wrong choice for the Tas DCC.

  3. Christopher Eastman-Nagle

    December 6, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    What is so startling about what Robyn Banks wrote is not the kind of oracular condemnatory language that she shares with the 1930s Stalinist purges and the church Inquisition of an even earlier period. The style is so commonplace among not even the more extremist ideologues to be found among the economic and social Libertarian Ascendencies.

    What is startling is that in an apparently open society, such language gets traction, to the extent that the woman really thinks her intended audience will respond like Pavlov’s dogs. And the fact is, more often than not, they do. It works.

    And what that says to me is that it really isn’t an open society anymore, because such authoritarian declamatory language is now emblematic of an architecture of discourse where slogans, keywords, stereotypes, aphorisms and dysphemisms apply supportive or condemnatory labels rather than critical reason, argument, evidence or debate.

    This architecture of discourse has been colonised by a combination of PR/marketspeak and received ‘wisdom’ using enclosed language that are both calculated to shut down discourse rather than engaging in it.

    What is shocking is not what Robyn Banks said, but that she thought she could get away with it, because she can. She is just like a shaman casting a curse, dancing around, uttering magical imprecations and sticking pins in a doll made in a caricature likeness of her enemies. And those around her behave like fearful and superstitious acolytes who nod at her every jerk and verbal ejaculation!

    But it gets worse …

    Isla and Bronwyn bring to the table a reasoned and evidence based case that the proposed changes that a so called ‘progressive’ group of minoritarian unrepresentative swill is trying to to run through the political/legal system is treading very hard on the interests of 50% of the population, namely women.

    Isla and Bronwyn’s representations to Greens, the ALP and the mainstream press in Tasmania have gone nowhere, because the received wisdom of the likes of Robyn Banks is so entrenched, the libertarian ascendency simply can’t hear very real and legitimate objections. Their critical faculties have effectively been put to sleep to facilitate the march of the intellectual and moral somnambulists that has been carried forward by the crushingly successful ‘marriage equality’ public relations campaign slogan of a year ago.

    The social Libertarian Ascendency has been colonised by forces that are not in the least benign and have no regard for anything but themselves and their minoritarian clients.

    Thus real-deal feminists who actually have the broad interests of women hardly stand a prayer against a minute bunch of ideological bullies, bluffers, cribbers and fudgers who slip-slide-weave n’ duck their way with impunity through what is left of the late modern age.

    And the warning is, if the social libertarian Establishment doesn’t wake up to itself, eventually, there will be nothing left to wake up to. The world is moving much faster than they are, and by the time they twig they won’t even be in the race to define the future that is coming at us.

    And when that happens, I really wouldn’t want to be in Robyn Banks’ shoes …

  4. suzie

    December 6, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    Ms Banks … Tasmania’s most celebrated fundamentalist anti free speech campaigner will be handing out purple 100% pure Tasmanian wool gags at Salamanca market in the lead up to next years Legco debate. Only one colour is available.

    Any objectors to the proposed siting and plans for construction of Tasmania’s first ‘biological women’ only gulag at Brighton will be interned in the gulag when opened.

    The new anti free speech laws will be fast tracked through parliament by a Green/Labor alliance with the backing of Speaker Sue Hickey who will make sure there is no public debate on the issue by the Government after she has personally applied larger than normal purple gags over their mouths.

    Sue Hickey said “With the opening of this iconic Tasmanian gulag we will transform the lives of all Tasmanians once and for all.”

    • Melissa

      December 6, 2018 at 12:53 pm

      Ha, ha, ha, ha! Then they would have the cheek to tell us they are preserving women-only spaces due to public demand –

      ‘The voters have spoken and we have listened, right side of history. Stop your complaining and just be nice’ etc.

  5. Isla MacGregor

    December 6, 2018 at 7:40 am

    It is concerning that Civil Liberties Australia will not make public comment about Robin Banks’ anti free speech campaign against Women Speak Tasmania, especially as the Director of CLA Rajan Venkataraman lives in Tasmania and recently wrote:

    “Restricting one’s speech curbs all of us.” 6 November, 2018 by Rajan Venkataraman, a Director of Civil Liberties Australia ..

