News.com.au has confirmed that Mr Perrottet told colleagues that he did not leak the texts.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet’s private texts to Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the issue of transgender women and sport have been leaked to a newspaper as the civil war in the Liberal Party over the issue continues.
The Australian newspaper reported on Tuesday night that NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet had backed the Prime Minister’s position on women and sport – a position that put him at odds with the NSW Treasurer Matt Kean who has called for Liberal candidate Katherine Deves to be disendorsed over her controversial remarks about the issue.
“Perrottet has texted Scott his views on this issue and it’s strongly in support of the PM’s position,” an insider told The Australian.
News.com.au has confirmed that Mr Perrottet told colleagues that he did not leak the texts – suggesting the private correspondence could only have been briefed by the Prime Minister or his office.
Mr Perrottet last night released a statement warning that “insensitively expressed views” over transgender athletes in sport “should never distract us from the merits of the substantive issue”.
Those comments appear to be a criticism of Ms Deves’ more controversial comments that transgender kids are “surgically mutilated” and comparing trans activists with the Nazis and the “Third Reich”.
But he supported a “conversation” about the substantive issue.
“I agree with most fair minded Australians that girls and women should be free to play sport against girls and women, particularly where there might otherwise be an unfair advantage – it’s a matter of fairness and physiology,” Mr Perrottet said.
“The right thing to do is take the concerns of women and girls seriously, not shut them down, and if that means looking at appropriate protections for women-only sports, let’s have the conversation.
“Clearly these issues have to be debated in a sensitive way at every step, but an insensitively expressed view should never distract us from the merits of the substantive issue,” he said.
“We need to handle these issues with compassion and commonsense.”
The leaking of the exchange between the Prime Minister and the NSW Premier follows the leaking of private text messages between the Prime Minister and French President Emmanuel Macron.
In February, officials were grilled by Labor Senator Katy Gallagher about why there was never any investigation into the national security implications of the leak.
“Everyone in this room knows the PM or his office leaked that text message, everyone in the public service knows, the French President knows,’’ Senator Gallagher told Parliament.
The Prime Minister has rejected the “pile on” against Ms Deves as it emerged she told preselectors there was nothing embarrassing in her past.
But the Prime Minister said he did not support forcing her to stand aside.
“I’m not going to allow her to be silenced, I’m not going to allow her to be pushed aside as the pile on comes in to try and silence her,’’ he said.
“I will stand up with her, my team is standing up with her, and we will make sure that she won’t be silenced.
“I think she will make a great Member of Parliament. I don’t think she should be silenced because she has views that others don’t agree with.”
NSW Treasurer Matt Kean has declared that Ms Deves is unfit for office and that her “disgraceful” views on trans people were outright bigotry.
“My view is that this person should be disendorsed,” the NSW Treasurer told ABC Radio National.
“Because I do not believe she is fit for office. I do not believe she is aligned with the values of the Liberal party.
“Describing Wear It Purple Day – a day that celebrates inclusion and diversity, that focuses on reducing bullying and suicide among young gay and lesbian kids – she described it as a grooming technique.
“She invoked the Nazis to attack trans people, comparing one case to the grudge trails of the Third Reich I mean, to compare this issue to one of the worst atrocities in human history is nothing short of appalling. Absolutely disgraceful.
“She compared transgender people being removed from their homes to the stolen generation, one of the darkest chapters in Australian history, and she also said that half of all male trans people are sex offenders.
“I mean, that’s just outright bigotry. We live in a cosmopolitan, multicultural society where people are free to be themselves. And that’s a fundamental tenet of liberalism.”
Mr Kean said that he held real fears that her candidacy could impact on the chances of Liberal MPs in inner-city seats.
North Sydney Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman has asked the Prime Minister’s office to disendorse Ms Deves.
“I am very worried. I think Trent Zimmerman is one of the best people that is serving in our [federal] parliament. He has been one of my mentors and heroes,’’ Mr Kean said.
“[Wentworth MP] Dave Sharma is another outstanding liberal in the Liberal Party. And I want to make sure they continue to play a key role in shaping the direction of our country.”
Senior Liberals have told news.com.au that Ms Deves was probed at a nomination review committee meeting whether or not there was anything in old social media posts that might spark controversy.
A social media check that the Liberal Party paid a private company to conduct did not find many of the posts now surfacing in the media because the process was “rushed” and she had deleted her account.
Ms Deves is digging in over calls to quit, warning she “will not stop fighting” and revealing she had received “death threats” over her transgender views.
In a letter to supporters, Ms Deves said she was withstanding a savage backlash and had received “death threats”.
“My opponents, parts of the left media and twittersphere have been unrelenting in calling for me to be disendorsed, because of past statements.’’ she said.
“I have been bullied in the most vile way and received death threats. I’m not going anywhere.”