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Coalition women must stop enabling their misogynistic sexist male colleagues

Back in 2014, a confident Julie Bishop, buoyed by a substantive win at the 2013 election, took to the lectern at the National Press Club to tell us all she was no whingy whiny feminist.

“[Feminist] is not a term that I find particularly useful these days. I just don’t use the term … It’s not part of my lexicon.”

She then went on to deny that Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, was the target of sexism and misogyny.

“I recognise that there was an extraordinary outpouring of goodwill towards Julia Gillard as our first female prime minister. But then, as should be the case, she was judged on her competence. And that’s where she was found wanting. She then turned herself into a victim and portrayed herself as a victim. That was her choice”

Gender has nothing at all to do with it Julie tells us, which sounds awfully like the victim-blaming that we women know only too well.

“I’m not saying there is no glass ceiling. But you’re not going to get me saying that my career has been stymied because of a glass ceiling. I’m not going to blame the fact that I’m a woman for it not working. I might look at whether I was competent enough or I worked hard enough or did the breaks go my way but I’m not going to see life through the prism of gender,” she said.

Michaelia Cash had expressed similar sentiments when she addressed the NPC in the lead-up to International Women’s Day.

“In terms of feminism, I’ve never been someone who really associates with that movement. That movement was a set of ideologies from many, many decades ago now. I consider myself a very lucky person whose parents told their four children to achieve, you work hard… All I know is that I believe in women … but I also believe in men.”

As Jamila Rizvi reminds us

“Women still earn around 80 cents for every dollar that men earn over a lifetime. And this isn’t just about who has the bits that make the babies. Australian women earn less from the very first year after they graduate from university and TAFE.

Women still carry the burden of around two thirds of unpaid work and caring duties.

Women are almost 51 per cent of the population and yet we hold less than 30 per cent of elected positions in the federal Parliament. We hold 8 per cent of board directorships and 10 per cent of executive management positions.

Nearly one in five of us will experience sexual assault, one in three will experience some kind of family or domestic violence in our lifetimes.

We earn less, we are heard less and we are hurt more.

And all of this pales in comparison, to the women around the world who still do not share the basic rights, safety, freedoms and equalities that here in Australia we all take for granted.”

But let’s not upset the boys by mentioning it.

This sort of enabling by Liberal and National women has consequences. Not only is there a dearth of women representatives, we have endured the unedifying spectacle of claims of sexual harassment and bullying by male politicians.

When a few women were so shocked by the behaviour of their male colleagues during the leadership spill that they actually called them out on it (without naming names), they were quickly silenced. Here, take an all-expenses-paid trip to New York. Oh and you two can have an Assistant Minister’s job, there’s a good pet. And any of the rest of you who don’t know what’s good for you, remember your preselection is not guaranteed (unless you are that stellar performer Craig Kelly).

The oh so earnestly sincere Greg Hunt, the man who has perfected the puppy dog look, launched into a tirade against the mayor of Katherine when she had the temerity to speak to him about better resources to deal with contamination from fire-fighting foam in her region.

“The very first mouthful was ‘you’ve got to f–––ing get over it, you’ve got to make Senator Scullion your f–––ing best friend’,” Ms Miller told ABC radio. “The next two sentences also contained the F-word, and then he sat back a little in his chair and said, ‘I’ve heard you’re feisty’. And I thought, ‘Really?’ I hadn’t said a word, not a word at this stage, because I was in such a state of shock at what he was saying.”

Asked how she found Mr Hunt’s attitude during the meeting, Ms Miller replied: “Misogynist.”

The tone had been set by the leaders of the Coalition parties.

In the lead up the 2013 election, when Tony Abbott was asked about the attributes of candidate Fiona Scott, he described her as young and feisty “with a bit of sex appeal”.

Prior to that, in 2012, Barnaby Joyce, who had by his own admission “consumed a few drinks” before entering the chamber, was speaking on a water efficiency bill when he was “distracted” by the sight of fellow Nationals Senator McKenzie, who was sitting a few feet away.

“Madam acting deputy president McKenzie, you are looking wonderful tonight,” he said. “You are a flash bit of kit in this chamber, there is no doubt about you.”

Both of these women, though obviously embarrassed, laughed it off as a compliment.

No. That is NOT how one should treat female colleagues at work.

Until women find the courage to recognise the problem and call it out, until we draw a line in the sand and demand respect for what we do, not comments on how we look, we will continue to be patronised by those men who would prefer we remained in domestic servitude rather than challenging for the jobs they feel are rightfully theirs.

So Julie, why do YOU think your party abandoned you when, according to all the polls and the bookmakers, you should have been a shoe-in for the top job. Not competent enough? Didn’t work hard enough? Or a room full of men who just can’t stand the idea of having a woman boss?

