With a Cabinet decidedly lacking in female faces much talk has surfaced about the women who are waiting in the wings. Tony Abbott himself said there are talented women knocking on the Cabinet door.
So far most of this discussion has focused on the female MPs who are entering their second or third terms but not much has been said about the new talent who will grace the chambers for the first time when Parliament returns. The recent election delivered some fresh female talent who will no doubt hope to become ministers one day. Here are three newly-elected MPs who I think will be on Abbott’s watch list over the next few years.
Media performance is an increasingly important factor in political success and former ABC journalist Sarah Henderson has the requisite skills to perform. But she’s much more than a good talking-head. Henderson worked for 15 years as a commercial lawyer, including international experience working as an attorney for News Corporation.
She was just beaten to the post in the 2010 election, losing Coorangamite by the slimmest of margins (0.44%). She fought back admirably to gain the seat by a respectable 4.1%. Articulate, sharp and with the experience necessary to deliver innovative and electorally-palatable policies, Henderson would be an absolute asset to any future Coalition government.
With over 20 years in the NSW public service, you’d be hard pressed to find a newly-elected MP with more policy exposure than Karen McNamara. Well-known in political circles, McNamara was also subject to greater than usual media scrutiny due to the fact Dobell was the seat formerly occupied by controversial MP Craig Thompson. McNamara’s personal skills and professional experience make her the ideal candidate for a ministerial role.
As a mother of two, McNamara’s understanding of the reality of working and raising a family will be invaluable to policy makers. Issues facing working parents are becoming increasingly important to policy makers, who will be looking to target this group more and more, so any experience in this regard will be valuable. Innovative policy ideas that address these issues efficiently and cost-effectively will be an ongoing area of policy focus.
Western Sydney will continue to be an important political fighting ground for both parties over the coming years and with a background in family business and strong links to the local community, Fiona Scott will play a key role in securing the coalition’s success in this area. This itself should be enough to keep her on Abbott’s radar, however her strength during what was an intense campaign for the region is a credit to her future ability to perform.
With so much of the political focus on western Sydney it’s fair to say that many young candidates might have cracked under such pressure. However Scott has taken much of it in her stride, campaigning effectively after a narrow loss at the 2010 election to deliver the seat of Lindsay back into Liberal hands in 2013. While she came under criticism for some stray comments during the campaign, the political baptism of fire and the opportunity to perform under such media scrutiny will no doubt serve her well during her first few years of office.