What a week it’s been for women in politics (again), including with the emotional valedictory speeches from Labor’s Kate Ellis and the Liberal Party’s Kelly O’Dwyer, and (we thought) capping off with Julie Bishop’s somewhat surprise announcement that she’ll be quitting politics.
On the Liberal side, the party risks a near wipe-out of female representation at the next election. The fact so many high profile women have left — with Ann Sudmalis and Julia Banks making the list in 2018, and with Bishop leaving just months after being in contention for the prime ministership — should result in full-blown reckoning for the party. There are calls for a woman to fill Bishop’s place, yet there will no doubt also be further claims and arguments about the need for ‘merit’.
But it’s not merely the departures of women that have been the issue this week.
On Sunday, the Sun Herald reported that a number of Young Liberals had been suspended from the party after making derogatory comments about women on social media.
Meanwhile, ACT Young Labor is having issues of its own, with an internal party investigation finding senior members had bullied a fellow member, calling her a “rat”and “weak”, with one declaring in an online chat that they would “bully the f*** out of her” until she leaves, according to the ABC.
And then from Nationals MP Andrew Broad last night, we heard the below 1950s comment when he was questioned by Sky News regarding women in politics, just hours after Bishop said she was resigning.
“Politics is… very gruelling on people who want to have a family and the very nature of biology is that it’s tougher on women.”
Tonight at parliament, Andrew Broad reflects on the lack of women on (his side) of politics and “the nature of biology”
Hey Andrew, I’m an Australian woman, so I know how run for parliament, pass a law, raise my kids….because, you know, it’s 2019. pic.twitter.com/4tCLZNI2Lq
— Kristina Keneally (@KKeneally) February 21, 2019
Asked why he thinks the Coalition has a problem with female representation, Andrew Broad says “politics is… very gruelling on people who want to have a family and the very nature of biology is that it’s tougher on women”. @SkyNewsAust
— Caitlin Taylor (@caitotaylor) February 21, 2019
A reminder, Broad is the Nationals MP who campaigned on a platform of family values, but was caught up in the ‘sugar daddy’ scandal in December (I know, there have been so many scandals of late it’s difficult to keep up). Broad later declared he was quitting politics at the next election because he didn’t want to become a “half-laughing stock” in Parliament. Not sure the above comments help his cause.
Meanwhile, following the passage of the Kerryn Phelps’ medivac bill last week, it’s been open slather on a number of female independents. This is the “girls club” at work, a “touchy, feely, smirky club”, according to one high profile commentator.
And things get worse.
At last night’s Don’t Kill Live Music Rally in Sydney, protesting the Berejiklian Government’s music festival regulations, there were a number of offensive posters targeted at Premier Gladys Berejiklian, including a couple depicting her as the “wicked witch” with the caption “wicked witch of the fest”. As Jenny Noyes writes in the Sydney Morning Herald today, the protesters’ message “has been muddled” by a number of posters that crossed the line.
For some reason Deputy NSW opposition Leader Penny Sharpe tweeted one of the ‘Wicked Witch’ signs in a series of photos from the event. She later deleted the tweet when, she said, she realised “it was inappropriate.” Sharpe has apologised, telling the ABC: “All women in public life shouldn’t be subject to that kind of material.”
And, slightly off the topic of women in politics but still very much relevant, we also learnt in senate estimates this week that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has not actually met with the Office for Women, while the Women’s Economic Statement delivered in November of 2018 requires at least three different legislative changes to be effective.
So there you have it, another week for women in politics, and we’re only at lunchtime on Friday.