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  1. Baby Jewels

    “Until women find the courage to recognise the problem and call it out, until we draw a line in the sand and demand respect for what we do, not comments on how we look, we will continue to be patronised by those men who would prefer we remained in domestic servitude rather than challenging for the jobs they feel are rightfully theirs.” Nailed it Kaye Lee. These Liberal women disgust me.

  2. Keitha Granville

    JB finally worked out that she was NEVER going to be leader – her best chance came after Turnbull but even then the blokes in the party room couldn’t bring themselves to have a GIRL as a leader.
    I reckon she knew then that her life as someone with clout in the party had come to an end. The only way forward was down.

  3. Diannaart

    I agree completely, Kaye Lee; non-feminist, Julie Bishop, finally had enough of the Libs and Nats boys club and got out while the going was good – watch for her next job, should be interesting.

    Of course the LNP are easy targets, their blind and/or deliberate misogyny is bleeding obvious. Watching LNP deny their sexist culture is almost a sport. No doubt many people of the left will tut tut at this all too predictable behaviour. Such behaviour never occurs on the left, all progressives believe women and men are equal, right? 😋

  4. Kaye Lee

    Bookies odds about Liberal leadership after the first unsuccessful challenge from Dutton were as follows

    Malcolm Turnbull $1.65
    Peter Dutton $2.40
    Julie Bishop $6.50
    Christian Porter $8.50
    Tony Abbott $9
    Scott Morrison $18

    One wonders if any of the boys had a punt before they backed the rank outsider.

  5. Terence Mills

    So, today the prime minister tries to establish his environmental credentials by topping up Abbott’s Emissions Reduction Fund with $2.5 Billion over ten years.

    When the ABC contacted Melissa Price who is evidently out minister for the environment she was not available to comment. Normally this is a ploy to avoid comment but surely this is her moment in the sun. Or did Scott not brief her ?

  6. Kaye Lee


    Unfortunately, as we have seen, sexism is not confined to party lines. Unbelievably in this day and age, we still have a real cultural problem in Australia but getting men to accept that is proving difficult. At least with Labor and the Greens, the women tend to speak up unlike the Coalition girls who are shit scared of being accused of “playing the gender card”.

  7. Yvonne Robertson

    I have to say that I hoped she choked on the outcome of that ballot for leader after all the sell out things she said in regard to Gillard. Just desserts.

    What really strikes me as bizarre however is how she is lorded now as such a brains trust and an incredibly capable woman. She has never shown any signs of it from my point of view though she certainly appeared to shine in the role of Foreign Affairs minister where she was never actually held to any real account and was able to constantly match her wardrobe to the event she was reporting on. I say this because it seemed so overt to me – including the red shoes donated to the democracy museum or the ‘freedom fighter’ look replete with slanted beret during the aftermath of the shooting down of the MH17 just by way of example. Even the white dress and sharp exit from parliament after her announcement not to contest for her seat was more theatre than anything else. All feathers and no bird.

    Feminist theory would be way beyond her natural predilection. It is not the Liberal way to unite unless it involves creating opportunities to rort the public purse or avoid taxation obligations and I admit she seemed quite good at these two endeavours.

  8. Frank Smith

    Australia’s Foreign Aid budget was decimated whilst Julie Bishop was Minister. Her cold- hearted attitude to people in need did not end with her court room battle on behalf of CSR against dying mesothelioma victims. My tip is Scummo will find a comfortable Ambassador job for Julie before the next election – perhaps she could go to Paris like Amanda Vanstone did and “shine” at the Paris fashion shows.

  9. Kaye Lee


    I agree. And at times, her behaviour was appalling. Here is Julie calling Tanya Plibersek a “bitch” in parliament.

    Or her cat claws to Julia Gillard

    “The opposition treasury spokeswoman, who is facing attack on a number of fronts, bared her “claws” at the deputy prime minister during an angry clash between the two most senior females in parliament.

    Ms Bishop defended her parliamentary behaviour, saying it was her way of getting “the girls” to put their claws away.”

    And David Bushby meowing at Penny Wong

    And then there was Michaelia Cash’s vitriolic rant in the Senate directed at Penny Wong after Rudd replaced Gillard as the leader. Listen to the way she spits out the words “her own sisterhood” and “Emily’s List” (a political network in Australia that supports progressive women candidates to be elected to political office). Listen to the sneer with which she emphasises the word MISS Gillard – the barren adulteress.

    They disgust me, the lot of them

  10. Frank Smith

    “All feathers and no bird” – I love it Yvonne!

    Questions. Backbencher Craig Kelly gets thrust into preselection for his seat of Hughes. Why is Minister Jane Prentice being ousted in her safe Liberal seat of Ryan by male staffer Julian Simmons? Why doesn’t Scummo intervene on Prentice’ behalf as he did with the zombie Kelley? Does the Liberal Party have a “woman problem”?

