Seeing red as another MP quits & Liberal women numbers dwindle

Seeing red as another MP quits & Liberal women numbers dwindle

Ann Sudmalis
Losing a woman from your team, party, board or something else is never good.

But losing one when women make up less than a quarter of your representatives is bad, especially when she announces her departure just weeks after that of another female colleague, and says she’s quitting for similar reasons.

Even worse again is when those reasons include things like bullying and intimidation, matters that should be prevented from the outset.

On Monday, Federal Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis announced she would be leaving Parliament due to bullying within the Liberal party.

While Sudmalis was clear that she wasn’t leaving as result of the recent Liberal leadership spill, she specifically referenced “bullying, betrayal and backstabbing” that she’d faced during preselection for her NSW coastal seat of Gilmore. She used Parliamentary privilege to name NSW state politician Gareth Ward as trying to seek “narcissistic revenge” against her.

“I have decided that enough is enough,” she said. “I will not be distracted by boys who should know better, men who know better and who do nothing, or women who are manipulated by false information.”

Her loss is a serious blow to the Morrison Government which is already struggling on female representation, and could end up with just five female Liberal MPs following the next election, according to forecasting published in the SMH today. Sudmalis’ announcement comes just weeks after fellow Liberal MP Julia Banks also announced she was leaving, citing bullying and intimidation in her decision to quit.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Party also failed to preselect a woman in the seat of Wentworth last week, despite frontrunner Andrew Bragg dropping out of the race calling for a woman to be selected instead, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison also pushing for a woman to run for Malcolm Turnbull’s former seat.

According to AAP, just six women have been preselected for safe Liberal seats across Australia.

While I wouldn’t normally point out what a Liberal MP, or any woman, was wearing at the time of making her own historic announcement, it was difficult to miss the red jacket, red earrings and red necklace Ann Sudmalis wore yesterday.

The choice fitted with many of her other female Liberal MPs who also happened to be wearing red jackets and red accessories in Parliament, including Julia Banks, Kelly O’Dwyer and others.

A coincidence? I hope not.

As Tony Wright writes today, the ‘Red Shoe Resistance’ (which appears to be his term), started days after Julie Bishop received just 11 votes in the leadership spill that saw Scott Morrison become Prime Minister. Bishop wore stunning bright red shoes in the press conference she gave announcing she would be moving to the backbench, which were captured in a widely shared image. Wright also referenced reports of a WhatsApp chat group featuring 20 Liberal women, in which Bishop has been signing off with a red shoe, and Senator Linda Reynolds with a red boxing glove.

Is it really a call to arms from Liberal women? Some reassurance that the sisterhood is alive and strong?

Is it an attempt to send a strong but subtle message to male colleagues?

Whatever is is, we’re seeing red. The Liberal party needs to admit is has a problem with women and start doing something about it, before there are no Liberal women left.


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