Senator attempts to stoke culture wars by drawing bureaucrats into debate

By Melissa Coade

July 29, 2022

Claire Chandler
Senator Claire Chandler. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Claire Chandler has accused public servants from the Department of Health and Services Australia of “ideological capture” by “woke activists” and “social justice warriors”. 

The Liberal senator for Tasmania penned an op-ed blaming public servants, institutions and the private sector for “erasing women”. They did this by adopting what Chandler referred to as “dehumanising terms” on official forms in place of the word “mother” or “woman”. 

“Over the last three years, I have not been able to find a single government agency or department prepared to agree that a woman is a member of the female sex, let alone agree that single-sex services are an important tool for the participation and safety of women and girls,” the senator wrote.

“Public servants who have contacted me privately say that expressing such a normal, mainstream view in their workplace would be career-limiting and contradict the ‘inclusivity’ staff training that many departments engage lobby groups to conduct.”

Last August, Chandler took exception to a decision by Health to include the words ‘pregnant person’ in a COVID-19 vaccination guide. The APS’ preference for gender-neutral language made no sense to the senator because, she argued, these terms were not necessarily inclusive to the “overwhelming majority of Australians”. 

“Not only was this a mind-boggling waste of resources during a pandemic, but the removal of specific sex-based language undermines the accuracy of health advice for pregnant women. So why did they do it?,” Chandler asked.

The senator said Health responded to questions she submitted to the department seven months ago about who had asked that the gender-specific word ‘woman’ be removed from the form.

“The department’s answer was that it receives ‘benchmark and suggestions’ on ‘the use of inclusive language’ from the lobby group Pride in Diversity,” Chandler said, noting the group had recognised Services Australia as a ‘Gold Employer’ in 2022 at about the same time the agency started referring to mothers as ‘birthing parents’. 

“All up, more than 30 federal departments and agencies have been paying this lobby group for advice and staff training on so-called ‘inclusive’ language,” she added. 

Pride in Diversity is a social inclusion initiative of ACON, and the only national NFP employer support program for all aspects of LGBTQ workplace inclusion.

Citing a news report published by The Daily Telegraph (the paper has published a series of articles critical of the use of trans-inclusive terms such as ‘menstruators’, ‘chest-feeders’ and ‘gestational carriers’ in breastfeeding documents), Chandler applauded the advocacy of Sall Grover to see an official government form restore the use of the word ‘mother’.

“This was a good, common-sense decision by Bill Shorten, but it’s just the tip of a very large iceberg of ideological capture in the public service. Scrapping one form won’t get to the heart of the problem,” Chandler said. 

The senator went on to suggest the influence of so-called lobby groups over the public service justified the standard view across government in places like the PM&C’s Office for Women, Health and Services Australia that a woman was any person who identified as one.

Services Australia did not want to respond to senator Chandler’s missive, and Health did not reply to The Mandarin at the time of publishing.

The senator also made the claim that other agencies, such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), had back-pedalled their position on trans women after being challenged in senate estimates. 

“It helps to explain why Sport Australia encourages males who identify as women to play women’s sport, and why the ABS claimed that humans can change sex over the course of their lifetime (a claim it was forced to amend after I asked them at Senate Estimates if they’d checked it with biologists),” Chandler wrote. 

While the ABS declined to comment on the senator’s views, a spokesperson from the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) said it was committed to ensuring women and girls have equal opportunities to participate, volunteer and work in sport and that it deliver a range of programs to support women athletes, administrators, and coaches at all levels.  

“It is important that sports, from local clubs through to national sporting organisations, reflect the diversity in the communities they are a part of, and that together, we ensure every person is treated with respect and dignity,” the spokesperson said. 

Chandler went on to suggest that when public servants made decisions based on inclusive principles, the woke agenda posed a risk to others in the community. 

“These activist positions taken by bureaucrats not only fly in the face of the evidence and public opinion, but they have real-world detrimental consequences for women,” she said.

The threatening consequences the senator referred to was the prospect of a trans woman being allowed into “women’s spaces and facilities”. She used the extreme example of “male rapists in women’s prisons” to imply “predictably devastating results” would materialise.  

“It is abundantly clear to the vast majority of Australians that this ideology, which drives such appalling disregard for women, should have no place in the public service we pay for,” Chandler said. 

Chandler published her op-ed on her official website.


Legislators challenged over the rise of threatening ideologies

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