  11. Kaye Lee

    Prentice is a moderate. They are being systematically cleaned out. The boys from the rabid right have taken over the “broad church”.

  12. Carol Taylor

    There are sadly still many women in power (and J. Bishop was certainly one of these) more than delighted when men denigrate and use sexual innuendo as a weapon against other women. A certain smug superiority perhaps, that they could hack the pace whereas these other women they say pointedly, could not. It seems to me not so much about gender as about the desire for power and control and a belief in their own superiority to be able to do and say ‘whatever’.

  13. Frank Smith

    You are correct Kaye Lee. “Moderates” are being cleaned out.

    Let me reframe my final question to:
    Does the Liberal Party have a “woman problem” or a “man problem”.
    I suggest that it is the latter in both the Parliamentary wing and especially in the Administrative wing where preselections originate and the “mates” culture is perpetuated.

    I would also suggest that our democracy, our Nation and our people would benefit greatly if all major Parties required “staffers” to get out in the real world, get some relevant worldly experience and learn how to interact with so-called “ordinary” Australians (there is no such thing) before being preselected for House seats or Senate positions.

  14. Geoff Andrews

    You want equal numbers of men & women in the parliament?
    Here’s the scheme.
    Suppose there are 120 electorates at present.
    1. Combine them into 60 electorates
    2. Each electorate elects two members: one male and one female. The females compete against each other as do the males.

    Howls of derision and other thoughtful comments welcome.

  15. Diannaart

    Geoff Andrews

    We need more diversity of people in parliament, not just a 50/50 balance of the sexes. We need true representation. We need the best, not just those who fit in the status quo of the self seeking power mongers.

    Dichotomous and adversarial politics is from the feudal era and doesn’t work in today’s complex and diverse society.

  16. Geoff Andrews

    My proposal still elects 120 people, 60 of which are women from all regions of the country, giving arguably, the same or better chances of diversity as the current system. It does not stop “true representation”, which I interpret as a property of the individual rather than the system.
    Can’t help you with the “dichotomous and adversarial” bit (can anyone?); just suggesting a small step in what I hope is the right direction.
    Of course, it could easily be applied to senate elections as well.

  17. helvityni

    Frank Smith, you can send Ms Julie to Paris, but she’ll still be seen there as the girl from the Provinces, clad in lily white and wearing red shoes….

  18. New England Cocky

    Who can forget her “sympathetic” consideration of the late Bernie Banton, mesothelioma victim from James Hardy?

    Doubtless the removal of any bishop is a good thing (remember Bronnie “Choppergate” Bishop) and asbestos Bishop should burn in hell for her work for James Hardy.

  19. Keith

    Julia Gillard was a very good Prime Minister, when ranked against what the LNP have provided us with, Julia Gillard was excellent!

  20. Diannaart


    Measured against the LNP my big toe is excellent, even that time with toe nail fungus … so embarrassment …

  21. Trish Corry

    The burden is not on women to make men behave better. The onus is on men to behave better.

    Many Liberal women have drawn the line in the sand. They have resigned or remained as an Independent. That is a clear message to Liberal men.

    The women you put the burden on in this article, are at a disadvantage because they have to navigate a very ingrained enabled culture of sexism within their own party to even make ground one inch. They should be applauded, not attacked. Many women would not even be bothered putting up their hand in the face of that. It’s essentially victim blaming!

    oh, the liberal women ignore it, therefore Liberal men will continue to be sexist. No. The Liberal men will continue to be sexist until they change their own behaviour. That may mean a huge beating in the polls, but I’m sure it will wake them up.

    I certainly have written articles about Julie Bishop and her beliefs around feminism. However, the construct of those arguments is individualism, which is a liberal value that drives her beliefs. In contrast to Wayne Swan, where his speech was all about people, her speech was all about herself. That isn’t gendered. That is ideology.

    Liberal women have spoken up. Margaret Fitzherbert gave an excellent speech regarding the gender imbalance of women in the Liberals.

    Julia Banks and Marise Payne also have spoken up about equality for women.

    This should not be confused with their base ideology of individualism, which is every woman has agency to progress herself as an individual. Essentially these are degrees of liberal feminism and libertarian feminism. Progressives would argue that women have too many barriers to have complete agency to progress themselves in society.

    As Jane Caro said to me once on Twitter (in the context of Gillard) Peta Credlin may have been Abbott’s COS, but he is the Prime Minister. His behaviour, thoughts, and actions stop with him. The buck stops with Abbott. In this case, the women problem within the Liberals – well the buck stops with Morrison.

    Conservatism and liberal individualism are legitimate ideological points of view. We should be encouraging women to stand to argue their points of view. As a progressive society, it is up to all of us to insist on quotas for women within the Liberal Party. This is not the sole burden of women inside the Liberal party, who may have to smile, nod and laugh stuff off in public, because the culture in that party is so toxic, the only solution is more women in that party.

