A Liberal Senator would be embarrassed being a gender quota

A Liberal Senator would be ’embarrassed’ being a gender quota

Hollie Hughes

Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes would be “embarrassed” to be a gender quota. But the real embarrassment for the Liberal party is their lack of female MPs and the party’s unwillingness to do something significant about it.

Hughes made the comments about gender quotas on a Sky News segment over the weekend, debating whether gender quotas are “good for business”.

“I would be personally horrified and embarrassed to think I was ever selected for anything because of my gender,” she said.

“The first question I would ask is, are we actually talking about two genders because, in some circles, we’re not allowed to acknowledge it is that binary. This is where the debate just goes absolutely wild.” 

Really, the first question?

Another question could be about what the Liberal party could possibly stand to lose, at this point, if they gave something like gender quotas a try.

From there, why not ask about other forms of ‘quotas’ that already exist in the Liberal party and the Coalition? Such as factional quotas and quotas for the Nationals that enabled Barnaby Joyce to be appointed deputy prime minister.

Given recent history, the ‘meritocracy’ hasn’t proven to be a winning strategy for the Liberal party– not for great policymaking, nor for winning seats, and certainly not for changing the representation of Liberal women in the lower house.

This leadership failings of this meritocracy came to the fore through interviews documented in the ABC’s three-part docuseries Nemesis, which outlined just how much of the Coalition’s recent nine-year stint in government was preoccupied with ego power battles and retributive justice.

Hardly any women were interviewed during the series because the Liberal party just didn’t have that many female MPs involved. Those who did speak mostly spoke out in disgust at what they saw and experienced and even questioned just what more could have been achieved if women weren’t just present within the inner circles of party leaders, particularly during Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison’s prime ministerships.

The Liberal party was largely decimated at the last federal election, with a lineup of female Teal candidates taking out once safe blue ribbon seats across Sydney and Melbourne. They weren’t elected because they were women, but it’s fair to say they garnered plenty of votes because of the Liberal party’s failure to include women. 

Targets have, so far, done little to nothing to increase the representation of women in the Liberal party, not even the hushed up 50 per cent target the Liberal party adopted in 2016. The “support” that Scott Morrison once said women need also hasn’t done much to change things either.

Affirmative action has, however, changed the makeup of the Labor party. With quotas in place since the 1990s, it has managed to preselect women to far more seats than the Liberal party and has contributed to significantly more diversity in politics, including the recent achievement of the Senate being fifty per cent female for the first time. Back in the 1990s also, female voters were more likely to vote Liberal, but that support started dwindling around 2001.

We’re unlikely to see quotas in the Liberal party any time soon. Quotas were not mentioned during the Liberal party internal review into what went wrong during the Federal election, and the idea of quotas continues to be rejected by senior members of the party.

And that’s a good thing, according to Sky News’ 12-person jury, which all agreed with Hughes and delivered a ‘no’ to the question of whether “quotas are good for business”.

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