‘Not my fault’ if moderate Liberals lose seats: Katherine Deves

Katherine Deves says she will not be to blame if moderate Liberal MPs lose their seats because of her controversial views on transgender children, claiming most Australians agree with her campaign on women’s sport and are more focused on other issues.

In a candid interview, the Liberal candidate for the northern beaches electorate of Warringah repeatedly burst into tears and spoke of “dark moments” she has experienced after her incendiary comments propelled her to become one of the election’s most high-profile candidates.

Katherine Deves, Liberal candidate for Warringah, at a pre-polling booth on Thursday.Credit:Louie Douvis

Several Liberal moderates, including NSW Treasurer Matt Kean and North Sydney federal MP Trent Zimmerman, have called for Deves to be disendorsed, fearing her comments could aid an independent takeover of Liberal-held inner-city seats such as North Sydney and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s Melbourne seat of Kooyong.

Deves said that she would not be to blame if that happened. “It will be a variety of issues that will have lost those seats, it won’t just be this one,” she said.

“Polling has shown that the overwhelming majority of Australians agree with my position on women’s sport. I would say to those other candidates they’re not reading the room.”

Deves said the women’s sports debate was only a minor issue compared to those raised with her on the hustings such as the cost of living, housing affordability, climate change and national security.

Warringah candidate Katherine Deves becomes emotional during an interview with the Herald on Thursday. Credit:Louie Douvis

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly backed Deves, while former prime minister and previous Warringah MP Tony Abbott yesterday called on local party members to support her.

Deves rejected speculation Morrison deliberately chose her as a candidate to fuel a culture war aimed at picking up migrant votes, saying she was one of eight women the prime minister wanted to promote.

Once a safe blue ribbon seat, Warringah is now deemed a safe independent one, held by Zali Steggall who defeated Abbott at the last election by a margin of 7.2 per cent.

ABC election analyst Antony Green is sceptical that Deves can prevail.

“All I wanted to do was stand up for the people of Warringah and give them a voice back,” Katherine Deves says.Credit:Louie Douvis

“If they thought that they needed Gladys Berejiklian to win back the seat, I fail to see how Katherine Deves can do any better,” he said.

The furore around Deves’ candidacy has led to photographers staking out her house in Manly Vale, where she lives with her partner David and their three young daughters. She has a bodyguard paid for by the Liberal Party.

“It’s really debased the electoral process — people should be able to speak their minds and engage and put their hands up for public office without their safety or their children’s safety put at risk,” Deves said.

Describing herself as neither conservative nor moderate, Deves said she voted for same-sex marriage. She said she was distressed Roe v Wade was under threat in the US because marginalised women would be most affected by the loss of their reproductive rights.

‘I wouldn’t be human if I said this whole process hasn’t affected me.’

The 44-year-old went to primary school on the Central Coast and then boarded at private Anglican girls’ school Abbotsleigh on Sydney’s upper north shore. She studied public communications at UTS before going travelling and working for a winery in California. After the birth of her twins in Australia, Deves studied law part-time at Sydney University. She was admitted as a solicitor to the NSW Supreme Court last year.

It was her decision in 2020 to co-found Save Women’s Sport Australasia that has defined her political tilt.

Tweets describing transgender children as “surgically mutilated and sterilised” and likening her campaign to standing up for the Jews against the Nazis set off a storm.

Katherine Deves is escorted from a NSW Liberals function last month. Credit:James Brickwood

Deves said a lot of her comments had been “decontexualised” and “misinterpreted”. She apologised for the language but did not resile from her position that women and girls had the right to a female-only sports category.

Deves said she was not transphobic and that gender dysphoria was a condition that required compassion as well as access to psychological treatment.

But when asked if this should be extended to access to surgical transition, given her previous comments about trans children, she refused to answer and became emotional.

“I can’t go there — I can’t talk about this subject,” she said, breaking down in tears.

“All I wanted to do was stand up for the people of Warringah and give them a voice back. I did not expect that some tweets about a complex, nuanced argument that I’d been having before I’d even considered putting my hand up for politics were going to dominate my campaign.

“I wouldn’t be human if I said this whole process hasn’t affected me, to see it turned into what it was turned into by the press. I was distraught and it caused me distress,” she said.

When asked how she would respond if her children began questioning their gender, Deves said one of her girls already had.

“It turned out she wanted to cut her hair, play rugby league, and she didn’t want to have children, and at six years old I say you’re allowed to cut your hair, you’re allowed to play rugby league as a girl, and choosing whether or not you want to be a mother is not something you have to worry about right now.

“That was the end of the conversation,” she said.

Despite Steggall’s strong hold on Warringah, Deves is bullish about her political prospects.

“I would like to make my daughters proud, I would like to make the people of Warringah proud, I would like to take their voice to Canberra, and if I have the honour of representing the people of this country in a position in cabinet, I would absolutely welcome that honour,” she said.

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