(https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bigideas/the-australian-workplace-equality-index-and-trans-inclusion/14110632 ) ABC edited out a great deal of the University of Melbournes talk on ACON and the impact of its diversity and inclusion audit Australian Workplace Equality Index - essentially a compliance list to gender identity ideology in the workplace. The overseas speakers were removed, the talks were removed. We understand there was a strong angry pushback from ABC queer staff for any of this talk to be released on Big Ideas. And of course ABC loses points for presenting a view that challenges ACON. This is part 2 of what they will share about Linda Gale's contribution. All of this has been heavily edited. Jon Faine: (17:24)
rse the people in the room will agree with you. The ones outside might feel differently, but there we go. I'll come back to you shortly. Linda, you also have lived experience, but of a very different kind. Do you want to give us a very brief summation? I doubt there's anyone in the room not aware, but just in case people who are listening on the radio might need a, a thumbnail sketch of Okay. What your contribution would be.
Linda Gale: (17:48)
So I have, uh, gained inadvertent notoriety, uh, because I, I'm active in the Australian Greens. And, uh, in that capacity, I wrote a discussion paper a couple of years ago, which asked for careful, respectful, nuanced discussion around some of the issues that arose from the Greens policy position, which I think is largely a correct policy position in support of, uh, trans L G B T I Q A plus people. That paper became notorious because I asked some difficult questions in relation to the intersection between effectively self ID policy, which was then under debate in Victoria and what that meant for safety in women's spaces, safety for women, including trans women. And I POed the problem that the majority, the vast majority of violence against women and trans women is committed by men. And that it's a big ask for women to say, just trust that everybody who walks through the door of a women's space and claims to be a woman is making that claim. Honestly. Uh, that, that is, that is a safety risk. And that's the question I asked. I didn't say what I think the answer is because I think it's really complex and that we need to have conversations to work that out. And that ran into the proposition that there must be no debate, uh, that by asking who, who
Jon Faine: (19:43)
Advanced that proposition,
Linda Gale: (19:45)
Uh, a number of,
Jon Faine: (19:45)
I'm not asking for names,
Linda Gale: (19:47)
A number of, of, um, trans rights activists within the greens and outside the greens. So that led to a series of events, which most recently resulted in, uh, when I was elected to the position of state convenor of the Greens in Victoria,
Jon Faine: (20:06)
A very senior position within,
Linda Gale: (20:08)
It's a, it's, it's the most senior non, you know, public office, non-parliamentary. Yep. Uh, in the greens in Victoria, that election was overturned. Uh, there was considerable controversy about that. But it seems to me that the, the difficulty we have in this, in this arena is just that question of can we have a respectful nuanced debate in the middle ground, or do we have to retreat into and push everyone else into, uh, extremist positions?
Jon Faine: (20:45)
Why, why do you describe it as extremist?
Linda Gale: (20:49)
I think it's an extremist position to say, I hold the entire truth, and someone who disagrees with me is not worthy of being listened to.
Jon Faine: (21:06)
How did you react when you were called transphobic?
Linda Gale: (21:11)
I was at, at first, I, I was disbelieving. I just could not comprehend how that label was attached to me. How
Jon Faine: (21:24)
That connection was made with your reasoned arguments about being cautious, transferred into, therefore you must be transphobic.
Linda Gale: (21:33)
Yes. And the, the proposition that any conversation which suggests that in any context a trans woman is not biologically a woman, that that proposition is transphobic means that the term transphobia has been changed in its meaning. It no longer means a fear or hatred of trans people, a distrust of trans people and unwillingness to engage with or like trans people. It means a failure to accept a complete philosophical analysis that requires a break with science.
Jon Faine: (22:24)
So the purpose of the discussion today is about the ranking systems or the rating systems that come with it. Yeah. So leaving that vigorous debate in the background. Yeah. What do you do then when an organization claims a virtuous monopoly on those definitions?
Linda Gale: (22:52)
I think that public institutions have to be transparent, have to be accountable, and have to be held to account for their claims of virtue. I think that public institutions have to be scrutinized both by formal structures like the, um, workplace equality agency at the national and at the state levels that are themselves, public institutions established by legislation subject to ministerial scrutiny and themselves required to be transparent in their work. I think that it's al there's also a strong role to be played by the community and lobby and campaign groups in holding public institutions to account for their virtue claims. But what, what the problem we have in with the Australian A W E I, I'm hopeless with acronyms, , the problem we have with
Jon Faine: (23:56)
Even for a green g
Linda Gale: (23:58)
, especially for a green, the problem we have with the, with aons index, it seems to me is that ACON is not a, is not a public institution itself, it's not subject to scrutiny. It is a self-appointed expert and it has, uh, index of 200 points. I think there's about 60, 65 questions that employers sign up to go through this process of being assessed according to this framework. And a lot of it's okay, like does no harm, right? Doesn't do a lot of good, but does no harm. But some bits of it I think are actually quite problematic. And there is, it's not a transparent or a public process. The assessments are private as between the employer and, and acon. They're not even disclosed to the employees in that workplace. And that secret process of assessment then becomes the basis for which on which employers, uh, get ranked, uh, get the brownie points, get platinum awards, and you know, the,
Jon Faine: (25:23)
That's in the positive sense, but in the negative sense, it can also terminate careers and it can ruin organizations if they get a black mark instead of
Linda Gale: (25:33)
A tick. Indeed. And I think one of, one of my biggest problems with the model, uh, assuming the model was being conducted, for example, by a transparent, uh, government agency, one of my biggest problems with the model that ACON uses is that it is a one size fits all. It it has ACON has thought through what they think is a good way to achieve diversity in the workplace, and you get points as to how much of their model you comply with. So in fact, it's inhibiting the development of diversity in how we address this issue. Like, it's not let ideas flourish. It's have you got a policy that says this thing? Have you got a committee? Have you got a, a network in your workplace for L G B T I Q workers? Sorry, the network doesn't include intersex, it's just workers. If you do that network, network has to have, as in one of its leadership positions, someone from hr. Now as a trade union official, I go, you what you workers control where, where this worker's network has to have an HR person in a leadership role from management, because that's the model that ACON reckon will get management to take diversity seriously. Now, it might be a way of doing that, but this one size fits all model from an, from an organization that's not open to scrutiny itself is not healthy. What it is is universities and other public institutions outsourcing their conscience.
