Sussan Ley
Sussan Ley, Australia's Minister for Sport, speaks during a media conference in Sydney, Australia, July 25, 2016. Reuters/David Gray Picture Supplied by Action Images

Sussan Ley wants the Liberal Party to have a quota for female members of the parliament. The frontbencher said the Morrison government should consider adopting quotas to boost the number of women in the party.

Ley said she had been against quotas before, but she now thought that it’s time to do more. In an interview with the ABC’s RN Drive, she said there’s a need for more female representation because “if you look at our party, the picture tells its own story.”

“I’ve never been a fan of quotas, but I must say recently I’ve wondered whether we should consider them,” she said. “In what context, I’m not sure, but we don’t have enough women. But the issue has to start long before you get to parliament.

“If we need to find a quota system at some point, we should talk about how we do that.”

She was not impressed with the Opposition’s affirmative action system, though. “I’m not necessarily impressed by the Labor Party quota system where they seem to tick boxes with women in what I would describe as less-winnable seats, which in itself causes problem,” Ley, the assistant minister for Regional Development and Territories, said. “We don’t want women in seats that we would all describe and understand as marginal because their longevity in the parliament is not there.

“We know that women are terrific at winning marginal seats, but they’re also pretty good at holding safe ones too.”

Not acceptable

Her comments came just a few hours after former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has shared her experience of being a senior woman in the erstwhile Turnbull government.

“It’s not acceptable for our party to contribute to the fall in Australia’s ratings from 15th in the world in terms of female parliamentary representation in 1999 to 50th today. There’s a lot to be done,” she said at a Women’s Weekly awards in Sydney, referring to the less than a quarter of female MPs in the Liberal Party.

“Our party, in fact all parties, recognise they have a problem in attracting and maintaining women, diversity in general.”

While she declined to speak up about the recent Liberal spill, which saw her being replaced as deputy leader, she acknowledged that there had been “bullying, intimidation, harassment and coercion,” as well as “unfair unequal treatment of women.”

“Politics is robust, the very nature of it, it’s not for the faint hearted,” she said. “Have seen and witnessed and experienced some appalling behaviour in parliament, the kind of behaviour that 20 years ago when I was managing partner of a law firm of 200 employees, I would never have accepted. Yet in parliament, it’s the norm.”

Bullying and intimidation

Liberal MP Julia Banks and Liberal Senator Lucy Gichuhi separately claimed that male colleagues subjected them to bullying and intimidation during the leadership spill last month. Banks subsequently quit because of it.

Gichuhi also said the behaviour of some of their members was so severe that there were senators and ministers “in tears.” She said she would be prepared to make a statement when parliament returned so she’s protected by parliamentary privilege when she name names.