Two federal ministers back One Nation motion calling for ‘wait-and-see’ treatment for transgender children

Two federal ministers have backed a One Nation motion condemning the use of medical treatment for transgender children in a vote that split the Coalition.

Attorney-General Michaelia Cash and National Disability Insurance Scheme Minister Linda Reynolds were among 21 Coalition senators who supported the motion put by One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts on Tuesday evening after the government granted its members a conscience vote.

Linda Reynolds and Michaelia Cash both backed a One Nation motion condemning the use of medical treatment for transgender children.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

It was ultimately voted down 35 to 23 after moderate Liberals including Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck and Superannuation Minister Jane Hume sided with Labor and the Greens. Liberal backbenchers Dean Smith and Andrew Bragg also voted against the motion.

Senator Bragg said he was happy the motion was defeated. “Supporting minorities is an important part of the liberal tradition,” he said.

Senator Roberts’ motion called for a “wait-and-see” method for treating children with gender dysphoria and condemned giving children “experimental and unproven medical treatments of irreversible puberty blockers and sex hormone treatments, and irreversible transgender surgery”.

Australian guidelines already say people should be over the age of 18 before having gender-confirmation surgery. Puberty blockers – medicines that pause puberty – are reversible.

Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries Jonathon Duniam, who voted for the motion, told the chamber the government was committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of young Australians.

“We acknowledge that the clinical treatment of children experiencing gender dysphoria is a complex and evolving area and that more research is needed,” he said. He noted that states and territories had “primary administrative and clinical responsibility and control” of the relevant services.

Some senators said they supported transgender people but did not support irreversible treatment for children.

Greens senator Janet Rice condemned the motion, saying transgender and non-binary people were valid and deserving of love and support.

“For some of them, medical support to affirm their agenda is life-saving. This motion is harmful, it’s full of misrepresentation, misinformation, fear-mongering and it’s got no place in our Parliament,” she said.

Labor opposed the motion and did not have a conscience vote. Some senators were absent because of an agreement between parties, in a process known as pairing, to match the number of senators who were not present for approved reasons.

Labor senators in the chamber who opposed the motion included opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong, South Australian senator Don Farrell and NSW senator Deborah O’Neill.

The last time the Coalition was allowed a conscience vote in the Senate was to congratulate the NSW Parliament for passing a bill to decriminalise abortion in 2019. Four Liberal senators supported that motion, brought by Greens senator Merheen Farqui.

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