Updated: Grahame Morris, chair of WPP govt relations firm in hot water over trans comments

The position of Grahame Morris, chairman of WPP governmental relations firm Barton Deakin Government Relations, appears to be under review after comments made on 10’s The Project on Tuesday.

During a segment regarding Liberal candidate for Warringah, Katherine Deves, Morris commented Deves should firmly remain the federal candidate and the party should re-endorse her.

While a final decision is yet to be settled on, WPP provided the following statement to Mumbrella: “We do not agree with Mr. Morris’s views.”

Morris on Tuesday’s episode of The Project


Since this article was published, Mumbrella has been made aware of another clip of Morris, speaking on ABC News regarding the same issue.

With potentially more inflammatory language, Morris said: “Every mum and dad in the country knows that what Catherine Deves is trying to do is right. You can’t have blinking Chinese women who used to be blokes up against our swimming team in the Olympics, you can’t have Russian women who used to be blokes up against our Matildas, and in your case Fran (Kelly), you can’t have a feeder Aussie rules teams feeding the Sydney Swans and the giants with blokes.”

While referring to the trans row as a “sideline issue”, Morris went on to say: “Do we really want mums and dads out there worried about whether or not big beefy… people are playing against their 16-year-old girls in sport? There’s something wrong with that.”

“I think Katherine Deves, if she was anything but a Liberal candidate, all the women around the country would be cheering her on because she’s trying to save women’s sport at a time when we’re all getting really interested in it.”

Mumbrella approached WPP regarding the new footage, however it had nothing more to add presently.

On The Project, Morris went on to say while some of Deves’ comments were “beyond the pale” and that she apologised, “if you come back to what she’s really on about, it is saving women’s sport and that is really important”.

He continued: “We have feeder clubs for Aussie Rules clubs in Sydney where you’ve got big, muscly, fast, strong women who used to be blokes up against 16-year-old girls – is that fair? And just imagine what the Russians or the Chinese will do if that little chink opens up.”

Barton Deakin Government Relations is a WPP company, as listed on the firms website.

Screenshot taken from Barton Deakin’s website on 21 April 2022


Following Morris’ comments on trans women in sport, host Waleed Aly challenged and mocked Morris, joking he had successfully turned it into a “national security story”.

Morris’ suggestion that China and Russia will come for women’s sport, as he said “we’ve seen what they will do”, has since been described on social media as “out of touch”, with the government advisor also being described as a “dinosaur”.

Barton Deakin’s website describes the firm as “More than merely lobbying politicians and bureaucrats, Barton Deakin provides high-quality strategic political and public policy advice to clients who need to engage with federal, state and territory Coalition governments and oppositions.”

“Our government relations advisers are former members of parliament and senior Coalition government advisers with decades of experience, detailed knowledge of parliamentary legislative and regulatory issues and a deep understanding of policy development processes and implementation.”

WPP also owns Hawker Britton, a government relations firm which has traditionally operated as Labor political campaign specialists.

WPP’s website, quotes: “We celebrate our differences: race, religion, national origin, colour, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, background, lived experiences and more.”

In addition, the page also lists WPP’s approaches to making their wider number of companies and workplaces inclusive and diverse.

Morris was chief of staff for former Prime Minister John Howard as well as previously working as an advisor for several Liberal MPs. He is now the chairman and director of Barton Deakin’s Federal division.

Morris has previously come under criticism several times while working for Barton Deakin. The firm’s Wikipedia page lists several incidents regarding Morris in its ‘controversy section’, regarding comments he has made about ABC journalist Leigh Sales, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and the Irish.

Mumbrella was in contact with both Morris and Barton Deakin on Thursday 21 April and is yet to receive comment.

This article has been updated since publishing.


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