Jon Faine: (27:25)
We're not here to talk about the green's tempted as I am to go down that rabbit
Linda Gale: (27:29)
Hole. We're not,
Jon Faine: (27:30)
But just before I throw it back to Julian Allen, do you see your way out of this, you've lived this now for how long and it's been, it it for someone who devoted themselves to a political organization that's kicked you out effectively, not as a member, but as a, an office holder. Do you see a way out of it?
Linda Gale: (27:50)
The way out of it that I see is continued engagement between people of goodwill. I mean, I, the the first thing that truly said struck such a chord with me, which was that biology shouldn't determine the way you live in the world. And that's a really fundamental proposition that I, I would assume everyone in this room supports The question is how, how we make that manifest and how we do that without letting the fascists in or standing outside conversations shouting at people that there can be no debate.
Jon Faine: (28:31)
Alan, we've often talked within universities as in so many other organizations, private sector as well as public sector about the tyranny of the auditor. But it seems where maybe seeing develop something else, not a tyranny, but certainly a, a firm guiding hand from the, in this instance the pride and diversity regulators, or I'm calling them regulators, although Julie's bristled and probably quite rightly Julie to correct me on that. But you, you're getting this kind of, you must do this, you must do that guideline, which again, uh, seems almost unarguable at the moment. How do you see your way out of it, this cul-de-sac?
Alan Davidson: (29:10)
It's interesting, isn it, look, there's a whole, there's a whole issue around outsourcing within academia anyway, and it might be anything from the person that comes in and does the testing and tagging of your computer cables, I think fair enough to the caterers that come in to the people that do the cleaning, there can be all kinds of debates out the merits of that. Uh, whether it's just looking at the, you know, all the blockchain stuff that you can, the, the challenge I have or the challenge I wish to pose is if we outsource anything that makes truth claims, it's not, not just the index and the application of it and how it might manifest. It's, it's the organizational alignment which makes a series of claims that are clearly contestable and can be contested, including by people of good faith. And one of the problems with an advocacy mindset is to characterize people that ask the question and to demonn Islam as as bad people.
Alan Davidson: (30:02)
So, and the trouble is if that happens, uh, people of goodwill stay silent and it is the people of bad will that get the shouting. So to your point of outsourcing, and we do it, I think, um, the point you made was excellent about, you know, are universities out outsourcing their, uh, their moral, their moral credibility of this? I think there's a lot to learn from the diversity indexes that are being used and applied. The, the concern is the transparency or lack thereof around them and the affiliation that they have. I truly believe, and I still believe that there is the capacity within universities to have intelligent conversations. This is, this one event is proof that it can happen occasionally. So let's take on board all of the good positive things that can contribute to the university workplace and, and looking after our people, but also not allow ourselves to be uncritically aligned to advocacy organizations that make a series of claims.
Alan Davidson: (30:58)
As I said, that there is no moral monopoly to be had here. These things that to be discussed. And I think there's a lot to be learned. I think there's a very constructive dialogue to be had with a range of advocacy organizations that are generally committed to making a positive difference, uh, in any particular workplace or environment. Where the university has to be particularly, particularly careful is when it involves claims about knowledge, knowledge creation and knowledge dissemination, but also knowledge censorship, uh, directly or by proxy. And that's the debate that needs to be had. You think todays
Jon Faine: (31:29)
The first step, you think we've slipped into censorship,
Alan Davidson: (31:31)
We've slipped into self-censorship? Yes. -----------------------------------------------------
Some comments: Audits like AWEI creates a one-size-all-must-fit policy and embeds every Gender Identity Ideology norm through the Australian Workplace.
It works towards removing the sex-based rights of women e.g. removal of single-sex spaces, men in women’s sports etc.
It introduces compelled speech, removes gendered language and prohibits freedom of speech
It grows the spread of the ideology through req.s for Org.s to audit their 3rd party vendors and suppliers so that they too must be compliant. (multi-level marketing)
It requires member organisations to market and proselyte gender identity ideology internally and externally
It creates a special class of LGBQTIA through rewards unavailable to other marginalised categories.
The Commission - a vehicle for the Legal sanctions against non-compliance to Gender Ideology in Victoria: