Tense questioning over Deves follows PM to Tasmania as he spruiks mental health policy

She was states away today, but Liberal election candidate Katherine Deves continues to dog the Prime Minister’s campaign trail, this time surfacing in some tense questioning in Tasmania.

Deves, who is running for the seat of Warringah that is currently held by Independent Zali Steggall, returned to the limelight recently after walking back an apology to the transgender community.

Early in the election campaign, multiple online statements from Deves were revealed through various media outlets including claims that half of all “males” with “trans identities” were sex offenders, and that trans children were “surgically mutilated”.

Katherine Deves came under immediate pressure in the federal election campaign for social media comments describing trans children as ‘surgically mutilated and sterilised’. (SMH / James Alcock)

Gender-confirming surgery is not available to children in Australia.

Deves initially apologised for her language while saying she was an advocate for “women and girls”, but recently said her comments about “mutilation” had been medically correct.

Scott Morrison, who conceded that Deves’ language had been unacceptable, has remained supportive of the candidate.

That support was a nail hammered by several pointed questions at a press conference today, where Morrison appeared alongside Liberal moderate Bridget Archer.

Archer, who had previously crossed the floor to help sink the government’s signature religious discrimination laws over a lack of protection for LGBTQ+ students, joined forces with the prime minister to tout the Coalition’s commitment to mental health, including a national agreement forged between the Commonwealth and every state and territory government in the country.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is appearing beside floor-crossing Liberal moderate Bridget Archer in a show of campaign unity in Tasmania.
Liberal MP Bridget Archer was quizzed on the government’s support for Deves. (Nine)

The Tasmanian MP was asked if she was concerned for the mental health of Australia’s trans community, given the government’s support of Deves.

“My concern is with the mental health of all Australians,” Archer said.

“We know, and I have said previously, that LGBTIQ community members are some 15 times more likely to suffer mental health challenges and a risk of suicide.

She said the issues would continue to be worked through in the party room.

“We can all do better,” she said.

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But the questioning wasn’t done, with Archer later directly asked if Morrison’s vocal advocacy for mental health, alongside his repeated support for Deves, made him a “hypocrite”.

“Look, I think there is a place for having the conversations that we are having and I don’t think that we should necessarily seek to censor people,” Archer said.

“But what I would say, as I’ve said before, is – and I think that the Prime Minister understands this as well – is that when we’re talking about people, whoever they might be, we should always seek to do that in a way that is respectful and is not damaging to people’s mental health.”

National LGBTQ+ group Equality Australia has criticised the rhetoric around transgender Australians during the election.

“The kind of misinformation and abuse that has been directed at trans women in particular during this campaign contributes to the extreme levels of marginalisation that trans people experience, and results in some of the worst mental health outcomes in the Australian community,” Trans Equality Advocate Jackie Turner said.

“Once again, it’s time for every political party and candidate to follow the community’s lead, treat LGBTIQ+ people with the dignity and respect we deserve, and get on with the job of addressing the concerns of all voters in Australia – cost of living, climate change, the economy, health and aged care.”

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression, contact beyondblue on 1300 224 636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.


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