The ACT Government has hit out at robocalls from conservative Melbourne-based group Binary Australia, calling its claims about the ban on gender conversion therapy “factually wrong … entirely false and misleading”.
The calls asked Canberrans to complete a survey about the legislation, claiming the laws could change access to medical and hormone treatments as well as remove the ability of parents to be involved in their child’s decision to change their gender identity from as young as five.
Minister for Justice Shane Rattenbury, who co-sponsored the bill with Chief Minister Andrew Barr, said, at best, the calls grossly misunderstood and misrepresented the legislation.
“The poll rang up and went on to ask a series of questions that in my view can only be considered push-polling; they were putting [forward] a certain perspective,” Mr Rattenbury told ABC Radio this morning.
The calls asked voters whether they support the legislation that allowed children as young as 12 to medically transition.
“The legislation does no such thing. This legislation does not allow medical procedures, it is simply about a name change on a certificate,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“I find this polling particularly offensive because it is factually incorrect. The legislation is very clear about where parental involvement is necessary, it is simply dishonest push-polling.”
The proposed legislation to ban conversion therapy has been criticised by Christian Schools Australia (CSA) for its definition of conversion therapy, saying “parents, teachers, and doctors need clarity and certainty to avoid potential jail terms”.
“The Bill risks criminalising the conduct of parents … and deprives parents the right to guide their children’s upbringing,” the CSA said.
Amendments to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act regarding gender changes on birth certificates, despite passing the Assembly unanimously, then drew the criticism of Liberal MLA Andrew Wall who said the bill was an attack on parents and children.
“From now on, your 12-year-old son or daughter can apply to erase their birth sex on their birth certificate and replace it with whatever gender they decide, without your knowledge or consent,” Mr Wall said in an email.
“It is one of those decisions that should absolutely involve parents.”
Children over the age of 16 can apply directly to Access Canberra to have their gender changed on their birth certificate while children between the age of 12 and 16 must apply for leave through the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal to change it without their parents’ permission.
“On Friday we saw Andrew Wall send out an email to his supporters entitled ‘Behind the Back of Parents’ which again made the suggestion that parents would not be involved in these sorts of decisions,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“There is some sort of capability in the legislation for older children to apply where they do not have parental support but the representation in these emails and this polling is simply, well, the most generous thing I can say is they do not understand the legislation.”
If you are experiencing distress or need to talk to someone, you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline of 1800 55 1800 or QLife on 1800 184 527 between 3:00 pm and midnight.
For ACT-based support, Westlund Counselling is open between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm and can be contacted on 0412 882 855, and A Gender Agenda can be contacted on 6162 1924 during the same hours.