    Although I am a staunch Labor voter; that is up to us as a society to argue that we want to see more women in the Liberal party. Hell, I am not going to vote for them, but conservative/liberal voters will. If they are going to get voted in, I’d rather hear women arguing the points of liberalism/conservatism, rather than the same old same old men.

    Placing the burden on women is not helpful in this case.

  22. Kaye Lee

    You make very valid points Trish.

    I do agree that it is the men that are responsible for their own behaviour and that the burden for making them change should not fall on others.

    But I would argue that the women are also responsible for their own behaviour. They do us, and themselves, no favours when they say it’s a compliment to be ogled by workmates. They do us no favours when, having had the courage to speak out publicly about bullying, to so obviously capitulate in return for favours bestowed.

    You are right that Julia Banks stood up and refused the baubles – more power to her – but for Ann Sudmalis to head off to New York was such an obvious bribe.

    For Julie Bishop to be ignored in the leadership change makes me wonder about the Liberal women who did not vote for her. Do they really think Morrison is a better choice or did they cave into bullying and bribes? The same must be asked of the men of course, but here was a chance for the women to actually do something about elevating women in the party and they squibbed it. They did not seem to do any lobbying at all as the men scurried around the offices and hit the phones.

    It is their own behaviour I am questioning – the individual responsibility you talk about. Everyone seems to agree they need more women in Parliament. Bishop was the favoured candidate for leader in every poll except the one in the party room where at least half the women in the party rejected her. Having a popular female PM would have done plenty to attract women to the party without quotas. So why didn’t the women (and the men who profess support for more women in parliament) at least try to make it happen?

  23. DrakeN

    Kaye Lee,

    I quote my mother: “I will never trust a woman with the reins of power. They are too self centred, and devious in their manipulation of others in the process of getting their own way.”

    I remain ambivalent on this topic; there are good and bad every where.

  24. Kaye Lee

    My mother thought differently DrakeN. She always said that women had to work twice as hard as their male counterparts to get anywhere. They didn’t have to be as good as their male colleagues – they had to be better. And they had to be tougher than the men just to prove they weren’t too “emotional” for the job.

  25. Trish Corry

    I haven’t said anything about individual responsibility except this is the most likely feminism liberal women adopt. However, even Liberal women have argued for quotas.

    Regardless, the responsibility is on men in the Liberal party to agree that there are barriers to women to access the party, to be heard in the party and to progress within the party. That means the men need to recognise there is a mixture of conscious and unconscious bias within the party that discriminated against women. Believe that is a bad thing, And develop strategies to change those beliefs and culture. Women liberals have spoken up over many years to say this is a problem. The men in authority to make this change refuse to agree.

    If gender was removed altogether and simply viewed this through a lens of toxic culture, and how to eradicate a toxic organisational culture, or through a prism of change management, the onus is not on the individuals being knocked about or excluded, but the burden is on the leadership to develop a new vision and instigate and achieve change.

    In this case the leaders are men. Lots of them. I don’t believe Liberal women need to give up their belief of feminist agency that tells them they can compete with men on equal footing. The problem is the culture and structures in the Liberals are driven by men, and does not enable equal footing. The burden is on men to change. The burden is on men to enforce this change.

    Liberal women are only navigating that culture and it’s norms, the only way they know how and survive. Also Not all women will vote for a woman because she is a woman. A conservative women isn’t going to vote for a moderate. Possibly, but not always likely.

    Sudamalis does not have to be a martyr for women and refuse whatever offer she has. For what outcome? She knows the enabled environment has her beat. We would not ask the same of men.

    These women should not be looked down upon or have anyone insist it’s up to them to enforce change from the bottom up in a toxic environment created by men and enabled by the behaviours of men.

    In this case, the onus is on men within the Liberals. How women can enforce this change is by collective action at the ballot box. Perhaps the Liberal men might hear the women then.

  26. Kaye Lee


    When Bridget McKenzie and Fiona Scott were asked by the media about those incidents, they could, instead of saying “I took it as a compliment”, have said I would prefer to be judged by what I do than how I look, it might have embarrassed their male colleagues enough for them to realise that is not ok. When women passively allow that sort of comment to slip by, they allow their worth to be trivialised.

    When you say the women are just trying to survive or that the environment has them beat, it troubles me. That implies they do not have the courage or the personal strength to take on what must be done.

    The burden is indeed on the men to change. The obligation on women is to demand it.

  27. Rod Stebbing

    The slave master has rarely emancipated the slave.

  28. RON ROW

    The women the Liberals and Greens attract are the worst example of women – They make it hard for all other women they are such bad examples of women it will be good not to see Julie Bishop anymore she will be no loss to our Parliament

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