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  • Rikki Lambert

Antic defends Deves as gender and sport dominates early campaigning

Protesters object to Katherine Deves' Warringah candidacy in Manly Corso, Sydney on Thursday

The senator that has pursued Canberra bureaucrats for definitions of 'what is a woman' has stood by his questioning as the topic of whether only those born female play in girls' and women's sport dominated early weeks of the federal election campaign.

South Australian Liberal senator Alex Antic told Flow on Monday he didn't believe the topic was a niche concern this federal election:

"It's wrong to think this [biological boys playing in girls sport comps] is not a big issue and it is something that people can relate to because parents have seen this, nobody wants a 14-year old girl playing against a 14-year old boy."
"I don't care what sort of sport it is and the fact that that's become a controversial statement bells the cat on this issue, we've got to get back to talking these things out as they are."

Hear the full interview with Senator Alex Antic on the Flow podcast player below:

Speaking on SBS television on Sunday night, Ms Deves, who was hand-picked by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to run in the Sydney seat of Warringah said she recognised the way she put her arguments "was not conducive to proper, reasonable debate".

Ms Deves said she had been "very chastened" by the process and would not be engaging with social media:

"I recognise that trying to prosecute arguments about complex, nuanced and difficult subjects ... should not take place on a platform that propagates offence and division and hurt.
"And, going forward, I will be conducting myself in a dignified and respectful fashion."

On Tuesday, former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull backed NSW Liberal Treasurer Matt Kean's call for Liberal candidate for Warringah, Katherine Deves, to be disendorsed in her run to wrest former PM Tony Abbott's seat from independent Zali Steggall.

Mr Turnbull told national radio on Tuesday morning that Ms Deves' commentary:

"...seem(ed) designed to whip up animosity and hatred against some of the most vulnerable people in our community".

Liberal Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Labor Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese have repeatedly been asked in the early weeks of the campaign about their position on the topic and the views Ms Deves.

Ms Deves has relocated her family out of Sydney after saying she had received death threats about her past comments about teenagers questioning their gender, using terms such as 'surgically mutilated and sterilised' and that surrogacy was a 'vanity project' and a 'human rights violation'. Ms Deves has since deleted and apologised for some tweets on gender and sexuality topics. Her concerns about her safety have been referred to the Australian Federal Police's operation Wilmot, supporting safety for all of the federal election candidates.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg faced questions about the Deves situation on Tuesday, telling reporters:

"Some of those comments were unacceptable, they were certainly insensitive, and they were certainly inappropriate.
"I've made it very clear, my strong views about some of the analogies that have been used and the way that message has being communicated.
"But as to the issue of fairness in competition, I think they're real ones."

Ms Deves has indicated her support for Tasmanian Liberal senator Claire Chandler's push to regulate that only those born female participate in girls' and women's sport.

Senator Antic questioned the silence of the self-described feminists as Ms Deves comes under attack for supporting girls:

"We hear a lot from the left 'trust the science', well let's trust the science on this one, this whole selective sisterhood I call it sometimes."
"You see it time and time again - women from the left will back women in, so long as they are also from the left share every single view that they have."
"When they are conservative women, they get tossed out the window and we see that with Nicole Flint who of course had the terrible time three years ago and really had no support from the left; people that were normally shouting the sisterhood from the hilltops."


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