'Women’s representation in the Liberal party is NOT a priority':

‘Women’s representation is NOT a priority for the party’: outgoing NSW Liberal Women’s Council President.

The outgoing President of the NSW Liberal Women’s Council Chantelle Fornari-Orsmond has slammed the party’s efforts to boost the representation of women as ‘tokenistic’.

Women’s Agenda has obtained a copy of the speech Fornari-Orsmond delivered at the NSW Liberal Party AGM on Saturday.

“The biggest lesson of all……after 7 years involved in [the] Women’s Council – is to truly understand the women’s representation is clearly NOT a priority or of real interest to the Party – it merely fiddles around the edges,” the speech reads.

“We only ever get a bump when the swing is from a Labor Govt to Liberal. I’ve seen 2 reports from the Menzies Research Centre, supported by leaders at State and Federal level. I’ve seen reports adopted at Federal level for a 50/50 target by 2024 – with best intentions but the reality is – it’s tokenism.”

“So women – it’s not that you are left out – it’s mainly that you don’t hold branches or carry enough votes. I can assure you that if you held branches, had connections and carried enough votes you would be at the table – regrettably merit can sometimes be irrelevant for both men and women – it’s holding your own numbers that counts.”

She likens the debate about female representation to modern politics.

“[The] vision is often short sighted and the bucket gets kicked down the road for the next leaders to deal with – and that road never ends.”

She said the question the party needs to ask itself is whether increasing female representation is necessary.  Aside from public expectations Fornari-Orsmonds says the party is losing the female vote and asks whether it’s the lack of female representation or their policies which is causal.

Whichever it is she says it’s clear something needs to change.

“The party needs to stop pretending they care, stop fobbing it off and kicking the bucket down the road. To the Party machine, you either need to actually address this – and stop fiddling around the edges – or, to be frank, stop pretending like you care.”

She cited a speech given by the late Anna McPhee in July of 2017. “She worked on a gender report over 24 years ago…with no signs of improvements since. Since its formation, Women’s Council has put a lot of effort in to try to rectify this situation for the good of the Party and the Nation. We keep getting let down by false intentions.”

Women’s representation in the Liberal party has been an ongoing issue. The fact women make up just 22 per cent of Liberals in Federal Parliament, or put another way, just 18 of the 84 Liberal MPs and senators in Parliament are women, the lowest level since 1993 makes it unavoidable.

Women make up 45% of Labor positions in the federal government. The number of female Liberal MPs has been falling since 2001 which has coincided with a decline in the number of women voting Liberal.

These numbers only serve to reinforce the point delivered by Fornari-Orsmond. Half-way through last year the Federal Liberal Party president Nick Greiner said it was “at last” time for the party to take female representation in Parliament “seriously”.

“It’s actually time to improve the results and the results simply mean having more women in winnable positions,” he said. “I do hope that around Australia the party will at last take this seriously and take it seriously in terms of outcomes.”

The question is this: are the power-brokers listening? And if they are, do they care?

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