Not content with deposing the Prime Minister (mostly over a disagreement on energy / climate policy), the Liberal Party then walked away from one of its most electorally-popular, most successful and hardest-working members and ministers, Julie Bishop, who has now retreated in dignity to Western Australia and will not contest the next election.
Australia has lost an outstanding Foreign Minister and a political trail blazer for women. Women on Boards thanks Julie Bishop for her service, wishes her well and hopes she returns in a significant public role – maybe as only our second female Governor General.
We also congratulate the NSW Senator, Marise Payne, who takes over the mantle of Foreign Minister, one of a record six women appointed to a Coalition Cabinet:
- Senator Bridget McKenzie, Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation
- Kelly O’Dwyer MP, Minister for Jobs, Industrial Relations and Women
- Senator Michaelia Cash, Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education
- Melissa Price MP, Minister for the Environment
- Karen Andrews MP, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology
For the first time in Liberal / Coalition history we have six female women in a Cabinet of 23. There are now a higher percentage of women Coalition members in Cabinet (26%) than there are in Parliament (20%); with 17% (13 of 76) in the House of Representatives and 27% (8 of 30) in the Senate.
By contrast the ALP has 41% women in the House of Representatives (41 of 69) and 54% (14 of 26) in the Senate. The reason behind this are that there are simply not enough women pre-selected in the Liberal and National Parties. Of those contesting the 2016 Federal election, 28.6% of the total Coalition candidates were women, compared with 45.3% for the ALP. See https://www.womenonboards.net/en-au/impact-media/news/parties-close-–-but-not-on-gender.
Much of this disparity is due to the existence of a quota system in the ALP, largely the result of former Premier, Joan Kirner, who negotiated with unions, factions and party heavies, to get a quota for 35% women pre-selected into winnable seats. The ALP now has a position that 50% of all party held seats will be filled by women by 2025.
A number of women in the Liberal Party have tried unsuccessfully to introduce a similar quota system to the Liberal Party. Former Victorian Liberal Senator, Judith Troeth, argued in her paper, Modernising the Parliamentary Liberal Party by Adopting the Organisational Wing’s Quota System for Preselections, that it was illogical for the Liberal Party to reject quotas for preselecting election candidates when it has always accepted them for the organisational wing of the party. However, an illogical allegiance to the so-called 'merit principle' has prevailed.
In 2016 the Liberal Party released a 10 year plan to have 50 per cent female Liberal MPs by 2025 through "mentoring" via a Male Champions of Change initiative. My comments on this approach, can be read here. Needless to say, it does not seem to stand any chance of success unless there is a real commitment to shifting attitudes and changing the culture of our governing Coalition.
for the statistics on the number of women in Federal Parliament.