Australian election candidate in huge row after comparing trans activism to the Holocaust

New South Wales Liberal candidate Katherine Deves insists she is committed to "fighting for the safety of girls and women in a respectful way"

Published Last updated

An Australian election candidate, Katherine Deves, appeared to compare her campaign to stop transgender people competing in women’s sports to those who speak out against the transportation of Jewish people to Nazi concentration camps during World War 2.

In the controversial YouTube video posted last year she said: "I’ve always loved 20th-century history and I think many people would say to themselves, ‘Oh, I’d never be the villagers that stayed quiet while the trains went past, or whatever, I would have been part of the French resistance, the underground, you know, I would have been one of those people’.

“And when all of this was happening and no one was sort of speaking out I thought, ‘God, this is … the moment in my life where I am going to have to stand up and say something against the status quo and against the establishment and say I don’t think this is right.’ And it might come at a cost to me but I have to say it."

Ms Deves, a New South Wales Liberal candidate, has since apologised for the comments after the video resurfaced and was met with widespread controversy.

She said: "In my dedication to fighting for the rights of women and girls, my language has on occasion been unacceptable. It has hurt people and detracted from my arguments."

Katherine Deves
Katherine Deves

"I apologise for such language and the hurt that I have caused. I commit to continuing the fight for the safety of girls and women in a respectful way."

The comments have been criticised by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive, Darren Bark, and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-chief executive, Peter Wertheim.

They said in a statement: “There is nothing in contemporary Australian life and politics that is remotely comparable to the wholesale destruction of human life and civilisation that occurred during world war two,” they said in a joint statement.

“This sort of hyperbole trivialises the depths of inhumanity that were plumbed during that terrible conflict, and desensitises people to evil, instead of educating them to recognise and counteract it.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison

“There should always be extra caution taken when making historical analogies, especially by those who aspire to hold public office or leadership positions in our community.”

In the video, which is still online, she warned that transgender women competing against natal females could result in injury or even death.

Ms Deves said: “We don't want to get to that point where there's a young girl in a wheelchair or with an acquired brain injury or similar. So we're going to be looking at our options around that.

"There's also the safeguarding issue because it says in all the guidelines that you can go into the toilets, change rooms, overnight accommodation of your choice.

"And if you are a parent, say of a girl, and there's a male coach or manager who's claiming that they're a female, and they go on overnight accommodation, and you raise an objection, it will be your daughter kicked off the team."

On Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Ms Deves had raised raised "important issues and he "shares" her views.

He also put her as a favorite to run against the independent MP, Zali Steggall, in Tony Abbott’s former seat of Warringah.