Two Victorian Greens MPs say there is “no alternative” but for the party’s recently elected state convener to resign after she refused to disavow past comments labeled “transphobic”.
Linda Gale, a senior industrial officer at the National Tertiary Education Union, was elected on Saturday to fill a casual vacancy of the Victorian Greens state convener.
Her appointment prompted a backlash on social media from party members due to a document she co-authored in 2019 that argued against a proposed Greens workshop on trans-exclusionary rhetoric.
Part of the document stated: “If the purpose of this workshop is to develop a proposal for a State Council decree that statements such as ‘There are two sexes,’ ‘The science is not conclusive,’ ‘This is an active debate in feminism,’ ‘Shutting down debate is censorship,’ or ‘Trans women aren’t the same as biological women,’ are banned within the Greens and would constitute behavior worthy of censure, suspension or expulsion, this is contrary to a Greens ethos which encourages robust debate and the development of policy based on real evidence.”
Once it was made public, the document was criticized by the then Greens conveners Colleen Hartland and Willisa Hogarth, who described it as “not consistent with Greens values or Greens policy”.
Gale’s co-author, Nina Vallins, was suspended from the Greens last year after the Misconduct Panel of the Australian Greens Victoria found she had breached its code of conduct by bringing the party into disrepute by vilifying members and volunteers based on their gender identity.
Gale issued a statement on Tuesday saying the position of the Greens, both nationally and in Victoria, was clear: “Trans rights are non-negotiable.”
But the Prahran MP Sam Hibbins and the Brunswick MP Tim Read on Thursday argued Gale’s position was “untenable”, given she failed to acknowledge the harm they say her previous comments had caused.
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“That newly elected convener, Linda Gale, has not disavowed, or even recognized the hurt her past statements and actions have caused, makes her position untenable,” Hibbins wrote on Facebook.
Read said while Gale had “given her heart and soul to the party for many years,” she had “no alternative” but to resign.
Guardian Australia has contacted Gale seeking a response to the comments from Hibbins and Read.
Hibbins and Read’s interventions come after the Greens senator for Victoria, Janet Rice, urged Gale to reject the views she outlined in the 2019 paper and apologize for the harm her statements caused.
Guardian Australia understands Gale’s appointment will be debated at the party’s state council on Saturday.
Gale’s appointment comes two months after a group of rank-and-file members, councilors, election candidates, and party officials from across Australia sent a letter to the executive of the Victorian Greens, demanding it “make a strong statement in support of transgender and gender diverse people, and commit to taking actions that resolve significant concerns about trans-exclusionary influences on the party”.
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The letter came after comments made by the Melbourne Greens councilor Rohan Leppert in a Facebook group were made public, in which he questioned the affirmation model used to treat people experiencing gender dysphoria and criticized Victoria’s recently introduced laws outlawing practices that aim to change or suppress sexuality or gender identity.
Leppert on Thursday published a statement rebuffing his elected Greens colleagues.
“To acquiesce to Janet’s demands may give Twitter what it wants for 48 hours, until the next confected crisis and the next witch-hunt, but it would set the terrifying precedent in my 20 years as a member: a democratic vote of all members being overturned on the say-so of a Federal MP,” he said.
“Such a precedent will mean that members will never bother to practice politics within the party’s structures again; they’ll just take every grievance to Twitter. No party can survive such recklessness.”