    “Civil Liberties Australia is concerned by the growing trend for corporations, public services and other organisations to impose restrictions on the freedom of employees to express themselves and speak out about matters that concern them, even on issues that have nothing to do with their employment.

    The trend is for organisations to impose restrictions in the name of their “social media policy” or to “protect their brand image”.

    CLA believes all Australians have a right to free speech and their right to express their opinions openly.

    Examples of the problem restrictions include:

    Federal public servant Michaela Banerji was sacked for criticising the government’s policies on asylum seekers. The issue is now before the High Court.
    An employee of Cricket Australia, Angela Williamson, was sacked for criticising the Tasmanian Government’s policies on abortion. A settlement.
    A sports reporter for SBS, Scott McIntyre, was sacked for comments he made on Twitter about ANZAC Day. Another settlement.

    The problem with settlements in.. inevitably involving confidentiality clauses .. is that no-one becomes any the wiser as to where lie the boundaries on public comment.

    These three are particularly egregious cases, but we are equally concerned about the thousands of people who, every day, decide to keep silent. In fear of losing their jobs, they choose not to express themselves on social media, or attend public forums, or write Letters to the Editor of their local newspapers, or write to ministers or their local MPs about matters that concern them. They are rendered speechless by their organisation’s anti-free speech policies.

    Is freedom of speech absolute?

    No, it’s not absolute. International and domestic law says that speech may be restricted to the extent necessary to protect the rights of others. For this reason, we have laws that apply to all Australians on such things as defamation, misleading advertising, vilification and incitement to violence.

    But over and above these laws, companies, government departments and other organisations impose highly restrictive rules about what their workers may say.

    What if people freely agree to abide by such policies as part of the terms of employment? CLA believes such policies are not acceptable for two reasons.

    Firstly, the positions of the employee and the employer are not equal, and so such restrictive policies cannot be freely agreed to.

    With hundreds of thousands of jobs in the public and private sector now subject to such rules, a person who decides that they wish to retain their freedom of expression will find their employment choices severely limited.

    Secondly, the High Court of Australia has ruled that the Australian Constitution implicitly guarantees freedom of political communication.

    The High Court did so, not because freedom of expression is inherently an individual right, but because our entire democratic system and responsible government requires that the people may express themselves freely.

    All Australians have a stake.

    In other words, any restriction on freedom of expression imposed by corporations, government departments and other organisations, hurts not just the individual employee, but it also undermines our entire democratic system, in effect .. all of us.

    All Australians have a stake in free speech, not just employers and their workers.

    The freedom of political communication established by the High Court would become a hollow right if it is undermined by restrictions on free speech in social media and news outlets by over-egged policies of private and public organisations.

    Rajan Venkataraman is a former Australian public servant and diplomat who also served as a departmental adviser in a ministerial office in Parliament House. He has been a member of the Australian Film and Literature Board and is currently based in Tasmania where, among other things, he tutors adults in literacy and numeracy.

  6. Russell

    December 6, 2018 at 6:36 am

    Robin Banks is hardly fit to be the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner when she is being brought before the Australian Human Rights Commission for bullying, and seeks to exclude women’s groups from speaking at a Human Rights Week event.

    How hypocritical in the extreme!

    Just shows how perverted and toxic this male-dominated bullying transgender rubbish has become.

  7. Lola Moth

    December 6, 2018 at 5:45 am

    For over 100 years women had to shout to be heard. When they got too loud they were slapped down by those who didn’t agree with their views. The battles fought and won by women allowed other minorities that had been discriminated against to also gain equal rights and to have their voices heard. Now another group has decided that women should not only not be heard, but they should not even be allowed to speak. Slapped down again.

    • Isla MacGregor

      December 6, 2018 at 6:38 am

      The translobby mantra is: “The debate we don’t need to have.”

      When, in the last 100 years, has anyone suggested that 50% of the population, namely women, have no right to participate in a debate that has done, and will increasingly impact on the human rights of girls and women?

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