OP-ED: CEO class strikes out again by spruiking for males in women’s sport

As I woke this week to news that World Netball had become the latest global sports governing body to step up and protect single-sex sport for women, I couldn’t help but spare a thought for the highly-paid CEOs and journalists who confidently declared just two years ago that women losing the right to single-sex sport was actually a good thing.

World Netball has joined the governing bodies of athletics, swimming, rugby and cycling who are now (finally) protecting women playing at international level from having to compete against males identifying as women.

These decisions taken at the global level highlight how Australia is becoming more and more isolated as our peak sporting bodies cling to their elitist, peak-woke position that women in sport should shut up and accept men in their competitions.

When I introduced the Save Women’s Sport Bill to the federal parliament in 2022 – a Bill which sought to clarify that sports such as netball couldn’t be taken to court for preventing men from playing in women’s competition – then-CEO of Netball Australia Kelly Ryan rushed to tell media that Netball Australia didn’t support it (Ryan resigned in 2023 in the wake of Netball Australia’s disastrous financial position and widespread criticism that players were being dudded over pay deals).

Football Australia was another which failed to support the Bill and guarantee single-sex competition for women and girls. This month it was revealed that dozens of women are walking away from the sport following an explosion in the number of males identifying as women playing in local competitions. And what did authorities point the finger at? The very piece of legislation they refused to support being amended to avoid this exact situation.

Football NSW has now been forced to call on the Albanese Government to urgently review federal discrimination legislation, seeking the same clarification that the Save Women’s Sport Bill would have provided.

It’s hard to understand the motivations of these sporting organisations in lobbying against a Bill that would have prevented them being sued by activists for offering women’s sport. The only excuse they have is that back in 2022 it was very fashionable for CEOs, activist journalists and left-wing politicians to pretend not to be able to see why males shouldn’t be in women’s sport.

In a perfectly foreseeable turn of events, all of the arguments trotted out in opposition to my Bill have been proven completely wrong within the space of two years. All of the lies that female athletes apparently didn’t mind competing against males and that trans women didn’t have any physical advantages over women were smashed out of the park, as one after another international sporting bodies actually looked at the science and asked female participants for their opinion.

Women in sport are increasingly speaking out about the need for single-sex women’s competition, and revealing the threats of consequences many sportswomen have received if they’d spoken out previously.

Much to the chagrin of Peter FitzSimons, the ABC and the CEOs who were silly enough to come out against protecting women’s sport, it turns out that the real purpose of women’s sport isn’t actually to accommodate the political ideologies of CEOs and Board Chairs.

Fitzsimons’ 2022 column about my Bill is a classic of the genre. Announcing that he had consulted “my trans correspondent…. a one-time tough male prison warden, now female athlete”, he inadvertently gave away the condescension and elitism at the heart of gender ideology by declaring that the lack of interest in protecting women’s sport from CEOs represented the decisive last word. “In how many sports in Australia has this become such a dominant issue that we have had a single sports CEO or Chair, calling for it?”

Not once did it seem to occur to FitzSimons and his fellow activists in the media that women and girls having to come up against taller, stronger and faster males on the pitch might have a very different – and substantially more important – perspective than an executive sitting comfortably in an office in Sydney or Melbourne.

Women and girls in sport being thrown under the bus like this is a perfect example of the pervasive and unhealthy elitism in which the top of bureaucracy, the corporate sector and the commentariat push for policies which produce perverse outcomes and which very few Australians actually agree with or would vote for.

Australia’s CEO class couldn’t muster even 40 per cent support for the Voice despite pouring tens of millions of dollars down the drain on it. What percentage of the Australian public would go along with them in a national vote on whether males should be playing women’s sport?

For the elite five per cent, the fact that the vast majority don’t agree with these policies seems to be the most intoxicating part. What could better showcase one’s superior intelligence, morality and progressivism than lecturing the public on how males must be allowed to identify into women’s sport and anybody who argues is a bigot?

*This opinion piece appeared on the Spectator Australia website on 10 April 2024.