Members of a controversial and elite men’s only club based in Sydney have voted against allowing women to join the group, during a record turnout to a special general meeting on Tuesday. Nearly 700 votes were cast on the matter, and the 75 per cent threshold needed to pass the resolution was not met.
After the vote, the club released a brief statement from a spokeswoman who said: “The Australian Club today held a Special General Meeting to consider a specific resolution for the purpose of amending the Club’s Constitution to allow women to be Members. There was a record turn-out of members to consider and vote on the resolution. The meeting determined that the 75 per cent threshold to pass the resolution was not met.”
The Australian Club, situated on the ninth floor at 165 Macquarie Street has the sexist rule where only men are permitted to be members. Women can only enter as guests.
“A glorified men’s shed hosting harmless secret men’s business or a sexist anachronism?” Sydney Morning Herald’s Andrew Hornery pondered last night in an article.
The Club was founded in 1838, with members including former Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove, John Howard, George Pell, Malcolm Turnbull and James Packer, Kerry Packer and Andrew Peacock.
In late 2014, then Attorney General George Brandis was criticised in parliament for joining one of Melbourne’s most exclusive men only clubs – Savage Club, which was created two years after The Australian Club’s was founded.
Brandis defended his decision to frequent the club, saying it was not sexist and that “…there’s nothing against the law of Australia for there to be men’s only clubs and there’s nothing against the law of Australia for there to be mixed clubs, nor should there.”
“There is nothing against the law of Australia for there to be, for example, women’s only golf clubs,” he said.
Lucy Turnbull told reporters that despite welcoming any moves towards gender equality she would “have to think about it” if she were ever invited to join The Australian Club.
Today’s decision comes two years after sections of the club began advocating for women to join as members.
Two weeks ago, former Federal Court Judge Peter Graham wrote to members complaining about the potential changes to the status quo.
His letter created further sensations around the club’s sexist policies.
In the letter, Graham argued that the push for female membership was based on “fallacious reasoning” stemming from a Town Hall meeting in 2019, and that thirty three members have expressed a wide variety of views – not just on female membership – ranging from dress code and “stuffiness”, to mobile phone usage and admitting “Asian” members.
“One point that if we were to allow female members, it would double the pool from which we could draw,” Graham wrote.
“Another was that the women members you’d get, would be women you wouldn’t want. Another was that the club provided a place where you could get away from ‘bossy women’.”
Graham said that any survey or inquiry into allowing female membership was “…an unnecessary waste of resources.”
“In a free society, envy and jealousy are not relevant yard-sticks for destroying the established order of things,” he wrote.
Last week, Sky News host Chris Kenny said the club was sounding like the “un-Australian club” amid suggestions it considers ethnic background when it comes to membership.
“Single-sex clubs is one thing, if there is any suggestion at all that a club would consider ethnic background… that would not only be repugnant, I dare say it would also be illegal,” Kenny said.
“This doesn’t sound very Australian at all, that makes it sound like the un-Australian club.”