Liberal Minister Kelly O’Dwyer has declared she will be leaving politics at the next Federal Election due to family reasons, including her desire to have a third child, in a shock announcement on Saturday afternoon.
Currently one of the most senior woman in the Morrison Government and the Minister for Women, her impending departure will come as a major blow for the Liberal Party, already under pressure to do something about the lack of women in its ranks. Of 60 Liberal MPs, O’Dwyer is one of just 12 women, and part of just six who make up the Coalition frontbench.
Possibly anticipating the announcement would trigger more speculation on the treatment of women in the party, O’Dwyer was adamant her decision solely came down to family reasons. She said that she would not usually be so open about citing her very personal situation, but that she didn’t want anyone using the announcement to “advance their own agendas”.
“This does not mean that men or women need to choose between family and public service – they don’t,” she said. “With the right support you can do both, and do both well.”
She said she wants to have a third child and that “everything would have to go right” in order for it to happen. She also no longer wanted to miss important family time, especially with her children approaching school age.
“In composing photo books and looking at the special moments over the Christmas period I’ve seen how many I have missed and I know how many I will miss,” she said.
At age 41, O’Dwyer said that her and her husband’s parenting journey has been far from straightforward. “If I want to give ourselves the opportunity for a third child we have to be realistic,” she said.
She believes the party will preselect another woman to fill her vacancy in the Melbourne seat of Higgins, and that it’s essential that the party “continues to build women’s economic security”.
O’Dwyer’s announcement follows the departure of Julia Banks last year — who initially said she would be quitting politics at the next election, before later moving to the crossbench. It also comes after former deputy Liberal Party leader Julie Bishop moved to the backbench following the August leadership spill.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was with O’Dwyer during the press conference this afternoon, and said he’d been informed about her decision earlier on in the week.
O’Dwyer also thanked the party for “supporting a breastfeeding mother” in Cabinet.