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Former Olympian Zali Steggall has dodged questions on transgender women competing in female sport.
The bronze medal-winning skier turned politician holds the seat of Warringah on Sydney‘s north shore and is competing with local lawyer Katherine Deves.
Ms Deves, Prime Minister Scott Morrison‘s hand-picked challenger, is under heavy pressure after numerous anti-transgender comments resurfaced.
Ms Steggall was asked by reporters on Monday if she would have raced against transgender competitors during her ski event in Japan in 1998.
The Independent MP brushed aside the question saying there were ‘bigger issues’ to focus on, including harassment and equal pay and media coverage.
Warringah MP and ex-Olympian Zali Steggall has remained silent on transgenders competing in female sport as Katherine Deves is slammed over more tweets
Her comment comes as Liberal candidate Katherine Deves draws more backlash from unearthed tweets comparing trans rights to Nazism and the Stolen Generation
‘Sporting bodies from national federations to clubs, support (existing legislation and rules) as providing the right flexibility and framework to respond sensitively and carefully, prioritising the wellbeing of all involved and fairness for all athletes,’ Ms Steggall told Daily Telegraph.
‘We are talking of an incredibly small number of athletes.’
Ms Deves hours earlier drew more backlash from unearthed tweets comparing transgender rights to the Nazis and the Stolen Generation.
Senior government officials have already begun to distance themselves from Ms Deves including Foreign Minister Marise Payne, and she may be dis-endorsed from running for the marginal seat.
In April 2021, Ms Deves tweeted about a trial where a Canadian father was taken to court for not supporting his teenager transitioning.
‘This will go down in history as akin to the grudge trials of the Third Reich,’ she wrote.
‘I do not like to invoke Nazism but the parallels are remarkable and deeply sinister.
‘We can only hope that when society comes to its senses, it’s redeemed by trials similar to the Nazi wife and the border guards.’
The father was arrested after violating a court order by publicly speaking about the transition of his child.
The teenager was born female, but transitioned to being identified by male pronouns.
In April 2021, Ms Deves tweeted about an overseas trial where a Canadian father was taken to court for not supporting his teenager transitioning
In September 2021, Ms Deves criticised a decision by a Western Australia court to dismiss an appeal by parents whose transgender child was put into foster care
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Darren Bark and Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-chief Peter Wertheim attacked Ms Deves over the tweet.
‘It appears Ms Deves has a history of making inappropriate and ill-considered statements comparing modern day events to the horrors of the Nazi era,’ they said.
‘While Ms Deves’ recent apologies are welcome, it is well and truly time Ms Deves declares that such comparisons have no place in public debate in Australia.
‘We invite her to visit the Sydney Jewish Museum to learn what life under Nazism was really like, and to understand how her comments trivialise some of the worst evils in history.’
Ms Deves in September 2021 criticised a decision by a Western Australia court to dismiss an appeal by parents whose transgender child was put into foster care.
‘Australia has a very dark history of children being taken from their families by the state (because) bureaucrats thought they knew better,’ she wrote.
‘Don’t we owe it to lessons of the past, such as our shameful Stolen Generation scandal, to stop the destruction of families for flawed beliefs?’
Foreign minister Marise Payne has distance herself from Ms Deves, saying she does not share her views
Ms Deves also authored a submission to Save our Women’s Sport where she suggested trans children diagnosed with ‘gender dysphoria’ were simply on the autism spectrum.
‘There is a growing group of concerned parents who have suffered already due to this policy – ordinary, caring, diligent parents whose children have come to believe ‘transitioning’ is a solution to their problems,’ she wrote.
‘Many children ‘diagnosed’ with ‘gender dysphoria’ have pre-existing mental health issues; are on the autism spectrum; or are simply gender non-conforming and would likely grow up to be gay or Lesbian if they are left alone.’
Ms Deves’ views have caused friction within the Liberal party with Prime Minister Scott Morrison facing mounting pressure to dump the candidate.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne distanced herself from Ms Deves, saying she did not share her views.
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Darren Bark and Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-chief Peter Wertheim attacked Ms Deves over the tweet
‘As the prime minister said yesterday, in public life, we do have to be very careful about the way we express our opinions. Most importantly, we have to exercise sensitivity and respect,’ Payne said on Sunday.
‘And in this case, in the case of the massively complex and extremely challenging issues that accompany any individual’s decisions about transition and transgender issues, overwhelmingly that has to be the approach that we take – one of sensitivity and one of respect. And that is my view.’
South Australian senator Anne Ruston joined in to slam the ‘absolutely unacceptable’ comments made by Ms Deves.
‘We are a broad church and people are entitled to their points of view,’ she said.
‘We don’t live in an echo chamber. We need to accept that people have differing views, but the views that were expressed by Ms Deves were clearly unacceptable.’