Julia Gillard says gender bias fed into Liberals’ decision to ignore Julie Bishop

Former PM weighs into Liberal leadership spill, and says it is positive discussions around bullying are now mainstream

The former prime minister Julia Gillard says gender bias played a role in the Liberal party’s decision to ignore Julie Bishop in the first round of voting during last month’s leadership spill.

But she also thinks there is cause for optimism that there is a public discussion about bullying and intimidation inside the Liberal party, with senior Coalition women leading the conversation.

“The fact such matters are being raised at all, and taken seriously when they are, is progress,” Gillard said.

“And even when politics is not throwing up dramatic events like leadership spills, gender is part of the discourse.

“When I governed, the overwhelming mindset of the media was to dismiss out of hand any suggestion that anything happening to me was in any way related to gender.”

Gillard delivered a public lecture on “Women and leadership” at the University of Adelaide on Tuesday.

She used the occasion to weigh in on the problems inside the Morrison government, with accusations bullying and intimidation took place inside Liberal ranks ahead of the leadership spill.

She said there had been many reasons why the vast majority of Liberal MPs voted for Peter Dutton or Scott Morrison, but not Bishop, in the first round of their leadership ballot, but gender would have had something to do with it.

Julie Bishop arrives for a press conference on 27 August to announce she will sit on the backbench as the member for Curtin, despite speculation she could immediately leave parliament after losing the leadership spill.
Julie Bishop arrives for a press conference on 27 August to announce she will sit on the backbench, despite speculation she could immediately leave parliament after losing the leadership spill. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

She said there would be votes motivated by how far to the right the Liberal party should sit on the political spectrum, or by policy concerns, or on the experience of the contenders.

Equally, there would be votes motivated by internal conversations where contenders showed their capacity to unite colleagues, motivate a team, articulate a vision for the country.

“But I think one item that should appear on it is votes touched by bias, conscious or unconscious, about gender,” she said.

“What was the precise mix and the weighting of these kinds of factors in a Liberal member’s or senator’s head? We don’t know and maybe the individuals involved couldn’t even precisely articulate it themselves.”

She said there were optimistic trends in Australia’s national conversation, however.

“Now conversations about gender and leadership, including political leadership, are mainstream,” she said.

She said while attention was on gender and the conservative side of politics, there was one big lesson the Liberal party should learn from “hard evidence”.

“In 1994, the ALP and the Liberal party had around about the same percentage of women in their federal caucuses,” she said.

“For Labor, it was 14.5% and for the Liberal party, it was 13.9%. Today, women are 46% of federal Labor, a jump of over 30 percentage points. In contrast, the Liberal party has inched forward to 23%, a jump of just over nine percentage points.

“In the years in between, it has been argued by Liberal party figures that mentoring and networking for women are the most effective strategies and that there is no need for targets or quotas.

“I think the easiest answer to that is ‘scoreboard’. Or maybe I could simply steal from Gough Whitlam the words: ‘It’s time.’”

She laid out the problem facing those who are fighting for more female leaders.

Globally, women make up just 23% of national parliamentarians, 26% of news media leaders, 27% of judges, 15% of corporate board members and 24% of senior managers worldwide, she said.

“If you believe as I do, that merit is equally distributed between the sexes, then any result that isn’t around half and half should be troubling,” she said.

She told the audience change was coming at a glacial pace.

“For example, the number of women in senior management globally has risen just one percentage point in 10 years, from 24% in 2007 to 25% today,” she said.

“In politics, at the current rate of progress, it will take another half-century to reach parity with men.

“Equally concerning, when progress is made, it can also be reversed; women are now more underrepresented in the American cabinet than at any time since the Reagan administration.”

Contributor

Gareth Hutchens

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Julie Bishop resigns as foreign affairs minister after failed leadership bid
The former deputy leader of the Liberal party ends speculation by quitting frontbench

Ben Doherty

26, Aug, 2018 @4:27 AM

Article image
What next for Julie Bishop after missing out on top spot again?
Deputy Liberal leader’s vast leadership experience and strong ties with global leaders could not get her over the final hurdle

Anne Davies

24, Aug, 2018 @2:58 AM

Article image
Could Scott Morrison and Julie Bishop join the leadership race in a three-cornered contest?
Moderates and conservatives are locking in behind Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton, but others have not ruled out putting up their hands in a second spill

Paul Karp

22, Aug, 2018 @1:40 AM

Article image
Campaign catchup: Julie Bishop feels super heat
Election 2016: ‘This is obviously a gotcha moment,’ minister says when put on spot about minute detail of Coalition policy

Bridie Jabour

31, May, 2016 @7:49 AM

Article image
Julia Banks says she felt 'devastated' when Scott Morrison became new PM
Former Liberal MP says party members tried to ‘silence’ her with an offer to go to New York for a three-month UN secondment

Amy Remeikis

27, Dec, 2018 @3:17 AM

Article image
Leaked WhatsApp messages reveal Julie Bishop's leadership bid scuppered by colleagues
Supporters of the former party deputy voted against her in order to keep Dutton out of top job

Gareth Hutchens

26, Aug, 2018 @7:03 AM

Article image
Julie Bishop praises Julia Banks and says parties need 50% female representation
Former foreign minister says Banks ‘would have thought long and hard about her decision’ to quit the Liberals

Anne Davies

27, Nov, 2018 @8:35 AM

Article image
The next prime minister? The Liberals vying to force a vote on the leadership
Peter Dutton, Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison are the frontrunners to succeed Malcolm Turnbull

Andy Ball

23, Aug, 2018 @9:59 PM

Article image
Liberal unrest simmers as Tony Abbott tries to reset government – politics live
Prime minister faces colleagues after his ‘near-death experience’ on Monday, pledging to overhaul internal processes and dump contentious policies. His deputy Julie Bishop declines to say how she voted in the leadership debate. All the developments from Canberra, live

Katharine Murphy

10, Feb, 2015 @6:50 AM

Article image
Today's campaign: Newspoll hands Coalition its best result in 14 weeks
Election 2016: The Coalition campaign launch may not have drawn rave reviews but Malcolm Turnbull will be happy nonetheless

Helen Davidson

26, Jun, 2016 @9:16 PM