The Liberal Party needs more women in Parliament and that means quotas – Sydney Morning Herald

Posted: March 21, 2021 at 4:55 pm

Looking at the crowds at the various March 4 Justice marches, I was struck by how diverse they were. Women (and some men) of all ages, from all walks of life. Eager for, demanding, change.

Like others, I have been reflecting on how we got to this place where womens anger is palpable and men are left feeling guilty by virtue of their gender, confused about how they should act towards women, or, in some cases, defiant. On the one hand, I feel completely overwhelmed, so much so as to not want to address the issue at all, after all, what difference can I make? On the other hand, I feel compelled to act, to be part of the necessary change.

People from all walks of life turned out for the March 4 Justice protests.Credit:Nine

As a former staffer to two ministers in the Howard government, I have been reading the reports about sexual assaults over the past year or so with increasing alarm. I am shocked, angry and sad about what these young women have been put through, both during the attacks themselves and in the aftermath of their assaults. My sadness is particularly because the older you get (I am now 51), the more frustrated you become: things that you thought 30 years ago would be different by now, different for your own children, seem to not have changed. Some modern inventions (social media) have made things worse. Maybe there will always be predators in our community and maybe we dont have control over that, but we do have control over how we respond to them, as individuals, collectively, institutionally.

My mind turns to the issue of leadership and where I have seen good leadership (and possibly been a good leader myself). In my experience, the best leaders have a clear vision and clear values. They listen to a range of voices. Really listen. They try to understand others perspectives. Then they incorporate those views into future actions. And they live the values they espouse.

So what is my vision for how the sexes interact in modern-day Australia? A world where women can participate fully in all aspects of life, be respected and valued for their skills and expertise in the workplace; play sport for enjoyment, fitness and competitively without being sexualised; have platforms to tell their stories; and, importantly, be able to have fulfilling personal relationships where they are equals with their romantic partners. Not very radical, really.

How does this translate into the spheres of the Liberal Party and parliaments around the country, particularly our Commonwealth Parliament? There is no doubt that the presence of women in equal numbers in parliaments would make a huge difference to how public policy is developed. It would change what is prioritised, change how it is presented and debated, and change the outcomes and the impact of policy decisions on the lives of all Australians.

The mystery of the Liberal Party is that it has equal representation built into its organisational structure, but this has not translated into equal representation in its parliamentary ranks. A bit like the sector I work in, the arts: there are plenty of women in there, but it is still the men in the high profile roles. There are complex reasons for this, including the reluctance of some women to enter public life, but that does not mean that the party cannot do more to get more women into its parliamentary ranks.

The Liberal Party structure has not produced an equal number of women in its parliamentary ranks.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The first thing it needs to do is acknowledge that it is desirable to have more women in our parliaments. Sadly, I think there is still some resistance within the Liberal Party to the notion that this is a desirable goal. We need to better articulate to the doubters (usually those who see it as a threat to their own entitlement) why this is a desirable goal. In simple terms, women are 50 per cent of the population and are entitled to be part of the decision-making that affects their lives. Further, if you exclude women, you are excluding 50 per cent of the talent in this world and surely its in all our interests to have the best and brightest helping to solve our countrys challenges.

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The Liberal Party needs more women in Parliament and that means quotas - Sydney Morning Herald

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