Women in the Liberal party: An already rare specie under threat

Women in the Liberal party: An already rare species under threat

The subject of women in the Liberal party is making headlines and sadly it’s not because of impressive leaps forward in the senior ranks. The grim reality is that this already rare breed is under threat.

Last weekend Jane Prentice, a well regarded LNP member, lost her preselection battle to male local businessman so will lose her seat next year.

NSW Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis may meet the same fate this weekend in the seat of Gilmore. Both the Prime Minister and the treasurer have stepped in to rally behind her.

Victorian Liberal senator Jane Hume is also facing a preselection challenge later in the year that some are already predicting she may lose. Crossbencher-turned-Liberal senator Lucy Gichuhi is also in danger of being relegated to an unwinnable ticket too.

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Given women hold just 21% of positions in the parliamentary ranks of federal Liberal members the loss of any female representative is significant. Losing multiple is devastating.

It puts the lack of female representation in the Liberal party firmly into view.  Despite Peter Dutton’s protestation last weekend that the Liberal party is “100% committed to women” it certainly doesn’t look that way.

And it certainly isn’t a vote winner.

The ABC reports that since 2001 the number of female Liberal MPs has been falling, which has coincided with a steady decline in the number of women voting for the party.

Increasingly senior Liberal women have been talking about the need for change – despite the fact they say doing so makes them unpopular.

Earlier this week the minister for women Kelly O’Dwyer, a long time proponent of quotas in the liberal party, announced she had established a new fighting fund, the “Enid Lyons Fighting Fund” to boost female representation.  She said having funds to help female candidates stand is critical.

She wrote to her fellow Cabinet ministers and asked them to follow her lead and each contribute $50,000.

The Prime Minister and the foreign minister, Julie Bishop, have publicly committed to doing exactly that.

Earlier this week the head of the Women’s Committee Helen Kroger described Jane Prentice’s defeat as a “tragedy.”

“She’s a very capable woman,” Kroger told ABC radio. “She’s been a great representative of the people of Ryan who elected her not once, but three times. Personally, I think it’s a great tragedy.”

Kroger says the party cannot afford to go backwards in regard to women.

“And to achieve that, it means we cannot be removing women from incumbent positions within the party without replacing them with women.”

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